March Ramblin’


Anyone out there on Posterous? I had never heard of it until very recently. I posted something the other day via e-mail, because I could. One can also post a variety of other ways. I’m not seeing the need, but then again, I didn’t get Twitter or Facebook initially either.
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It’s not coming out until May 25, but I’m looking forward to Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook by Bettye LaVette. This great singer who was in the Albany area recently – no, didn’t get a chance to see her – is covering a bunch of songs, many that I know well. It has a definite Beatles tinge.
1. The Word (Beatles)
2. No Time To Live (Traffic)
3. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Animals)
4. All My Love (Led Zeppelin)
5. Isn’t It A Pity (George Harrison)
6. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
7. It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo Starr)
8. Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)
9. Salt Of The Earth (Rolling Stones)
10. Nights In White Satin (Moody Blues)
11. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad (Derek & the Dominoes)
12. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Elton John)
13. Love Reign O’er Me (The Who – live from the Kennedy Center Honors)

That last song, sung to Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry, seemed to have them in tears, especially Townsend.

Check out Bettye’s website for her performances with Paul & Ringo, with Jon Bon Jovi, and her stellar Who cover.
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SamuraiFrog informs me that there is a Soul Train YouTube channel, which is very cool.
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I was listening to Les Brown this week. He had a big hit in the 1940s with Bizet Has His Day, an adaptation of Farandole from L’Arlésienne.
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Ever get a song stuck in your head, but you CAN’T REMEMBER the title? This happened to me the other day. I called up a librarian friend who wasn’t working that day. Then I called a violinist friend of mine; she knew the song I hummed, but couldn’t remember what it was either. She called her sister, and she identified it as In The Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt, music by Edvard Grieg. Don’t think you know this piece? I’ll bet you do, especially if you play any of the three dozen versions from Duke Ellington, Erasure and ELO to Rick Wakeman and the Who. I’m rather partial to the ska version. Somehow, I have it in my mind that this music also inspired the Sugar Crisp commercial theme.
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As a reaction to the Tea Baggers, there is now a Coffee Party. I’m only slightly conflicted in that I really like tea and really don’t like coffee.
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Have I mentioned lately that I really love Betty White? I’ll even record Saturday Night Live on May 8, and I only watched it in 2008 for “Sarah Palin”.
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The greatest 9,331 movies of all time.
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Is my cellphone frying my brain?
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Don’t know why I do that March Madness thing. This year’s results have been worse than ever, thanks to the upsets. Yet I can still win.

For the games today and tomorrow:
I picked: Kansas over Michigan State.
Who’s actually playing: Northern Iowa and Michigan State.
I’m rooting for: Northern Iowa. Their colors are purple and gold, just like my graduate school alma mater. What the heck; I hope they get to the Final Four. Go Panthers!

I picked: Georgetown over Ohio State.
Who’s actually playing: Tennessee and Ohio State.
I’m rooting for: Tennessee. The leader in our group picked Ohio State to win the whole thing.

I picked: Syracuse over UTEP
Who’s actually playing: Syracuse and Butler.
I’m rooting for: Syracuse, who I have going to the Final Four.

I picked: Pittsburgh over Kansas State.
Who’s actually playing: Xavier and Kansas State.
I’m rooting for: Xavier.

I picked: Baylor over Villanova.
Who’s actually playing: Baylor and St. Mary’s.
I’m rooting for: Baylor, who I have in the Final Four.

I picked Louisville over Siena.
Who’s actually playing: Duke and Purdue (yikes).
I’m rooting for: Purdue. Actually, I’m rooting against Duke every round.

I picked: West Virginia over New Mexico
Who’s actually playing: West Virginia and Washington.
I’m rooting for: West Virginia, who I have winning the tournament over (oops) Kansas.

I picked: Kentucky over Cornell.
Who’s actually playing: Kentucky and Cornell!
I’m rooting for: Kentucky on my sheet, the upstate New York team in my heart.

ROG

Smokey is 70!


If William “Smokey” Robinson was known just for the songs he performed, he would be a memorable artist. But the fact that he has written over 400 songs, according to ASCAP, and probably hundreds more and is a producer as well, then you have a musical force.

The first song released by his group the Miracles was Got A Job, a response song to Get a Job by by the Silhouettes, written by Smokey, Berry Gordy and Roquel Davis.

