Saturday, June 28, 2008

IT’S JUNE 27TH and WE WANT TO KNOW ABOUT AWSoP – ASAP!



I just discovered that today happens to be the birthday of two members of Procol Harum, the band best remembered for their Summer of Love smash hit,

“A Whiter Shade of Pale”

(AWSoP). In honor of that, I’m going to offer some of the trivia I found, concerning the interpretation of the song, and of the band’s name. I won’t go into the in-depth merits of each one, or we’ll be here for months. Let’s just have some fun and see what there is to see about this classic oldie. Hang onto something to keep you well grounded, and let’s take a look.

At one time or other it had been claimed, verified, suggested, proven, disproven, and/or rumored about AWHoP that…

1) the melody was lifted from or inspired by J.S. Bach’s
"Air on a G-String” (Oh pull-leez, you just had to snicker didn’t you? You know perfectly well what that means!)

2) the melody was lifted or inspired by J.S. Bach’s
"Sleepers, Awake” (Well, both Bach pieces have some AWSoP moments, you decide)

3) the melody resembles (or at least has the same chord progression as) “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge. WAMLAW actually was recorded one year ahead of AWSoP, so perhaps the inspiration goes the other way ‘round.

4) the lyrics refer are a boy/girl breakup theme revolving around nautical imagery.

5) the lyrics are about a boy/girl breakup theme involving drugs.

6) the lyrics contain the elusive “answer” to what Billie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Bobbie Gentry’s hit song, “Ode to Billie Joe.” This one particularly interested me, since I love OTBJ (does anyone else find these abbreviations as annoying as I do?) and wrote about it at length in my book, but, the answer? I think someone is pulling someone's leg.

7) the lyrics contain references to a) Roman/Greek mythology - Vestal Virgins, Neptune in the extra verse b) Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” – The Miller’s Tale c) Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, “If music be the food of love…” and d) Milton’s L’Allegro, “light fantastic” which may have morphed into “light fandango.” I’ll add an e) to the list – I think that “playing cards” and “looking glass” could be an oblique reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice books (also see June 10/08 post).

8) the band’s name was borrowed from a pedigree cat.

9) the band’s name, Procol Harum, is “dog-Latin” (not to be confused with pig-Latin), which is kind of another way of saying bad Latin, and it might mean, more or less, any of the following: beyond those things, beyond these things, beyond that which is, far out.

Ah, the late ‘60s – AGTWHBA! (a good time was had by all)


Image of Bach, Vestal Virgin from Wikimedia Commons.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

FEATURE ARTIST: LEON RUSSELL, with a sidebar on Willie Nelson, and Life


I was talking recently with a long-time friend (the one I call my sister from another mother and father) about what we’d both been listening to lately. We’re both really into music, but our tastes are somewhat different – while she’s at the mall watching Tristan and Isolde broadcast live from the Met in HD, I’m hunched over my computer searching for rare and obscure doo-wop. She likes Dave Brubeck, and I like Dave Crosby. But we overlap on a few things, like Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson. And, I just found out, we both like Leon Russell. How could you know someone for decades and not know they like Leon Russell; that’s so basic! We were both surprised. Well, anyway, after that, I grabbed a Leon Russell CD as I was heading out the door, and drove off down the road to the familiar strains of “Roll Away the Stone,” smiling.

Leon Russell (b. 1941) is having a long and illustrious career, starting with his early days in L.A. as an arranger, producer, and a highly respected session musician for Phil Spector. He’s contributed to and worked with the widest spectrum of talent you can imagine; everybody from Gary Lewis and the Playboys to the Byrds to Herb Alpert. My introduction to Leon came through the rock and soul extravaganza, Mad Dogs and Englishmen. From there it was just a hop skip and a jump to Derek and the Dominos, Delaney and Bonnie, Rita Coolidge etc. I really could have a Leon Russell wing in my CD collection. In January of this year, Leon released In Your Dreams, his…wait, let me go to Wikipedia and count…I make it his 39th album! And he’s still looking as fierce and Rasputin-y as ever.

