Category Archives: music

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

Meme of Solace

I’m sure the title refers to a James Bond film; I’m swiping this from SamauraiFrog.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

There is something to be said for following the instructions in this case.

1. The Beatles
2. The Beach Boys
3. David Bowie
4. The Rascals
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Linda Ronstadt
7. The Supremes
8. The Temptations
9. Talking Heads
10. The Police

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

Something early, probably “Different Drum”.

What is your favorite song of 8?

“I Can’t Get Next To You”. From the rowdy opening to the Sly Stone-inspired shared vocals.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

Massive. I have a ton of their albums, both as a group and as solo artists. I know arcane things about their album releases. People say to me, “What album is X song on?” and far more often than not, I’ll say “American or British album?” And then peg both of them. There’s a picture of Lennon in my office and a photo of the Imagine imagine from NYC in my house.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

Probably the chorus of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. “But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” From Let It Bleed, probably my favorite Stones album. The organ noodling of this song during the early funeral sequence of The Big Chill cracked me up, while others in the audience wondered why.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

Never, though I’ve seen them live on TV once or twice.

What is your favorite song by 7?

“Love Is Like An Itchin’ In My Heart”. What an insistent bass line. there’s a version that’s about 30 seconds longer than the single I particularly enjoy.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

Ashes to Ashes
Time and again I tell myself
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again

What is your favorite song by 9?

“Making Flippy Floppy”, probably because I saw the Talking Heads during the Speaking in Tongues tour in 1983 or 1984 at SPAC in Saratoga.

When did you first get into 2?

It’s really odd, actually. I had a compilation album with I Get Around and Don’t Worry Baby in 1965, and the Pet Sounds album in 1966, both of which I liked. But I never considered myself a real Beach Boys fan until I got Surf’s Up, which was a mainstay of my freshman year in college, 1971-72. THEN I went back and got into the earlier music, and bought the retrospective albums that came out in the mid-1970s.

How did you get into 3?

I was in my dorm room in my freshman year and somehow won Hunky Dory from my college radio station, WNPC on a radio call-in contest. I liked almost all of it; my roommate Ron only liked Changes.

What is your favorite song by 4?

“It’s Love”, the last song on the Groovin’ album, featuring flute by Hubert Laws, plus a great bass line. When I got a new turntable in 1987, the track ran so close to the label that the album would reject before the song would end; drove me nuts. Actually bought the CD five years ago largely for this one song.

How many times have you seen 9 live?

Once, but it was one of the two greatest shows of my life, along with the Temptations in 1980 or 1981.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

A mixed memory actually. I had this friend named Donna George, and I bought her the Beach Boys box set. Before she died of brain cancer a few years ago, she assigned another friend of hers and me to divvy up her music. I took the Beach Boys box, and I always remember her when I play it.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?

The Temptations with a Lot o’ Soul is full of melancholy songs, but I’ll pick No More Water in the Well.

What is your favorite song of 1?

A truly impossible question. Seriously. It’s dependent on mood, what I’ve listened to recently. I’ll say Got to Get You Into My Life, but reserve the right to change that.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Almost certainly listening to WQBK-FM, Q-104 in Albany, NY, a truly great station that also turned me onto the Talking Heads, the Clash and a lot of other music of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
ROG

Musical Coolness and Lack Thereof QUESTIONS


There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about Tom Petty: Rock God Or Mere Mortal? “As Tom Petty prepares to release a career-spanning anthology next week, an attempt to determine where he falls in the music pantheon.”

The basic premise is that though he sold a lot of records, maybe because he was prolific with the pop hook, he just seems to lack the “cool” quotient. I’m thinking the way Huey Lewis & the News, even in the height of their success, was uncool. Whereas the late Johnny Cash, on whose second American Recording Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played on, was “cool”.

This has less to do with talent or chart success as it does with the artist shaking things up musically, as Elvis Costello or Bruce Springsteen were known to do.

There was a chart on the page suggesting coolness, from uncool to very cool, which looked roughly like this (there was also a loudness axis): Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel (sorry, SamuraiFrog), John Mellencamp, AC/DC, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Pretenders, Eagles, Jimmy Buffet. Carlos Santana is about in the middle. Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, David Byrne, Neil Young, Nick Cave.

First, do you agree with the ranking? I always thought Pretenders were cooler, and James Taylor, not so much. Neil Diamond put an album with producer Rick Rubin a couple years ago, which always seems to enhance the cool factor; it certainly worked for Cash.

