Friday, December 28, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Well, my friends, here we are at the third and final of my special Holiday Posts for this season. In the New Year we'll be back to our regularly scheduled oldies blogging, but for now, it's time to par-tay!! In this post, we're going to acknowledge the spiritual celebrations, customs, and of course, the music from all the major belief systems in our great big ol' world. We have a lot that divides us these days, so my aim here is to find what unites us. Looks like a December whoop-up is pretty standard, no matter where you hail from. Just so you know, I've done my best to find YouTube vids that are directly connected to each festivity, but when that wasn't possible, I kind of faked it with something at least culturally relevant. I sincerely hope no one is offended. That said, here they are, listed in that politically and theologically neutral device: Alphabetical Order.
Atheists/Agnostics: Well, right off the bat, what kind of spiritual tradition are we going to find here? Hmmm. But I dug deep and found this delightful footage of Teegarden and Van Winkle doin' their bit hit, "God Love and Rock and Roll." To all of you out there who are on the A/A list, ya gotta love two outa three!
Buddhists: Dec. 8 is Bodhi Day, the celebration of the day when the Buddha became enlightened. Scroll down and read the comments posted at YouTube for a little enlightenment of your own as to what's going on. Okay, maybe this ain't the wildest celebration on our tour, but hey, after all that crazy dancing you just did to Teegarden and Van Winkle, it's kind of nice to sit this one out.
Christians: Dec 25 is the day most Christians celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus. Those who are Eastern Orthodox wait til January 7th. It's a calendar thing, don't ask me to explain. When they say "you do the math" they aren't talking to me. Hope you enjoy the lively Christmas carol, performed by one of my favorite groups.
Hindus: Diwali in December? Well, that's another calendar issue, even more complicated that the previous. Plus, I have to admit that I don't think we can stretch this date out any later than Nov. 9th or so. Just think of it as the November pre-party. It's a Festival of Lights, celebrating the victory of Good over Evil. Right on!
Jews: Another Festival of Light, and a miracle at the darkest time of the year. It shifts dates too, but being an 8 day event, it usually catches a number of days in December. This happy number is brought to us by those spiritual party animals, the Barenaked Ladies.
Muslims: Dec 20 or thereabouts. This one shifts dates all throughout the Gregorian calendar year, because of the Islamic lunar reckoning that...where's my calculator?...oh forget it, I can't keep up, just take my word for it, it's in December, but just this year. Anyway, I didn't find any music per se, so let's go with a pretty one from Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens.
Pagans: Dec 21 give or take. This is the Old world celebration of Yule, and the origin of those yummy frosted chocolate logs. It's also given us garlands of holly, bunches of (ahem) mistletoe, and, if I'm not mistaken, hot gin punch. Say, would anyone care for a little more roast boar?
Well, that's it, my friends, we hit all the major faith-based December celebrations, and the not-faith based, too. As you can see, the whole world is having a special time about one thing or another. There's just no reason on earth for us not to all get along, right?
Friday, December 21, 2007
Welcome to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day (sob) and longest night (sigh) of the year. But the good news is, after this we start to get some of that daylight back. Bring- it- on! The word "solstice" comes from two old Latin words: sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), which is exactly what the sun appears to do, briefly, twice a year. It's like that moment when you were a kid and you tossed a ball up in the air, and then (if you could have seen it in slo-mo) the ball stops going up and starts falling back towards your waiting Al Kaline mitt. Anyway, in honor of the occasion, here is one of my favorite songs. And I'm guessing it's a fave of yours too, little darlin'.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Classic Vintage Rock 'n' Roll
"A Christmas Gift for You" - Phil Spector.
Back when he was still the Boy Wonder.
"Christmas With The Beach Boys"
"The Jethro Tull Christmas Album"
(not really a cut from the album, but who doesn't get a charge out of watching Ian Anderson!)
Country and/or Bluegrass
"Christmas" Chris Isaak
(is he not one of the best musicians and funniest cut-ups on the planet??)
"Bluegrass and White Snow" Patty Loveless
"Light of the Stable" Emmylou Harris
No videos from this album posted, but I'll throw in one of Emmylou buckdancing, just to keep you in your happy place...