Well, almost “as ever.” Leon didn’t always have his signature long hair and beard. Oh no. Like his friend and fellow artist, Willie Nelson (their duet of Heartbreak Hotel went to #1 on the Billboard Country chart in 1979), Leon is one of those guys whose looks, as well as talent, span several critical decades. Let me put it this way – if you see an early picture of David Crosby – or Dave Brubeck for that matter – they pretty much look the same over time. Don’t panic, what I simply mean is, if you put a photo of Crosby from today beside one of him from the 60s, you wouldn’t have much trouble figuring out they're the same person. But Leon, and Willie…I’m thinkin’ maybe you might have trouble.









Now, I’m not bringing this up to poke fun at anyone; we all have pictures of our younger selves we're glad aren't on our driver license permanently. But it’s a Law of Life – you live long enough, and you’re bound to leave a trail of photographic documentation of your questionable fashion statements behind…(see the 2 photos in the left hand margin of me, your most humble blogger, with 1965 helmet hair, and more recently). Well... enough philosophy already, let's hear some music.

Happily, someone on YouTube has posted a vid of Leon Russell doing “Roll Away the Stone.” It says it’s a 1964 clip, and judging by his getting-longer hair and still-bare chin, it’s “transitional.’

Another great YouTube find! “Roll Over Beethoven” No matter what style, what decade, Leon’s hair is impressive. What a pomp! And what's even more impressive is all that rockin' talent in one so young.

Monday, June 23, 2008




GEORGE CARLIN


1937 - 2008




I'll bet just about every baby boomer (or those from any other generation, for that matter) can remember the first time they ever heard George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television." (How times have changed!) The world is a funnier place, and the English language is richer for his contribution. George, you hilarious $#@%*%, you will truly be missed! Here's my personal fave.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

WILL ANYBODY EVER WRITE A SONG ABOUT ICE CHIPS or BACTERIA?


For eons, we evolving humans looked at the stars and wondered, “What the heck are those twinkly little dots up there?” Then later, when we knew a bit more, we wondered, “Are we alone, or might there be somebody up there?” Blessed (or cursed) as we are with fertile imaginations, we then began to speculate on what such fellow occupants of the Universe might be like. Then we began to record our musings in story, movie, and song, and we have to admit that, for the most part, our supposed visiting interplanetary neighbors (that sounds like Weird Al spoofing Alanis Morissette!) haven’t been depicted as all that attractive, or friendly.

In popular music, nearly everyone has had a shot a singing about aliens, from Ella Fitagerald’s “Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer” (1951) right up to the present, with Outkast and Blink 182. The only one who doesn’t seem to think much of the topic is former Eagle Don Henley – “They’re Not Here, They’re Not Coming.” And he doesn’t exactly say he doesn’t believe, he’s just asking why would they bother coming here! Of course, if they don’t want to come here, we make house calls. In fact, we’re up there on Mars right now, looking for LGMs (industry term – Little Green Men). But so far, the only color up there seems to be that endless rusty red. Oh, and a bit of white, which is caused by some little square-ish tidbits of ice, which upon being unearthed (unMarsed?) by the module, promptly sublimated (go directly to Gas, do not pass Liquid, do not collect $200). So, suddenly… it’s gone! All we can hope to find now is maybe a few amino acids, or maybe some bacteria. Personally, if that’s the case, I’m glad we don’t get the module back…I just watched the remake of Andromeda Strain on TV the other night. Critters from other planets can be unattractive, unfriendly and very unhealthy. Anyway, my point is, I think we may have seen…or heard…the best of the alien songs. Once we rolled the ice dice, the romance of it all kinda went out the window. So let’s pause for a moment and remember the good old days, when aliens were little and green, and big and purple.

Sheb Wooley “Purple People Eater” 1958. This is terrific old footage, even if the SFX are a little old-fashioned!