Secondly, where would you place Petty on the list? He’s played with George Harrison, Dylan and the aforementioned Cash. He put together his old band Mudcrutch and put out a decent album a couple years ago. I’d say he was at least as “cool” as the Stones, who would be cooler without most of their output of the last couple decades.

Finally, what other artists do you think fall on the “uncool” pantheon unfairly, or on the “cool” list unjustifiably? Let’s face it: Jeff Lynne, even as a Wilbury, has never been particularly cool. But I always thought Linda Ronstadt, who moved from genre to genre, was more cool than she was given credit for.

ROG

The Strange Question Meme, Part 1

Ah, the Faure concert went well yesterday, but I got more comments about the fact that I was wearing a suit than the music. “He cleans up nice.” “You’re so HANDSOME.” “I didn’t know you could look so good.” That sort of thing.

Saturday night, the wife and I went to the Albany Symphony Orchestra at the palace theatre. George Li, a 14-year-old pianist was astonishing on a Saint-Saens symphony. he also played a nice Chopin solo piece as an encore. And he looks 11. we saw David Allen Miller on our way into the theater, and young George, who looks about 11, on the way out.
***
In case you’ve never heard the Dylan tune Gates of Eden.
***
Strange Questions, Part 1. Expect a part 2 someday.

1. What is the color of your toothbrush?

It’s one of those electric jobs. White with blue trim.

2. Name one person who made you smile today.

Dick Morris. Sends out all that Rethug garbage. It’s all so silly.

3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning?

Well, yesterday I was taking a shower; today I’ll be playing racquetball, I hope.

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago?

Sleeping.

5. What is your favorite candy bar?

Regular old Hershey’s chocolate bar.

6. Have you ever been to a strip club?

No. (I understand that one-word answers just aren’t adequate for these, and that I should elaborate.) Don’t think the opportunity ever came up (why does that seem sordid?), and at this point, I’m just not interested.

7. What is the last thing you said aloud?

“Is it morning already?”

8. What is your favorite ice cream? How to choose?

Srtrawberry. Generally, fruit over anything else, though I HATE faux banana flavorings.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink?

Water.

10. Do you like your wallet?

I hate my wallet. I hate the need for a wallet. I didn’t have one for the longest time. Then I was in Savannah, GA with my father and I dropped a $10 bill. So he bought me one. Now I can just lose the wallet and be out ID, credit cards and cash en masse.

11. What was the last thing you ate?

Ritz crackers.

12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week?

Well, nine days ago, but I didn’t actually pick up the black suit for yesterday’s Faure requiem concert until Saturday.

13. The last sporting event you watched?

Last 15 minutes of some football game.

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?

Plain, with butter.

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to?

Je ne comprends pas.

16. Ever go camping?

Yes. Didn’t like.

17. Do you take vitamins daily?

Yes, and they are for men over 50 and have the word “senior” in the title, which you can imagine makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. They’re chewable.

18. Do you go to church every Sunday?

Most Sundays, unless I’m sick or away. Occasionally, I’ll go to church when I’m away.

19. Do you have a tan?

No. In fact, I burn very easily since the vitiligo, and I avoid the sun as much as possible. Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses are de rigeur.

20. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza?

Probably, but eat pizza far more often. Chinese food ten to have nuts and peanuts, and the child is allergic to peanuts.

21. Do you drink your soda with a straw?

Occasionally. But chocolate milk? Almost always.

22. What did your last text message say?

If I have one, I have no idea how to retrieve it.

23. What are you doing tomorrow?

Same as it ever was.

24. Favorite color?

Aquamarine.

25. Look to your left; what do you see?

A window with the shades drawn, a radiator, and some boxes.

ROG

It Ain't Easy

Very few phrases fill me with dread and/or irritation as the response, “Oh, it’s EASY!” And it bugs me on two separate but related levels.

I had this colleague who was very smart but I don’t think she recognized her own intellectual gifts. When I would ask her for help, she’d say, “Oh, that’s EASY.” It was as though, if SHE could could do it, it must not be all that special. But, in fact, it was, and in her profession, she is now quite accomplished. It seems that she has recognized the value of her talent.

The other version is when a techie or someone doing something technical or mechanical says, “Oh, that’s EASY.” Implicit in this one is that “anyone” can do it it. Well, obviously, they don’t know ME. While I have mastered which end of the hammer is the one you generally hold, there is nothing in this arena that comes easily to me. If there are four ways to put something together, but only one correct way, you can be sure I will have tried at least two of the other three first. I have absolutely no innate spatial reference capacity.