"A Winter Garden" and "To Drive the Cold Winter Away" Loreena McKennitt
Happy Listening to all!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
After mentioning this song in my previous post, I decided to put the spotlight on this classic oldie, and the artist who sang it for us. "Angel Baby" may have been a one-hit-wonder, but it nevertheless put Rosie in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (she was the first Latina to have that honor) and left a little winged tattoo on the hearts of a lot of baby boomers, judging by the comments on various websites I've seen. The
"Readers Digest" condensed story goes like this: Coming from a musical family, Rosie had been performing since the tender age of 13 (back in the late 50s) when she lied about her age, dipped into her mom's makeup, and got herself a gig (when she was supposed to be babysitting) singing with some musicians. Later they went on to become Rosie and The Originals. Rosie wrote the lyrics to "Angel Baby" as a poem to a boy she was crushing on when she was a mere 14. Not long after that, Rosie and the group recorded "Angel Baby" in an old airplane hanger that happened to have some recording equipment in the corner (don't they all?). There they were: Rosie (check) the piano (check) guitar (check) drums (check) bass (check) and sax (ch...wait...where's Alfred??). Well, it seems that young Alfred's very strict mom wouldn't let him go until he finished his chores. But everybody else was there and all set to go. So, the guitarist just happened to know a teensy bit of sax (don't they all?) and gave a quick crash course to the bass player, and told him it was up to him to save the day. Gee, I wonder if he felt any pressure... Anyway, the resulting efforts on everyone's part sent "Angel Baby" to #5 in 1960. Recently I came across a quote from Rosie where she admitted that the sax playing wasn't the best in the world, and it really stunned me. I mean, that solo has always been one of my favorite musical moments ever. To me it would be like stumbling upon an old quote from Leonardo, saying "Oh that dumb Mona Lisa; I never did like the way that painting turned out!" Okay, maybe even to me (who is not, by any stretch of the imagination, musical) the sax did sound a bit wonky in places, but isn't that the complete and utter charm of it? I mean, wouldn't fancy studio production have taken away it's most endearing qualities? Personally, I love the whole heartfelt thing just the way it is. And, in case you didn't already know this, John Lennon agreed. He even recorded a cover of "Angel Baby" back in 1973, although I have to admit that, much as I like John Lennon, and really wanted to like his cover of "Angel Baby, " it just didn't do it for me. One other place you can find a cover is in a cameo by Jeanette Jurado, playing Rosie, in the 1996 movie "Mi Familia," and Rosie re-did the song herself with some nice Spanish lyrics, too. So there you have it - a salute to a great song, a terrific singer, and one very fearless sax player.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Last weekend, veteran heartthrob Lou Christie ("Lightning Strikes," "The Gypsy Cried" etcetc) was in concert in The D (aka Detroit) along with other vintage era greats. I happened to catch him interviewed just prior to the show, on my fave oldies radio station, WPON.* He talked with the DJ about the upcoming show and reminisced about the good old days. When they got to the topic of his big hits, Lou (who is one of the '60s falsetto kings) rather proudly (and why not!) mentioned that he can still sing those songs in the original key he recorded them in. Ho-lee!
Have you noticed, all you boomers out there, that your voices have changed? The men, it would seem, have gone through this once before in their lives, when they hit puberty and their voices "cracked." Now, it's happening to us all. For quite some time now I've noticed (in my car karaoke sessions) that I can't quite sing along with Cathy Jean on "Please Love Me forever" or with Rosie on "Angel Baby." Heck, I can barely keep up with Frankie Valli and Brian Wilson! Seems like these days I'm much more comfortable growling along with Jack Scott... All this reminds me of another interview I heard a few years ago, with Joni Mitchell ("Big Yellow Taxi"). She was lamenting the fact that people who attend her concerts still expect to hear her do all her early hits every time. She said it's not so much that she's tired of singing them (although she kinda is) but she said she can't reach those heights anymore. And I said to the radio, "Amen, sister!"
Now, I realize there's a perfectly natural physiological explanation for why this is happening. I mean, we're all "getting on" in life, and everything else is heading south, so why not the vocal cords, too? But still, it's unfair. Couldn't we be spared just this one thing? And while we're on the subject, couldn't just one little thing be getting better? And please don't write me that it's all compensated by the gaining of wisdom. Whoever thinks wisdom makes up for it has never tried to change a ceiling light bulb in tri-focals. Well, never mind, at least I still have my hearing, and my radio. And Lou... good on ya!
*WPON - a terrific oldies station at 1460 AM in the Detroit area, and live on the Internet at www.wpon.com. You should be listening!
Monday, December 10, 2007
Woo-hoo, Frat Rock. It's one of those music categories that is, one the one hand, just soooo accurate, while, on the other, it can be frustratingly broad. You can find the same bands and even the same songs listed in several different rock and pop genres; I guess it all depends on who's making the list. But generally, most people agree that Frat Rock is fast and furious, raw and raunchy, the forerunner of garage and punk, and the original you ain't makin' it to class in the morning rock and roll. As you might expect, Frat Rock takes its name from the party bands that played at '60s fraternity parties. At this point I have to tell you that I went to my share of frat parties back in my day, and while you wouldn't have called them conservative or sedate, there never was any live music. But there was always a good selection of records, so everyone managed very nicely. The following is my list (in no particular order) of standout Frat Rock numbers that I partied to.
"Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" Crazy Elephant
"Let It All Hang Out" The Hombres
"Dirty Water" The Standells
"96 Tears" ? and The Mysterians
"Keep On Dancing" The Gentrys
"Hey Little Girl" The Syndicate of Sound
"Open Up Your Door" Richard and the Young Lions
"Farmer John" The Premiers
"Nobody But Me" The Human Beinz
"Time Won't Let Me" The Outsiders
"Louie Louie" The Kingsmen
"Hang On Sloopy" The McCoys
"Little Bit o' Soul" Music Explosion
And of course, just about anything by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Older baby boomers, no doubt especially the guys, will surely remember Joey Heatherton. Kind of a cross between Bardot and Ann-Margaret, her pouty babydoll face and to-die-for legs made her made her natural grist for the entertainment mill. As a dancer/singer, movie starlet, and frequent variety show guest, Joey was pretty much a house hold name from the late 50s through the 60s and 70s. Then, true to the industry's pattern of burn 'em and turn 'em - plus, I suppose, the rise of feminism and a shifting definition of female celebrity - she began to lose favor, and work, on the coast (but she still performed in Vegas and sporadically on the small screen). By the late 70s to early 80s she was already being parodied, on SCTV. Honestly, I'd forgotten all about her long before then.
"Gone" is one of those songs. Every once in a while I'd catch a bit of it on the airwaves, but somehow always managed to miss hearing who the artist was. Maybe I didn't recognize the voice, but I know a powerhouse performance when I hear one. Imagine my surprise when I finally heard it, start to finish, including the DJ's introduction. Joey Heatherton! Hey I remember her! I kind of felt the same was as I did when Meryl Streep knocked it out of the park at the end of "Postcards From the Edge." Who knew! (obviously not me). I checked with YouTube, and no one yet has posted a music vid of "Gone." There's a couple others of Joey singing and dancing, plus her Serta mattress commercials, but in my opinion in those she's "singing down," beneath her talent. And just for the record, I'd take "Gone" over "My Heart Will Go On" any day of the week.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Since my book "Papa Do Run" has gone out into the world on it's own, a couple of people have commented on the lack of anything much about the British Invasion, in particular, The Beatles. That's quite true. Other than a short song list in Chapter 1, there really isn't much. It's not that I don't care for the Fab Four and all the other Brit artists who became so wildly popular four decades ago. Or that I don't appreciate the huge influence they had on rock and pop music. I've got quite a few of them represented on my shelf - lots of Beatles, Stones, Kinks (big Kinks fan here) Manfred Mann, The Searchers, Herman Hermits, The Who, a compilation or two. It's just that originally, I was going to make the Brit Invasion the cut-off point for the material I wanted to cover. I defined the era I called "vintage" rock and roll as roughly the late 50s to the mid-60s. but I quickly realized I'd have to exclude way too much juicy homegrown music. So I started extending my self-imposed upper and lower limit, song by song, until before I knew it, I had a manuscript that was starting to look like the sequel to War and Peace, even without the Beatles et al. Thus, I afraid the Brits got left on the cutting-room floor, so to speak. Now, if I was writing a serious academic historical study of these years, where such weighty tomes are standard procedure, such an omission would be unthinkable. But I figured, Hey, who wants a light-hearted read-on-the-fly type book that they have to drag around in a grocery buggy! Anyway, now that I have this blog, it's the perfect place to pay some tribute to great British musical talent. The following is a list of some of my faves (in addition to the big guns mentioned above). And, as is my usual, some of them tend towards the slightly more rare, obscure, and lesser-known. What can I say, I always root for the underdog. Ready luv?
The Rockin' Berries - A very under-appreciated (in N. America at least) group (who incidentally took their name as a tribute to Chuck Berry) with a great lead falsetto. While a lots of artists over here began imitating the British sounds (like the Beau Brummels), the Berries were doing their own kind of Four Seasons blends. Their biggest US hits were covers of "He's in Town" and "Poor Man's Son." I like 'em!
The Zombies - Much more well-known, Zombies stylings often leaned a little more towards jazz, which made them stand out. But for all their great tunes, it's mainly the same three songs you still hear today, "Tell Her No," "She's Not There," and "Time of the Season."
The Swinging Blue Jeans - While the name of this band aways made me picture a laundry line, I sure liked dancing to their music. I think "Hippy Hippy Shake" was the first Brit Invasion 45 I ever bought. And we can't forget their Merseybeat cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly."
The Ivy League - For a long time I thought these guys were American. I mean, Ivy League? But they're not; they're from the good old UK, just like that other famous British band, The Nashville Teens. Go figure. The League's two big hits you still hear today are "Funny How Love Can Be" and "Tossing and Turning" (not a Bobby Lewis cover, but a totally different song).