The Byrds “Mr. Spacemen” 1968. Special effects are coming along nicely now, must be the acid.

I looked for the Don Henley song on YouTube. Unfortunately, it’s not there, is it coming?

UPDATE 23 JUN - After the commenter below clued me in about the Weird Al song "Germs", I found this little animation among several at YouTube. With LGM in it, I think you'll agree it's the perfect choice for this topic. And if you're up for it, there's another one on YT which I won't post here that's set to a compilation of scenes from the old X-Files series. Mind you, I was a huge X-phile, but somehow when all the "icky" scenes are strung closely together instead of spread out over dozens of episodes, well, it's a bit much before breakfast...


Thursday, June 19, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: HULA HOOP TURNS 50 TODAY

The hula hoop craze of the late 50s swept the Baby Boomer generation with a force previously unequaled. No one these days would line up in tents for days to buy one, they simply aren't high tech enough for our sophisticated selves. I don't have a Blackberry, or a picture phone, and I don't really want them, but I wouldn't mind if I still had my cool old royal blue hula hoop. What a collector's item that would be!

The hula hoop was introduced to the world by two marketing geniuses, Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, who eventually formed the Wham-O toy company (who also gave us the Frisbee). Hula hoops sold for $1.98 (that much, really?!) and Wham-O sold over 100 million. I don't do math, but even so, I can guess they made some significant bucks. In fact, they were so popular, they were banned in Russia, as a symbol of the "emptiness of American culture." That sounds pretty funny today, doesn't it. Anyway, these hoops made it into more than one song. There is the Christmas Song by Alvin and the Chipmunks. And this one by Georgia Gibbs, appropriately titled "The Hula Hoop Song."

“The Hula Hoop Song.”

IN MY NEXT LIFE I’M GOING TO BE AN IKETTE

Back in the 1960s, we Boomers all listened to a little gem of an R&B group known as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Ah, the Ikettes – you couldn’t have asked for better “backup” for Tina. Under Ike’s production, the Ikettes also recorded some singles of their own. It wasn’t always easy working for Ike (try to act surprised). At times he even had one set of Ikettes recording and touring their hit, and a different set performing with the Revue. Apparently he didn’t pay very well either, and the girls never received royalties. Because of all that messiness, it's understandable that there were frequent changes to the Ikettes roster. I counted at least 23 names on the list of Ikettes over the years. Not all their singles were hugely successful, but two in particular, “I’m Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)” from 1961, and “Peaches and Cream” from 1965 did quite well. Those songs are two of the best vintage R&B hits one could ever hope to hear. While Tina Turner deservedly gets a huge amount of attention for her amazing voice and delivery, it was really the complete and total package deal to see and hear all of them together. Whenever I play “I’m Blue” and “Peaches and Cream” in my van I crank it up and sing along like I’m the “fourth Ikette.” Fortunately it’s loud enough so I can’t really hear myself and spoil the illusion. And then I kind of drift off into fantasy, wondering…what must it be like to open your mouth and hear something like “the fortune teller told me my love with you was through” come out like that? Well, too bad I’ll never know. Not in this lifetime anyway.

Man, can they ever chew up those lyrics! This one will blow you away.
“I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song)”

Honestly, wouldn't you rather dance to this at your wedding than "Wind Beneath My Wings"?
“Peaches and Cream”

Monday, June 16, 2008

SEXIEST SONG SURVEY: GOOD THING OR EXERCISE IN FUTILITY?

As some of you may already know, I’m big on making lists. There’s the on-going (as in never-ending) Things To Do list, plus weekly shopping lists. Then there’s lists of movies to watch, books to read, CDs to check out, blog posts to write about… Really, I should own stock in Post-It Notes. And let's not forget the list of my personal Top 10 vintage oldies over on the left-hand margin of this blog. Lists galore! But it’s all good, right? I mean, my lists are, with the exception of the blog one, not for public viewing. Nobody gets hurt.