And it also extends to my absolutely DREADFUL capacity for remembering names. I’ve tried all the tricks. Someone named Mr. Dole is wearing a pineapple shirt; I’ll remember him as Mr. Pineapple.

Now there ARE some things that I do do easily, but I don’t assume that others can, or should be able to do the same. I specifically remember 9th grade algebra, which I was rather good at (97 on the final – I’m also pretty good at remembering numbers generally). There was a particular problem that this kid Sid was trying to do on the board. The teacher was trying to explain it to him, but he just wasn’t getting it. Then she let me try, and the light bulb went on in Sid’s head.

What got me thinking about this was the daughter in kindergarten. She’s fairly smart. Her teacher is having the students spell out the words phonetically, and she knows most of her letter sounds. What happened last month was that she spelled the words incorrectly, of course, and burst into tears. Her mother and I had to emphasize the fact that English isn’t easy.

I mean I am a pretty good speller. A lousy typist but good speller – 100 on my 5th grade final (really) – but I don’t know if I ever knew WHY most words were spelled as they are. Why do “giant” and “jelly” have the same starting sound? Or “cat” and “kitten”? Or “school” and “skill”? The silent e has some rationale – long vowel sound – but what about the silent b in climb or silent g in gnu, the latter of which appears in one of her picture books?

She HAS mellowed since then, but does have a perfectionist streak that doesn’t seem to come from either her mother or me.

“Well all the people have got their problems
That ain’t nothing new” – It Ain’t Easy

It Ain’t Easy by David Bowie video. “Dedicated to The Big Easy with much love.” ROG

Twist and Shout

STILL stuck in my mind: that great dance sequence from the movie 500 Days of Summer which makes more sense in context.
The song namechecks the song “Twist and Shout”.


Then there’s this new show on Nickelodeon the daughter is watching called The Fresh Beat Band. They were originally called the Jumparounds, plugged so often in the commercials as such that my daughter still refers them that way. (Also, she knows I think that their initial name was goofy, but the new moniker is boring – generic is what I actually said, but boring is a reasonable translation.) Think the Monkees aimed at four-year-olds. The Hispanic guitarist goes by Kiki and the red-haired percussionist is Marina. But it’s the guys’ names that I should note. The preternaturally tall guy is the beat boxer Twist, while the black keyboardist is named Shout. Twist and Shout? I expect that if this program catches on, the players will be replaced as though they were in Menudo. (None of them go by their real names.)

Which of course brings us to one of the great cover songs of all time, by the Beatles. Just saw this clip again on the Beatles Anthology, which I have on VHS. Don’t know why this song doesn’t get more respect in those “best covers” polls.
***
Speaking of covers, I’ve really gotten into the new television show Glee, but I must admit there are some 21st century songs I couldn’t tell you the original artist without looking it up. One piece I did recognize instantly, was Queen’s Somebody to Love. Probably my favorite cover thus far on the show.

But I still prefer the original. I own only Queen album, a greatest hits collection, and that on vinyl. (And unlike my CDs, my LPs are in great disarray.) Any Queen album recommendations?

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact,
try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”

— Johan Bruyneel
***
VOTE

ROG

Big Hits of 1953

I have a couple friends who were born in 1966 who know the music of 1966 nearly as well as I do, and I was 13 that year. So I thought I’d find a list of 1953 songs to see how many I
O-Own, L-Like, H-Hate, R-Recognize (obviously, if I own, like, or hate, I recognize):

That’s Amore Dean Martin -(O, L)
Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes – Perry Como (R)
Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams (O,L)
The Doggie In The Window – Patti Page (O)
Rags To Riches – Tony Bennett (O,L)
Even Now – Eddie Fisher (R)
Have You Heard – Joni James (R)
Hound Dog – Big Mama Thornton (O,L)
I Believe – Frankie Laine (R)
Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – The Four Lads (O,L)
Oh! My Pa-Pa – Eddie Fisher (O)
Secret Love – Doris Day (R)
Three Coins In The Fountain – Frank Sinatra (O,L)
The Typewriter – Leroy Anderson & His Orchestra (O,L)
Young At Heart – Frank Sinatra (O,L)
Crying In The Chapel – The Orioles (O,L)
Mama (He Treats Your Daughter Mean) – Ruth Brown (O,L)
Mess Around – Ray Charles (O,L)
Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams (O,L)
You, You, You – the Ames Brothers (O,L)

The only album I have is Jazz at Massey Hall – The Quintet, though I have compilations of Frank Sinatra that cover this period.