The Nashville Teens - I have one word to say about them: Tobacco Road. Okay, so it's two words. This is a really terrific band, and even if "Tobacco Road" was all they did, it would be enough to place them very high in the pop pantheon.
The Honeycombs - These guys, um, guys and a girl (the drummer) were way up there back in the day, with hits all over the globe. Today they are remembered solely for their #5 US hit, "Have I the Right."
The Yardbirds - This band is famous not only for great R&B/psych music, but for launching the careers of Clapton, Beck and Page. Back in the 60s, The Yardbirds kind of had a rep for being the thinking man's rockers. Big hits were "Shapes of Things," "For Your Love," "Heart Full of Soul," and "Over Under Sideways Down."
Cilla Black - All that testosterone in those groups! It's time to mention one of my fave numbers by Cilla Black, "You're My World." She pretty much got beat out by Dionne Warwick over here, but at one time Cilla was the number two act in the UK, behind the Beatles.
Sandie Shaw - A lot of singers have covered "Always Something There to Remind Me" but for my nickel, Sandie Shaw's version is THE ONE. Her rendition of "Girl Don't Come" is very fine, too.
So there you go, all you birds and blokes, that's my Brit-Hit Parade. Hope it brought back some groovy memories for you. Say, whatever happened to that Union Jack T-shirt you used to have...?
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Okay, you've probably all heard the statistic about single women over a certain age, how we have a greater chance of being killed by terrorists - or was it being struck by lightning twice? - than we do of finding a boyfriend/getting married. Well, I can't speak for all the single boomer ladies out there, but in my later and unattached years, I have taken some comfort from that statistic. So when they announced that new research has shown that statistic isn't true after all, I kind of felt like it was the good news/bad news. I mean, now there may be a glimmer of hope, but it's not like guys suddenly have been lining up at the door. Hmmm. Lining up - that seemed to be the operative phrase, so I went in search of some answers, some advice, a solution. And of course the first place I went was to vintage Rock and Roll. If you can't find it there, then honey, it ain't been invented.
A quick check of my memory bank and I recalled that there may in fact be places where guys do line up. This is just the beginning of the list; I'm quite sure I will add to it after I've had my coffee.
The Drifters - "There Goes My Baby"
There goes my baby, movin' on down the line...
His girl has left him, and is off in search of someone new. Not far to go.
Bobby Vee - "Come Back When You Grow Up Girl"
I'd rather you get your very first heartache somewhere else along the line
Girl is too immature, and he's being very noble about it, keep moving...
The Orlons - "Crossfire"
...and I lost him in that big boss line.
Obviously, there's so many guys lined up here that the girl in the song has lost the one she came with!
Candy and The Kisses - "The 81"
...in a big boss line...
It's starting to look like boss lines are our best bet...
So, single boomer gals everywhere, even from these few examples, I think it's clear that we need to find ourselves a Line. Maybe even a Boss one. The ball is totally in our court; the line has been drawn. We are in charge of our own destinies! Rock On!
Update: "Boss line" is also mentioned in Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato Time."
Update: Another line, this time in Fleetwood Mac's "Monday Morning"
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Over this past American Thanksgiving weekend, a Michigan station I can pick up here in Ontario was playing The History of Rock and Roll, one of those pre-recorded chronological series of songs and trivia. I tuned in mainly for the early stuff, and was just starting to taper off a bit when I happened to catch them featuring The Doors. I came in the middle of some guy (band member? critic?) saying that "Riders on the Storm" was the last song Jim Morrison ever sang. It was the last song on the last album he did, and when the vocals were done, Jim told the rest to wrap it up technically without him - he was going to split to Paris and get down. Then they all said their "goodbye"s and "see ya when ya get back"s. Only, of course, Jim didn't get back. I suppose if one specializes in Doors trivia, this is a well-worn piece of info, but I'd never heard it before. And I'm glad I did. Now whenever I'm in the mood for some Doors, and flip their GH into the machine, that song will carry extra meaning for me.
Then this afternoon I was cruising around YouTube when I came across a really good video accompanying Don McLean's hit, "American Pie." Among the images were pictures of both Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr., as well as Buddy, Ritchie, J.P., Janis etc. And I just had one of those moments. You know, the kind where the weight of what's been lost is perfectly balanced with that of the legacy left behind.