But recently in my travels online I came across a list that claimed to be the results of a survey on The Sexiest Songs of All Time. I can’t tell you much more, because no one had signed their name to the entries, still, it was a real eye opener as to what different people actually think is sexy in a song. I found myself alternately nodding my head (Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers) and furrowing my brow (Bang-A-Gong, T. Rex) as I read the list. And then, I decided to look into the matter a little further. First I Googled “sexiest songs of all time.” I found more of the same wildly diverse mixture of titles on most sites: “Wicked Game” Chris Isaak, “Love to Love You Baby” Donna Summer, “Possibly Maybe” Bjork, “Tupelo Honey” Van Morrison, and the Titanic one by Celine Dion. One survey site was totally rap and hip hop, with titles I would blush to type out for you (but, yes, they did each refer to sex in, ahem, one way or another). Next I decided to go right to the horse’s mouth, and clicked to see what Rolling Stone mag had to say on the topic. Here’s their list of the Top 5 Sexiest Songs of All Time:

1) “Let’s Get It On” Marvin Gaye
2) “Closer” Nine Inch Nails
3) “Darling Niki” Prince
4) “Like A Virgin” Madonna
5) “Sex Machine” James Brown

I have to say, none of those would be on my list, and two of them (2, 3) I’ve never even heard. So, is there any point to even trying to pick the sexiest song/s ever? I’m pretty sure a lot of peoples’ top pick might change over time, anyway. Still, we are driven to try. So, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.

Deb’s Pick for Sexiest Song of All Time – “Every Breath I Take” Gene Pitney. It’s got it all – Lyrics, melody, drums, strings, Gene’s terrific voice. Oh, and did I mention the drums?

And, BTW, the photo at the top is my pick for the Sexiest Eye Chart of all time.

Friday, June 13, 2008

SOTP IN THE NAME OF LOVE


There’s a picture making the rounds online, maybe you’ve seen it. A road crew in Stockton, CA installed a brand spanking new red STOP sign, and then, to go with it, they painted the same word in big white letters on the road. Only they spelled it wrong. It was quickly corrected of course, but not before someone took a picture so we can all have a good laugh at their expense. Some of us wonder about the ethics of laughing, because some of us (and by that I mean me) have what’s known as dyscalculia, which is a little like dyslexia, only with numbers and spatial directions (putting together IKEA stuff is hellish torture). I’ve also been known to swap out a few words or letters here and there, too, so I sometimes tell people I’m dyslexic. Technically speaking, the two disorders are close cousins, and not actually interchangeable, but dyscalculia is neither easy nor fun to pronounce (dis-cal-KYOOL-e-yah is pretty close to it), and everybody’s heard of dyslexia, so I kind of fudge things. Does that entitle me to laugh at the Stockton road crew, or should I feel guilty? Well, too late, anyway. To make up for it, let me share about one of my personal musical miscues.

Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4” (really great video, BTW!) Part of the trouble I had with this song is that I only heard it on the radio, but I never owned a copy. Back in 1970 I was a struggling student with no discretionary income, so even though I liked it, it was not a time in life when I was adding to my record collection. Thus, when I heard the lyrics, I was mystified, because I thought he was singing “25 or 624.” What the heck does that mean? Was he trying to reconstruct the combination to a lock? Or was it some kind of weird, sinister code? Or, like John Lennon (see previous post) was he just messing with my head? Turns out I wasn’t the only one who was confused by these lyrics (oh sure, suddenly it’s cool to be dyslexic!!) It caused quite a stir, and spawned lots of interpretations. Here’s a short quote from Wikipedia:

Chicago fans have long argued about the meaning of the song. When it was released, there was speculation that the lyrics were drug-related; but the same thing was said about many songs in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the rumor has been largely dismissed. Lamm himself says that the title is "just a reference to the time of day," and that "the song is about writing a song. It's not mystical." The time of day in reference is 3:35 AM (or 3:34 AM), which would then be 25 (or 26) minutes to 4 AM. Lamm was not above perpetuating the mythology of the song, though. In one interview, he referred to the song title as "a cricket score."