I suspect that any of you younger bloggers that try this will have a far longer list than I.
ROG

The Beckster

My niece Rebecca turns 31 tomorrow. Since my sister Leslie was kind enough to share some photos of Becky’s 1st year, when they lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC, NY, this seems like an appropriate time to post them here:

Leslie and Becky

Becky with her paternal grandmother, I believe

I always liked that quilt

With her Daddy Eric

The woman to the right was Leslie and Eric’s neighbor Maria

The ultimate before picture

Held by grandma

Maria (left), Becky, Maria’s mom(?)

Having babysat Becky, I can attest that she would put herself in the drawer

Mother and child

Maria, Leslie, Eric with bundle o joy

May have been 1st birthday party. My great aunt Charlotte is in the rear center; I’m at rear left.

Child with her daddy


Here’s Rebecca (third from the right) with her group Siren’s Crush. You can check out “exciting new 100% Live Video Footage” here. The band’s MySpace page is here.

ROG

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

A Couple Lennon Flicks

Sometimes I see October 9 creeping up on the calendar and have not much to say past “Happy birthday, John.” This year, though, as a result of the 09/09/09 VH1 Classic extravaganza, there were a couple Lennon-related items worthy of noting, neither of which I had ever seen before.

One was a live concert in New York City in 1972, a benefit for the mentally handicapped (the preferred term in the day). It was odd, though. It all SOUNDED particularly familiar, such as him referring to his old group as the Rolling Stones. That’s because I own the album that was released posthumously in 1986; I have it on vinyl, perhaps one of the last LPs I ever bought. A photo of Lennon given to me by my friend Rocco was almost certainly from the same set of concerts. (Yes, the same Rocco who gets a mention in Love & Rockets 40.)

VH1 bleeped a couple words in the concert, one of them a pronoun. One was in the title of Woman Is the N***** of the World, which was excised several times. The other word was from Well Well Well. In the line, “She looked so beautiful, I could eat her,” the “her” was clipped. The interesting thing about the technology is that it didn’t affect the backing track, only the vocal track.

Something that I DIDN’T know until recently is that there were two concerts. And Elephant’s Memory, John and Yoko’s backing band, was reportedly really ticked off with Yoko Ono, believing she should have released the music from the tighter second concert rather than the first. A few of those second show performances appear on the box set Lennon Anthology. John messes up the lyrics to Come Together in both.

Here’s a performance of Instant Karma, followed by Mother.

The other item I saw was the 2006 feature film, the U.S. vs. John Lennon, which chronicled the development of John Lennon’s evolution from moptop to the famous/infamous “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” comment to John & Yoko on the cover of Two Virgins. But ultimately, he was recognized as a political creature – black activist Angela Davis, e.g., took notice of the Beatles song Revolution. Many may have thought John and Yoko’s bagism and bed-ins were silly; John didn’t seem to care. Yet “Give Peace a Chance”, recorded at the Montreal bed-in, became as much the antiwar anthem as “We Shall Overcome” was the anthem for the civil rights movement.

Post-Beatles, John and Yoko’s activism became more pointed, hanging out with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale (who appears in the film). When John was seemingly successful in freeing activist John Sinclair, the Nixon White House became concerned about the 1972 election, especially given the passage of the 26th Amendment allowing 18-year-olds the right to vote for the first time nationally.

What to do? Based on a suggestion by Senator Strom Thurmond, the Nixon White House decided to try to deport John Lennon. The basis was a marijuana conviction that lots of pop stars in England had been subjected to, all performed by one overzealous officer.

The twists and turns of that four-year journey are fascinating, especially as told by among others, Walter Cronkite, Mario Cuomo, John Dean, Ron Kovic, George McGovern, Gore Vidal, and Geraldo Rivera, who had broken the story of the abuses in the mental health system, and was MC for the One to One concerts. Most interesting, though, was Watergate convict G. Gordon Liddy, who freely confirmed that the Nixon White House WAS out to get John.

October 9, 1975 was not only John’s 35th birthday, it was the date of Sean Lennon’s birth AND the day their immigration lawyer Leon Wildes informs John that he’d won the case. In some ways, I think the movie should have ended there. Instead, we get happy scenes of John, Yoko and Sean for a few minutes, followed by four gunshots. It seemed tacked on, though Yoko’s only complaint was that the bullets should have been louder.

Still I learned a LOT in this film that I did not know. Recommended. Here’s the trailer.

ROG