Okay, before things get too sappy here, let me quickly mention that in one of the essays in Papa Do Run, I turn all the other annotations on their ears, and "prove" that "American Pie" isn't really about Buddy etc after all. Who then? Would you believe Dinah Shore? Aw c'mon, won't you even consider it? It's all in good tongue-and-cheek fun, but who knows, I just might make a believer out of you... Meanwhile, check out the YouTube vid, The Meaning of American Pie, posted by lonestarsound. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ycgegp0KdE4
Saturday, November 24, 2007
One pop music revelation made public; a few gazillion more to go. It seems the superstar Neil Diamond has finally laid his musical burden down (we didn't know he was carrying one) and told the world that his huge hit, "Sweet Caroline" was written about none other than Caroline Kennedy. A friend sent me the following link, which I will do my tech-impaired best to put here for you so you can read the whole thing for yourselves. I must admit, it never occurred to me to even question if there was a real Caroline behind the song...and I just finished a whole chapter for my next book (the sequel to Papa Do Run) called "Peanut Butter and Mashed Potatoes," that deals with real people in some of our favorite rock and pop songs. I did come up with a lot of surprises, but this one wasn't even a green blip on the radar. Apparently, Neil Diamond, who is now 66 years old (when did that happen?) saw a photograph ages ago of young Caroline standing with her pony. The image stayed with him a several years later he wrote "Sweet Caroline." It's obviously more a song "inspired" by her than a song written about her, but still, it's a very cool piece of music trivia, wouldn't you agree? Call it another thread in the rich tapestry of our popular culture. And while we're sort of on the subject, I'll just add that ( in my opinion) while the Founding Fathers were wise to call for a separation of church and state, thank goodness they didn't say anything about keeping politics and entertainment apart. Where would we be? For one thing, we probably wouldn't have had this great song from Neil. In conclusion, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that, even though the identity behind "Sweet Caroline" never bugged us the way certain other songs have...for example that mysterious, perennially unidentified vain guy with the apricot scarf...we're all very glad Neil Diamond stepped up and revealed his source.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
In a recent post (Tues 1 Nov) I described how this whole business about covers totally baffles me. Like, why are the lyrics sometimes so different? If you recall, I even gave a detailed example, "Long May You Run" by Neil Young, and covered by Emmylou Harris. Well, here's another example (which I already referred to in the post before this one). Today we'll look at them a little closer. We'll take the DC5 version first, since that's the first version I heard back in the day, even though Bobby's was released two years earlier.
Well, I went to a dance just the other night
Didn't you always kind of wonder about that last word in the second line when Dave and the boys sang it? "Everybody there was there"? I don't know about you, but to me that always seemed a little too metaphysical for rock and roll. I mean, I hear it in my head in a more David Carradine intonation ("Ah Grasshopper, everyone there was indeed fully there!") and not Dave Clark. Maybe it's me. Anyway, some time later I happened to catch the wonderful 1963 original by Bobby Day, and things suddenly made much more sense -- at least for a moment (hold that thought).
Everybody there was stag
I said over and over and over again
This dance is going to be a drag
Now isn't that better? For one thing, "stag" actually rhymes with "drag." For a brief span of time I was content. Then I got to those last two lines of the song; the ones where she blows him off by telling him she's waiting for her steady date. My first thought was, Wait a minute -- why would a guy who's trying to pick up a chick be complaining about a dance where everyone is unattached? Then, even more to the point, I thought -- why would a girl be waiting for her "steady date" at a stag dance in the first place. Hmm. I think she probably just told him she was waiting for her date just to politely get rid of him. Wonder if he got the message.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
People have asked me how I came up with the exact title for my book. Well, when it came time to think of one, I knew it had to be based on a song title from the vintage era. Various working titles included "Those Oldies But Goodies," "It Will Stand," and "That Old Time Rock and Roll." Not bad. I mean, they all certainly had the music connection covered, but they were just way too serious. I wanted something that would suit not only the the subject ('50s & '60s rock and roll trivia) but also fit with my overall approach to the material (humorous, irreverent, downright goofy in places). Then one fine day I was listening to my favorite Internet oldies station, WPON, when they happened to play Jan & Dean's "New Girl in School." What a good one that is, I thought to myself, and went on with my day. Later on, I happened to hear them play "I Met Him on a Sunday" by The Shirelles, with that wonderful opening phrase. All of a sudden it came to me in a bright flash of channeled genius, as if all the cool spirits of those departed music legends up in Rock and Roll Heaven got together and zapped me with a collective lightning bolt: "Papa Do Run." The perfect choice.
Since then, I've also come across a rockin' little number from Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (to be perfectly honest, I didn't recall it from my youth) called "Teenage Love." Anyway, you guessed it, that one contains the immortal lyrics, "papa do run" too. Next I found out there's a band called Papa Do Run Run, a group of talented musicians who are kind of California's "house band." They've been closely associated with the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean for donkey's years. Wow. It looks like "papa do run" is at the very foundation of rock and roll. Those ghostly musicians really nailed it. So, now I wonder - are there more songs out there with "papa do run" in the lyrics? There just may be. Here's the deal. I'll give a free copy of my book to anyone who can find me another song with those three words, in that order. There you go; that's your homework.