Well, I don’t know how cricket is scored, but it’s obvious that Robert Lamm didn’t have a digital clock, or the whole song would have been very different. I also discovered that in 2005, a fellow named Jonathan Coulton wrote and recorded a song called, “When I’m 25 or 64” which kind of splices the Chicago song with The Beatles “When I’m 64.” Talk about confusing the situation, stuff like that should be allowed! I’m kidding...and in fact I have learned to compensate for my numerical short-comings. But I can still give cellist Yo-Yo Ma the old switcheroo if I’m not careful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

OH YOU WASCAL WABBIT!


One of the fun things I have on my iGoogle home page is a gadget that each morning delivers me a Buddhist Thought of the Day. It’s just what you’d expect: a smorg of cryptic, pithy, and thoughtful sayings by various sages and masters both ancient and contemporary (Uma Thurman’s daddy hasn’t shown up yet, but I’m sure he will). Then one day, to my great surprise, there was this one from The Beatles: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Like you, I’ve heard the song it’s from, “I Am The Walrus” many times. But in this new context, I have to admit my first reaction was kind of a Scooby Doo one – hunnh?! But, on closer inspection, I think it is indeed mystic and deeply wise, and perfectly at home in a Buddhist gadget. And when I looked up the story behind the lyrics, I found myself, if not down the rabbit hole, at least wrapped up in another daisy chain. Here’s how this one goes, although not necessarily in any order.

Daisy #1 – “I Am The Walrus” is chock-a-block full of crazy references and allusions, specifically designed by John Lennon to drive all those who pick apart song lyrics looking for hidden meanings around the bend. Bon voyage! I won’t go into all of them here, but just give you the Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_the_Walrus so those who are so inclined can read the whole thing. It’s really worth it. The thing we’ll focus on here is that the Walrus in the song is a reference to the Walrus in the poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” which Lewis Carroll wrote and embedded in his 2-volume children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. These are two of the trippiest books ever written, for kids or anyone. Carroll (pen name of one Charles L. Dodgson, famous British author, logician, mathematician, photographer, and an ordained Anglican minister) named the book’s title character after Alice Liddell (photo right), daughter of a friend and colleague. Like John Lennon, Carroll was really into puzzles, word games and sly references. He’s credited with inventing, or at least popularizing, those addicting Word Ladders. With such rich material, plus Carroll’s own list of eccentricities, it’s not surprising that he has spawned an on-going bunch of Carrollian followers, societies and clubs. You think Sherlock Holmes has a big fan base? You think Trekkies are nutty? You have no idea. Oh, p.s. - there's also some tidbits from Alice in another Beatles tune, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

Daisy #2 – “White Rabbit” Jefferson Airplane. Because of the image of Alice changing her size by sampling the contents of a strange bottle labeled DRINK ME, and eating a hunk of mushroom recommended by that caterpillar with the hookah, it was a natural for a late ‘60s song reference. Feed your head, indeed. Grace Slick’s anthem is practically a GPS rendering of Alice’s entire little adventure.

Daisy #3 – I did a Google search for “musical compositions inspired by Lewis Carroll” and found there are dozens – everybody from Irving Berlin to Aerosmith. Not all were from the Alice books; some came from Carroll’s Snark and Jabberwocky material, but still, the most recent I found was 2007!

Daisy#4 – Several words have entered English through the nonsense poem, Jabberwocky. We have Carroll to thank for “chortle” “galumphing” “frabjous” and “vorpal” or “vorpal sword” (as any Dungeons and Dragons player will note).

I bet Lewis Carroll would think the whole thing is pretty frabjous. And quite an accomplishment for a children's book first published in 1865.