Here are just a other few songs written or co-written by Smokey. The group listed usually is NOT the only artist who’s performed the tune:

You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me- the Beatles; also performed by the Miracles
My Girl-the Temptations
My Guy -Mary Wells; anyone who could write My Girl AND My Guy is the consummate songwriter
No More Tearstained Makeup – Martha & the Vandellas; a relatively obscure song with one of my favorite lines: No sponge has the power To absorb the shower Of what pancake and powder couldn’t cover
Who’s Loving You – Jackson 5ive. From the 1st J5 album, a cover of the Miracles tune. Isn’t Michael preturnaturally experienced in love in this tune?
Ain’t That Peculiar – Marvin Gaye
Tears of a Clown -the (English) Beat. But it was from the Miracles’ version that I first heard of Pagliachi, which led me to find out that the reference was to a Leoncavallo opera.
Don’t Mess with Bill – Marvellettes
The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game-Grace Jones, covering the Marvelettes’ tune
Get Ready -Rare Earth, a song I first heard from the Temptations
No More Water In The Well – the Temptations, with a relatively rare Paul Williams lead vocal, from arguably my favorite Temps LP, With A Lot O’ Soul, 1967.
Still Water (Peace) – Four Tops
Floy Joy – the Supremes

I suppose I should do a couple more Smokey songs. I pick the oft-covered Tracks of My Tears and I Second That Emotion.

So, happy 70th birthday to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters’ Hall of Fame inductee, as well as 2006 Kennedy Center honoree, Smokey Robinson!

1993 photo of Smokey from LIFE magazine, for non-commercial use

ROG

T is for Three "Tender" Tunes


If you check only the Wikipedia post for the song Try a Little Tenderness, you’ll find the listing dominated by references to Otis Redding. While he did perform the benchmark version in the mid-1960s, a live version of which you can watch here, the song has a much richer history.

Here’s a version of the song, written by “Irving King” (James Campbell and Reginald Connelly) and Harry M. Woods, performed by Francis Albert Sinatra; click on the button on the upper right side of the page. Interesting that this version has an intro not generally used.

The Wikipedia notes a bunch of other folks who also recorded, including “on December 8, 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra (with vocals by Val Rosing) followed by both Ruth Etting and Bing Crosby in 1933.

But in my Top Pop Singles, under the Otis Redding listing for the song, it says: “#6 hit for Ted Lewis in 1933”, though the Wikipedia doesn’t note Lewis at all. Here’s the Ted Lewis version (song #8), with a lengthy instrumental before the lyrics come in.

Who IS this Ted Lewis? According to my Top Memories, 1890-1954 book, this song charted for him in February of 1933 for 10 weeks, getting up to #6. But he had 101 Top 20 hits between 1920 and 1934; Tenderness being the 92nd. Among his #1 hits:
When My Baby Smiles at Me (1920-7 weeks), All By Myself (1921-4 weeks), O! Katharina (1925-1 week), Just A Gigilo (1931-2 weeks; yes, the song later covered by David Lee Roth, formerly of Van Halen), In A Shanty in Old Shanty Town (1932-10 weeks), and Lazybones (1933-4 weeks).

Ruth Etting also charted with Tenderness on 3/18/33 for two weeks. She had 62 Top 20 Hits between 1926 and 1937, this being the 59th, with her biggest hit Life Is A Song in 1935 (2 weeks at #1).

Otis Redding’s version got to #25 in the pop charts and #4 on the rhythm and blues charts in December 1966. The song is listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is #204 in a list of Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest songs. Otis’ biggest hit, unfortunately, was posthumous: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay in the winter of 1968, which went to #1 won a number of Grammy awards, as well as citations by Rolling Stone (#28), R&RHOF, RIAA, NPR and BMI

Before Otis, Aretha Franklin had a minor hit (#100 in 1962), and after Three Dog Night (#29 in 1969). But it has become a staple in the repertoire of many an artist.

Paul Simon’s second album after his breakup with Art Garfunkel was the eclectic There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, featuring songs such as Kodachrome and Loves Me Like A Rock. The 1973 collection also featured a lovely song called Tenderness, which Like Loves Me Like a Rock features the vocal stylings of the gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds. (Unfortunately, all I could find is this cover version.) The album went to #2 and signaled a successful solo career to come, featuring albums such as Still Crazy After All these Years (#1 in 1975) and Graceland (#3 in 1986).

Paul Simon won the very first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007, succeeded by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

The 1956 Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender had a peculiar songwriting history, explained here. Briefly, it was written as Aura Lee nearly a century earlier. The adaptation was credited to Presley and the songwriting adapter’s wife, neither of whom actually wrote it. It was the title song of Elvis’ film debut.

I learned http://www.metrolyrics.com/aura-lee-lyrics-traditional.htmlAura Lee in grade school so found Love Me Tender as somehow peculiar. In fact, the school kids made up a song to Aura Lee, sung with the Elvis enunciation:

When you must take medicine
Take it orally
That’s because the other way
Is more painfully.

Orally, orally
Take it orally
That’s because…the other way…
Is more painfully.