Meanwhile, I'm posting YouTube links to the songs on my website, www.papadorun.com. Someone just posted the Shirelles, and I'm going to get that link up ASAP. It's not the original 1958 version, but a 1966 re-do, a little pale in comparison; at least you can hear the song. Ciao for niao.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Like every music person, I have a bunch of love songs I would put at the top. That doesn't necessarily mean I think they're all the best songs ever written, but for me they are best a summing up those emotional highs and lows we've all found ourselves from time to time. Here's my list from my teenage years, broken down into handy categories. See how yours compare, or send in a list of titles and categories of your own.
Happiest Love Song: "I Got You Babe" Sonny & Cher. Two hippies against da wurld.
Saddest Love Song: "Long Long Time" Linda Ronstadt. What's worse than getting dumped?
Best Break-up Song: "This Time" Troy Shondell. No light at the end of his tunnel.
Best Make-up Song: "The Best Part of Making Up" The Ronettes. Big hair knows all about it.
Best Kiss-off Song: "Hats Off to Larry" Del Shannon. He loses half a point for that line about wanting her back regardless, but I'll still give him the medal.
Best Come Back To Me Song: "He'll Only Hurt You" Dion. Love the big finish!
Best Love Song to Something Other Than a Person: "Dirty Water" The Standells. Frat Rock at its absolute best!
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Many people, when they hear the word kazoo think of those weird little tin-whistle lookalikes that used to come in Cracker Jack boxes. Or, sometimes you could hook one at the Fish Pond game at your local elementary school fair. If you even remember the Fish Pond, you deserve a kazoo, but unfortunately I don't have any to send. As I recall, kazoos were the great equalizer for those with no musical talent, because they required absolutely no skill to play. To make music on a kazoo, you just need to use your regular singing voice, no matter how bad it might be, and just "sing" into the kazoo, usually with the syllable "doo" and the kazoo would then distort it in a hilariously funny (to 10 year olds in the 1950s) manner. Thus, while the kazoo may look like a whistle, it actually isn't. It's an instrument. Of course, it's not an instrument in the same way that a guitar or an oboe is an instrument, but because of the principles on which it works, you would be technically correct to call it one. Just be prepared for the laughter when you declare yourself a virtuoso. More than likely, the older stoners among us would look at a kazoo and go, "Man, I used to have a pipe just like that!" But, as the famous Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte would have said of his kazoo, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." Sorry, I had to put all those Art History classes to use somehow. So, you might be thinking that this is the end of the subject, but oh, no! The kazoo played a much bigger part of our lives than just grade school prizes and hippie era flashbacks. The lowly kazoo was a very important member of our vintage repertoire. It's still in use today, but you can look those songs up for yourself if you want. Here's my list (sure to be incomplete) of Vintage Kazoo Hits.
"Johnny Get Angry" Joanie Sommers
"Little Diane" Dion
"So Long Baby" Del Shannon
"I Love Onions" Susan Christie
"You're Sixteen" Ringo Starr
"I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die" Country Joe (haven't heard this one myself, but am told there's a kazoo in one of the versions. Not Woodstock, though.
"San Francisco Bay Blues" Peter Paul & Mary (check out the video on YouTube with PPM in a kind of "dueling kazoos" segment, not to mention Mary making the "Cher hair flip" her own.
Okay, maybe you're wondering about the picture up top. Like, what does that have to do with the subject at hand? Well, that's me getting a tow on the driver's side, and my roomie skiing shotgun, after a big snowstorm in the winter of '66 in Kalamazoo, Michigan...aka Kazoo. That's the first thing I always think of.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
You know the kind, you got way more stuff done on Saturday than you normally do, so now you have this wonderful stretch of guilt-free hours with absolutely nothing "to do," and everything is wide open. So I decided to putter around with some of the more fun stuff that has been sitting to one side for too long. (I won't bore you with the details, and besides, everybody's idea of fun is different, so I think I'll retain an air of mystery, rather than tell you and have you snicker and go, "That's her idea of fun?!") And of course, I had to play some music to go with. I started out with Cat Power; that got things rolling very gently. Then I decided to pick up the tempo a bit, and switched to a compilation CD of oldies (1959-61) from the CUB label. What a great collection of R&B! Terrific tunes from the Impalas (best known for "Sorry I Ran All the Way Home"), The Harptones, The Pyramids, the Velours, and many many more. After that, I fast-forwarded to the '00s for some rascally alt country from the Canadian group, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Then I paused for a moment to once again savor the fact that the Wolverines beat the Spartans yesterday, and that kind of led to a double dip of the Beach Boys - "Be True to Your School" and "Pom Pom Playgirl." After that, it was time for a second cup of coffee and my new Ronnie Spector CD, "Last of the Rock Stars." Don't know what the rest of the day will hold. Maybe I'll take The O.C. out for a spin (see Oct. 26 post) and look at the fall colors before they're gone. That might require some Don Henley ("Boys of Summer") and some Byrds ("Turn Turn Turn"). Okay, I'm outa here.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
One of Neil's more popular songs is his sweet elegy for his first car (hearse, actually), "Long May You Run," released in 1976. Presumably he wrote down exactly what he wanted to say about it. I'll just make note of the lyrics in question for you:
It was back in Blind River in 1962 When I last saw you alive But we missed that shift on the long decline... Maybe the Beach Boys have got you now With those waves singing "Caroline No" Rollin' down that empty ocean road Gettin' to the surf on time...