I Am The Walrus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO9M_5aTRvE

White Rabbit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LdwGUXoXyA

Monday, June 9, 2008

FEATURE ARTIST: LAURA NYRO, and a TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN

Generally speaking, I try to keep the serious content in this blog to a minimum. After all, this is a celebration of the early days of rock and roll, that rebellious in-your-parents’-face music we Boomers loved to shock the older generation with when we were growing up. A healthy amount of cheekiness is certainly called for. But these last few days we have been marking the 40th year since the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and barely three months prior, that of Martin Luther King Jr. Like everyone who was old enough to understand what was happening at the time, I remember vividly where I was when both of those terrible events were reported, as well as for that of JFK five years earlier. It’s indelibly stamped on our individual and collective memory. And, like so much of our Baby Boomer experience, it was recorded in song. Most people will immediately call to mind Dion’s elegaic ballad, “Abraham, Martin and John” with it’s mention of "Bobby" as well in the last line. But a similar song that doesn’t get played is “Save the Country” by the late Laura Nyro (1947-1997).

My first introduction to Laura Nyro came through songs others had recorded, like Three Dog Night (Eli’s Coming), Blood Sweat and Tears (And When I Die), and The 5th Dimension (Stoned Soul Picnic, Wedding Bell Blues, Blowing Away). But after I heard her in concert, I was a fan for life. Her unique style has been described as “a distinctive hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, mixed with elements of jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes and rock” (Wikipedia). I’d say that about sums it up. As Dion put it, “it seems the good die young” and we also lost Laura too soon, but she left a rich musical legacy “to carry on.”

So here, thanks again to YouTube, is Laura Nyro, and “Save the Country" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jjdowef1oKE

Sunday, June 8, 2008

OH DEAR! WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO CRUISING?

Now that the price of gas is over $4 a gallon in the States, and about $1.35 a litre in Canada, what is going to happen to that staple of North American car culture – going out for a drive? For as long as I can remember, that’s been one of the most pleasurable activities life had to offer. Ah, the freedom of the open road. Back in the ‘50s, when I was very small, we spent summer vacations with my grandparents in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), and would take a long leisurely drive upstate. And once or twice a summer we’d all pile in the car head out of Detroit and drive to Howell for its famous cantaloupe melons. Of course, we could have bought them in the grocery store, but we always packed a picnic and made a day trip out of it (back before the network of expressways expanded into the ‘burbs, that was pretty much a given anyway). Then later, when I got my own license, I took naturally to the world of teen cruising. Talk about having no particular place to go! My girlfriends and I made the rounds of the drive-ins, or just plain drove around seeing what there was to see. Somebody had a cottage at the lake; we were on the way! When I went away to university in Kalamazoo, I drove in my mother’s old hand-me-down Valiant. With my own set of wheels, I could come home for the weekend any time I wanted. Okay, maybe that one wasn’t a huge priority…but you get my point.

These days, everyone is effected, but the ones I really feel sorry for are the teens. We could quickly be entering a time when the fun of aimless cruising around with a car full of your school pals will no longer be the rite of passage it once was. But the situation could have even more far-reaching effects. If this dark looming future comes to pass, what will become of road songs? Will anyone still be inspired to write them? Can you imagine a world without the Beach Boys “I Get Around”? Or Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away”? Or even Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike” (‘cause you ain’t gettin’ a ride if nobody’s out there drivin’). Just think about the hundreds of cool songs that are yet to be written. Who will climb in behind the wheel, turn the key and write another classic? And we haven’t even begun to consider the road movies yet. They too are a much-loved part of our shared experience. There could be some lean times ahead!

Still, bad as that sounds, things may not be completely hopeless. We just have to reinvent the road song. Find the musical equivalent to bunching your shopping necessary trips together, and finding routes with less traffic, fewer left turns and stoplights. We need to think of road songs in a different, energy saying way. I think we even have a few oldies that we can build on.

Melanie, Brand New Key
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKJO8Sy0ugQ
This one went to Billboard #1 in Dec. 1971, back in the day of plentiful, relatively cheap gas, and quad rollerskates. I used to have a pair of those key-operated skates. They were really heavy and cumbersome, but once you got up some speed you could sure make sparks fly going down the sidewalk.