Anyway, here’s the classic Presley tune, the fourth of a dozen and a half #1 hits in the United States. (The 31-song ELV1S album contained #1s in the US and/or the UK.)

ROG

Berry Gordy is turning 80


Back in 1998, when I went to Detroit, I visited 2648 West Grand Boulevard. No, “visited” is not the right word; I made a pilgrimage to Hitsville USA, the house that served as the recording studio for a great number of artists recording for Motown Records. It is a physically unimpressive building, even dowdy, but it was the launching pad for a great amount of music that I own, tunes by Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Four Tops, the Temptations), Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5ive, and the Supremes, among many others. The visionary for all of this was Berry Gordy, Jr.

Gordy, whose Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bio you can read here, developed songwriters, artists, and underappreciated backup musicians to create music that was not marginalized as “race music” or “soul music”, but in fact became “The Sound of Young America.” This is astonishing: “In 1966, the company’s ‘hit ratio’ – the percentage of records released that made the national charts – was 75%.”

If you bought Motown ALBUMS, as opposed to singles in the 1960s, as I tended to do, you’ll note that not occasionally, the same songs would make it onto more than one artist’s LP. Famously, Gladys Knight & the Pips had a #2 single in 1967 (#1 on the R&B charts) with I Heard It Through the Grapevine; about a year later, Marvin Gaye had a massive #1 hit on both charts with the same song, albeit arranged quite differently, written by Barrett Strong and the late Norman Whitfield. It was the stable of songwriters, including Holland-Dozier-Holland, some of the singer-songwriters such as Robinson, Wonder and Gaye, and less well-known folks who may be the unsung heroes in the saga.

Another writer was Berry Gordy himself. Songs written or co-written by him include:
Do You Love Me by the Contours, covered by Temptations
Try It Baby by Marvin Gaye, covered by the Supremes and the Temptations
I’ll Be There by the Four Tops
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy by Brenda Holloway, covered by Blood, Sweat & Tears
Money by Barrett Strong, covered by the Beatles and many others
You’ve Got What It Takes by Marv Johnson
I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save, Mama’s Pearl, Maybe Tomorrow – all Jackson 5ive; songwriters billed as The Corporation (Gordy/Mizell/Richards/Perren)
Even pre-Motown, Gordy had written hits for the late Jackie Wilson, including Reet Petite and Lonely Teardrops

I refer you to this episode of the podcast Coverville, featuring the music of Motown and Berry Gordy; yes, the thank you in the notes (and the fulfilled request of Remove This Doubt by Elvis Costello, the cover of a song from The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland album) is in reference to me.

Also check out this article celebrating not only 50 years of Motown records but also another milestone; Berry Gordy turns 80 on November 28, 2009. ROG

Picture from Life.com, “for personal non-commercial use only”

Talking withing Songs QUESTIONS

I was just listening to a Best of Sam and Dave album. In the intro to I Thank You, someone says:
I want everybody to get up off your seat
And get your arms together, and your hands together
And give me some of that o-o-old soul clapping

with the last three words practically sung.

An even better intro, though not a better song, is on their You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me, which has an almost preached “Eddie FLOYD wrote the song.”

Going back to the earliest days of rock and roll, there have been spoken lyrics within the context of a song. Some work for me, such as the corny Leader of the Pack by THE SHANGRI-LAS:
Is she really going out with him?
Well, there she is. Let’s ask her.
Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing?
Mm-hmm
Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?
Uh-uh
By the way, where’d you meet him?

Others, not so much. There is a truly awful interlude in an Everly Brothers song called Ebony Eyes:
The plane was way overdue so I went inside to the airlines desk and I said “Sir, I
wonder why 1203 is so late?” He said “Aww, they probably took off late or they
may have run into some turbulent weather and had to alter their course.” I went
back outside and I waited at the gate and I watched the beacon light from the
control tower as it whipped through the dark ebony skies as if it were searching for
(my ebony eyes.) And then came the announcement over the loudspeaker-
“Would those having relatives or friends on flight number 1203 please report to the
chapel across the street at once.”

The original Supremes did it in Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone
You close the door to your heart
And you turned the key, locked your love away from me

AND
You stripped me of my dreams
You gave me faith, then took my hope
Look at me now

AND
My heart cries out for your touch
But you’re not there
And the lonely cry fades in the air

It’s OK, but not my favorite song from the group.

In fact, the LONGEST rap in the pre-rap era that I own has to be the album version of Stevie Wonder’s Livin’ For the City, all that about “New York City: just like I pictured it; skyscrapers and everything.”

So, excluding rap, or songs with rap elements, such as Blondie’s Rapture, how do you feel about songs with spoken lyrics. What songs do you like? What songs do you hate? You may also pick rap/hip hop songs as well, though I may (if we’re talking early rap) or probably won’t recognize the reference.
ROG