Well, what could be more clear, really. Plus it's lovely song; no wonder Emmylou wanted to record it. You can find it on her 1982 album, "Last Date." But, astonishingly (to me at least) the lyrics are quite different:
Well it was back in Blind River in 1962 When I last saw you alive Rollin' down that empty ocean road Gettin' to the surf on time...
That's it. No shift, no Beach Boys. What gives? Now, don't get me wrong, I totally like both versions. This is not about which one is better. I'm just curious (not being a songwriter, or a song coverer, or a copyright lawyer, or any other kind of person who might have an interest in such matters) about how these kinds of lyrics-cut-and-paste jobs happen. Like, did Emmylou say to Neil, "Hey man, I really like your song and want to record it, but I just want to make a couple of teensy-weensy changes, 'kay?" And then Neil said, "Sure Emmy, do whatever you like." Hmm. Why wouldn't Neil (who has a rep for being pretty fussy about things) say, "Take it as is, or leave it"? If anyone out there can clear this up, by all means, let me hear from you.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Over time, the meaning behind the term "cover" has been subtly shifting. Now, instead of thinking of a cover as a mere copy of the original, or even a slight updating, it's come to mean more of a tribute to the original. Entire cover albums are standard operating procedure now. There's the kind where a single artist's album is covered by various other artists, like the tribute to Springsteen's Nebraska, or there's the redo of a single artist by another artist, as in Dwight Sings Buck. And let's not forget the movie, I Am Sam, with various artists collaborate to cover a selection of Beatles tunes for the soundtrack. In addition to all this, we also have tribute artists, who vocally (and sometimes physically) impersonate deceased stars (sometimes flawlessly, like Michigan's Jerry Connelly serving up Gene Pitney). And we have tribute bands who recreate the sound of disbanded groups, like Bjorn Again, who pay homage to ABBA (like I needed to tell you that), and our final category - tribute bands who take their homage a little further. Now, I haven't heard them, but I'm told there's a band called Dread Zeppelin, who do a reggae take on (say it with me) Led Zeppelin. Of course, all this is not to be confused with the more generic phenomenon, the "cover band." At it's best, a cover band can be a really rockin' bunch of musicians that play pretty darn good covers of a whole bunch of everyone's favorite hits, usually by the decade. Remind me to tell you sometime about this great bar they used to have in Calgary...
Now that we've had a brief look at the subject of covers, the question naturally arises - just what is the most covered song ever? Well, no one knows for sure, but the leading contenders currently are: "Yesterday" (Beatles) "Summertime" (Gershwin/Porgy & Bess) and Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." In my research for "Peanut Butter and Mashed Potatoes" (the sequel to "Papa Do Run") I uncovered (you should excuse the pun) a huge long list of covers of the John D. Loudermilk song, "Tobacco Road." And "Louie Louie" ain't doin' too bad, either. So I guess we can rest assured that all our old favorites will keep coming back to us, even if in forms we don't quite recognize - there's a group called Beatallica who do heavy metal covers of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Man that's one version of "Yesterday" I don't think I want to hear. If you have any picks or pans you want to air here, please, be my guest. Ok, I think that pretty much covers (sorry) everything. Now, gimme some of that blanket wouldja!
Friday, October 26, 2007
Those of you who have read my book, Papa Do Run, may recall a section about car songs, and the significance of cars to baby boomer teenage culture. Teens nowadays may think it's the same thing, and I'm sure cars are important to them, too, but not like they were to us. For one thing, kids these days have social lives completely unknown to their parents; they come and go as they please (often in their own cars) with so many more places to go. Plus they seem to have a lot more money to spend when they get there. Back in my day, cars ("borrowed" from our parents) were just about the only place we could be, if briefly, on our own, away from parental supervision. All we needed was to scrape together some change for gas. In a car, we could finally be ourselves, hang out with our girlfriends, cruise around and check our trap line of drive-ins. Or be with our boyfriends, who were all driving their parents' car. I can only think of one guy I knew in my high school who has his own car. It was a sweet little red 'vette, and because he was the older brother of one of my best friends, I occasionally got a ride in it. But it never occurred to me to try for a car of my own. And by the time I grew up and went out into the real world, and did acquire my own wheels, I somehow never drove anything cool. It's been one long boring series of beaters, minivans, and pickups. Even when I reached the age when most people have their mid-life crisis, I didn't go out and buy myself a sporty car. But then one day, when I was in my late 50s, I was talking with a neighbor, and everything changed. That day, quite by accident, I learned that my neighbor was buying a vintage Mustang. And he wasn't keeping it for himself, either. He was just going to buy it and flip it. To make a long story short, he flipped it to me. As soon as he told me about it that day, I knew instantly that this car was meant for me. Here's the amazing details.