Fats Domino, Walkin’ to New Orleans
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lICk_uPAPfg
A great little road song of sorts, written by Bobby Charles for Fats, who had a hit with it in 1960. Bobby was a big fan of the Fat Man. When they met in Lafayette, Fats invited him to come visit him at home in New Orleans. Bobby told him he didn’t have a car, and if he did visit, he’d have to walk there. Then he turned that thought into a song.

Well, there you go. I hope I haven’t brought everybody too far down with this. Here’s one more song to leave with you on a happy high note. It’s a later one from the Beach Boys, with a great YouTube video – a real tribute to the internal combustion engine!

Still Cruisin’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVdKHktiy8I


Friday, June 6, 2008

(I gush over our) FEATURE SONG: MIND OVER MATTER

If you look up “perfection” in the Doo-Wop Dictionary, you’ll find a picture of our feature song, “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong. Nolan was born in 1934 in Alabama, but is claimed by Detroit, where he grew up and developed his singing career. In 1950, Nolan and Bob “Chico” Edwards formed the doo-wop vocal group The Diablos, and became one of the most successful groups for a Detroit pre-Motown era label, Fortune Records. Some of The Diablos’ notable recordings include “The Wind” “Daddy Rockin’ Strong” Since You’re Gone” and “The Way You Dog Me Around.” But for me, their absolute best recording (though only Strong is credited on the label) is “Mind Over Matter.” Strong’s mellow tenor and soaring falsetto will have you inching towards Replay before it’s even over.

The link below will give you the complete liner notes on a CD of hits by Nolan Strong and The Diablos. It goes into a lot of detail, so if you want the full meal deal, by all means have a read. But even if you don’t want to read the whole thing, do not miss scrolling all the way to the bottom where you can listen to the entire “Mind Over Matter” with excellent sound. And get your mouse ready.

http://www.lexjansen.com/fortune/diablos.htm

There now, wasn’t that just the very definition of doo-wop perfection?!







In case you can't access it with that link, here it is on YouTube. The sound isn't great, but at least you'll be able to check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5-grS-PjGg

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

BREAKING NEWS!




SUH-WEET!





Our regular oldies posts and music vids will return soon. For now, let us rejoice!!

TODAY’S MENU – Some MOVIES, a POLITICAL OBSERVATION, and a BROADWAY SHOW TUNE (hey show tunes are oldies, too!)

The other day, I was watching (my third time at least) the 1995 movie, The American President – that’s the one with Michael Douglas as the handsome widower Prez and Annette Benning as the feisty lobbyist (it’s been on a lot lately, probably because of the unfolding U.S. election drama). I really like that movie. It has lots of snappy one-liners in the dialogue, and Michael Douglas is another in a long line of fictional movie and TV Presidents we might wish were real ones. A few others that stand out for me are Henry Fonda, a steady and thoughtful man in a nuclear crisis (the original Fail Safe), Kevin Kline, a steady and thoughtful stand-in who's better than the real thing (Dave), Bill Pullman, a steady and thoughtful man who kicked some serious alien b…well, I’m not really sure what they have “back there”…in a nasty invasion crisis (Independence Day) and Morgan Freeman, a steady and thoughtful man in a killer comet crisis (Deep Impact). I don’t think Gregory Peck ever play the Head of State, but I’m sure if Atticus Finch had run for the highest office in the land, he’d have won by a landslide. Anyway, Morgan Freeman isn’t the only African American actor to take on the role of POTUS. Others include Lou Gossett, Jr., James Earl Jones, Chris Rock, and Dennis Haysbert.

There is also a surprising number of women actors (I hate that “ess” they tack on to indicate a woman) who have played the President (like, Presidentess?!) on both the big and small screen, starting as early as 1953! So it seems life is only now getting around to imitating where art has been at for quite some time. Anyway, back to The American President. I was watching the scene where Douglas and Benning (I want the name of her personal trainer!) are dancing at the State dinner. The music the band is playing catches my ear every time. It’s from the Broadway show, The King and I, and a long time favorite of mine, “I Have Dreamed.” The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic opened on Broadway in 1951, so it’s getting pretty antique, but this still one of the best love songs out there. There are quite a few video posts of this song on YouTube to choose from, but I liked this cover by Matt Monro (1930-1985). What a terrific voice. With his smooth style, he influenced everybody from Mama Cass Elliott and Karen Carpenter right up to Michael Bublé.

Matt Monro, "I Have Dreamed" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb_9_jmIBGU



Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

REPORT FROM THE CHECK-OUT LINE, or more on mags

Like many (I suspect) people, I secretly enjoy waiting in line at the grocery store. No, really. It’s a wonderful opportunity to call a time out in our busy lives, to stop and, if not smell the roses, at least catch up with the latest news around the world, and frequently off-planet as well. I’m talking about those trashy tabloids. I don’t know about you, but I have learned loads of extremely interesting things over the years. Some headlines seem more outrageous than others, but after I saw the movie, Men in Black, I realized that even the most bizarre claims could be the truth, hiding in plain sight: “Dog-Faced Boy Marries Cat-Faced Woman!” “Werewolves Sank the Titanic!” “Loud Rock Show Makes Teen’s Head Explode!” One memorable header from back in the ‘90s announced that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had given birth to a UFO baby. There was even a photo. Evidently, the baby favored the father, that’s all I can tell you.

Of course, those weekly cage-liners are not the only source of 411 available in the supermarket racks. Fortunately for all us shoppers, we also have those celebrity and entertainment magazines. These shiny full-color beauties are miles ahead of the newsprint tabloids in style, but the trash is still pretty much the same. Only instead of UFOs and exploding body parts, the headlines tattle out the most lurid gossip and embarrassing details in the lives of all the uber-rich and famous. I genuinely feel sorry for all the celebs who can’t even go pick up a pregnancy test at the all-night drugstore without light bulbs flashing. Even more, I pity the poor hybrids, the Bennifers, Brangelinas and TomKats of the industry. How awful to have every tiny detail of your hook-ups and de-hookings spread all over those glossy pages. Awful – yet strangely, I’ve heard rumors that some celebs actually like the publicity, and have even make up scandalous stuff to keep their names in print. I find that harder to believe than an exploding head…what, am I being naïve?

Anyway, back when I was a teen, there was very little of that kind of gossip/news available. I’m sure it wasn’t because there was nothing going on. Probably my fave teen singers and movie stars were whooping it up behind the scene back then, too, but that was well before the current avalanche of so-called entertainment mags and TV tell-alls. Oh, there were a few modest Teen magazines back then, but the details were hardly shocking. Back in ‘60s, we just had a very different idea of what constitutes news, or gossip, or propriety for that matter. A few short decades ago, the Disney machine forbade Annette to wear a bikini in her debut beach movie with Frankie Avalon. No one, whether interested or not, was allowed to view Annette’s bare midriff. But these days there simply isn’t, to paraphrase Martha and The Vandellas, any place to run or to hide. These days, anyone with a computer (and no real life) can relive being flashed by Britney, or review David Hasselhoff consuming a (much needed) hamburger. There is no privacy any more; voluntary or not, it’s all out there.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this headline recently: “ Madonna Opens Up!” Excuse me, would you run that by me again? Now, I say this as someone who genuinely likes Madonna, but, really, can there be anything about Madonna that we haven’t already heard, or seen, for that matter? What could possibly, at this point in her career, be left? Those last two questions are purely rhetorical, BTW.

Okay, now that I’ve opened up about checkout line magazines and celebrity gossip, let’s have a look at a neat little video of the famous teen show, American Bandstand, and remember how simple life used to be. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRu-q1lfdWI And, fittingly, the vintage footage is part of an entertainment TV show!

Photo from answers.com. Check out the "IFIC" button (see May 15/08 post on Silly Love songs)