My pony rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan in 1965, the same year I graduated from high school, in Detroit. Maybe even on the same day, who knows. The Mustang was designated for Ford Canada, so it immediately crossed the border and began its journey westward. A few years later, I too crossed the border and began moving west. Eventually, the Mustang ended up in a charming little place called Saltspring Island, in British Columbia, and I ended up in High Country, in the Alberta foothills, near some neighbors who also spent time on...Saltspring Island. So that is how I knew we were meant to be together, my little pony and me. I mean, think about it: we both made journeys over many miles and many years, far from our common point of origin, finally to be reunited at long last. And recently I moved from Alberta to Ontario, not far from the Windsor/Detroit border. Maybe one day I'll take it for a drive by the old Ford plant, where it all began.
Well, there you have it, the whole heart-warming story. Didn't it just about make you tear up? Okay, maybe not. Whatever - now it's your turn now. Give us the scoop on your best/worst/weirdest etc vehicle.
p.s. The color is that distinctive Mustang shade officially called "Poppy Red" but I refer to it as "Go-To-Hell Orange." I've named the car (yes I'm one of those annoying people who give names to their vehicles!) The O.C. (as in Orange Crush). The music I played on my first official drive was the Beach Boys, "Don't Worry Baby," my fave oldie. Probably should have been some Motown, now that I think about it.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Okay. The following are pairs of songs, mostly from the vintage years, that I think sound an awful lot alike, either in whole or in part, but to my knowledge did not end up in court. And hey, I sincerely hope I don't get anybody in trouble or anything...
Chuck Berry "Havana Moon"
The Kingsmen "Louie Louie"
Chicago "I'm a Man"
The Doobie Brothers "Long Train Running"
Toto "Make Believe"
Bobby Rydell "I Wanna Thank You"
Huey Piano Smith "Don't You Just Know It"
Johnny Ace "Pledging My Love"
The Shells "Better Forget Him"
The Harptones "Sunday Kind of Love"
Tim Tam & the Turn Ons "Wait a Minute"
John Lennon "Imagine"
Ral Donner "Run Little Linda"
Dion & The Belmonts "Runaround Sue"
Well, there you go, that's my list. But I think the question still remains open. What do you think?
Monday, October 15, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Papa Do Run-
A Baby Boomer Looks (and Laughs) at Vintage Rock and Roll
Hey kids...this IS your grandma's rock & roll!
Welcome rock and rollers of every age and generation. Perhaps you remember the song "Then He Kissed Me" from when it was a #6 hit for The Crystals back in 1963. Or maybe you first discovered it on the "Adventures in Babysitting" soundtrack in 1987, or the 1991 "Goodfellas" soundtrack, or even via the small screen in a 2006 episode of "The Simpsons." I recently learned that Mylie Cyrus (budding-performer daughter of achy-breaky Billy Ray - how old does THAT make the boomers feel?) is going to cover "Then He Kissed Me" on the 2008 remake of "Adventures in Babysitting" (to be titled "Further Adventures..."). As Danny & the Juniors (a group of young men obviously wise beyond their years) predicted way back in 1958 - "rock and roll is here to stay." I have absolutely no doubt about that.
This blog is a place for you to post your comments and/or memories about the golden oldies or the good old days. Be serious; be silly - it's all good. You can comment on something you read in my book, "Papa Do Run" or saw on my website, www.papadorun.com (as they say in Canada - check it out, eh?). From time to time I'll be posing a question or holding a "survey" on oldies. Or maybe even asking for help tracking down some trivia for the second volume on rock/pop music I'm currently writing, "Peanut Butter and Mashed Potatoes." You can also rant a little if you want (I just might, too). All I ask is that you don't use any language that you wouldn't use in front of Donna Reed or Harriet Nelson - you know what I mean, like George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words. Offenders will have their comments edited/removed, be tracked down and forced to sit in a windowless room listening to "Oops I Did It Again" on a loop until they crack (which, come to think of it, might not take that long). So drop by any time, the coffee's always on. I'll try to post something new at least once a week until I get the hang of it - did I mention I'm pretty new to this whole blogging thing? And nothing makes a boomer chick feel like an "old dog" more than tackling "new tricks" like websites and blogs. Aiiieee! Okay, that's it for now, BCNU - Deb