Sunday, October 31, 2010

OK, back to the 60's: This '64 Dylan "gorgeous vignette" was released on "Another Side Of Bob Dylan" and rarely performed live by him. He claimed to have had "no idea" what it was about but, according to Paul Williams, it was a profile of a Gypsy girl (hint, hint!) Dylan was involved with at the time. The song was a staple of the pre-fame Byrds' repertoire at Ciro's in West Hollywood and was included in their '65 debut album "Mr. Tambourine Man". Covered by Dion in '78.

Yesterday's answer: "Brand New Key" by Melanie Safka. Who can forget Heather Graham as Roller Girl in "Boogie Nights" - "I NEVER take my roller skates off!". Interesting how divergent Freud's, Adler's and Jung's interpretations of "lock and key" in dreams are!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Brand New Key" by Melanie Safka.

OK, back to the 70's: This Queens native wrote her biggest hit in 15 minutes after coming off a "cleansing" fast and stopping at a McDonald's for a burger. A "novelty" pop tune, it topped the charts in '71-'72, selling over 3 million copies worldwide. Also known as "The Rollerskate Song". Banned by some radio stations because of alleged sexual innuendo and Freudian references. Featured in "Boogie Nights" in '97. Artist? Song? (Definition of "innuendo": an Italian suppository {yo!})

Yesterday's answer: "Blue Skies". The "bluebird of happiness" theme has been used extensively in song, poetry and film in the US, Europe and among Native Americans.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Blue Skies"

OK, back to the 20's: This pop 1926 pop classic was written by Irving Berlin for the Rodgers & Hart musical "Betsy". Belle Baker drew 24 (!) encores for the song on opening night. First recorded by Ben Selvin and His Orchestra with Charles Kaley on vocals as "The Knickerbockers" in '27, topping the Pop charts. One of the 9 songs by Al Jolson featured in the 1st "talkie", "The Jazz Singer". Count Basie and Benny Goodman charted with it in '46. My favorite version happens to be Willie Nelson's from "Stardust" in '78 which topped the Country charts.

Yesterday's answer: "Falling Slowly". From Jeff Bluml: "Glen is also a standout in the movie "The Commitments." We blended their version of Al Green's Take Me To The River with The Talking Heads and Al's. We actually give credit to Al Green's Committed Talking Head." Me: Agree 100% - beautiful tune and the movie is not to be missed!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Falling Slowly"

OK, back to the 00's: This Grammy-nominated ballad was written and performed by Glen Hansard on guitar and Marketa Irglova on piano backed by Hansard's band The Frames. Written for the '07 indie film "Once", in which they star. They play it in a music store in Dublin on the film. It won the Oscar for Best Original Song. #2 Ireland, #61 US. Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox did a killer rendition on Season 9 of Idol.

Yesterday's answer: "These Boots Are Made For Walkin' " by Nancy Sinatra. "THE boots" still exist and have been made into lamps.
Originally Hazlewood meant the song to be done either by himself or another male - can you imagine?!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"These Boots Are Made For Walkin' " by Nancy Sinatra.

OK, more 60's: This Lee Hazlewood composition topped both the US and UK Pop charts in '66. Hazlewood told the artist to sing it "as if (she) were a 16 year-old girl giving the brush-off to a 40 year-old man". The Wrecking Crew provided the instrumental backup. The famous trademark "falling" bass line comes from Carol Kaye on electric bass and Chuck Berghofer on double bass playing off each other. The song introduced the Fembots in the first Austin Powers movie (yeah, Baby, yeah!). Jessica Simpson's version peaked at #14 in '05. Song? Artist?

Yesterday's answer: "Holding Out For A Hero" by Bonnie Tyler. "Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods?/ Where's the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?" is popularly considered a nostalgic yearning for the unreachable or for what is gone. Ubi sunt (literally "where are...") is a phrase taken from the Latin Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?, meaning "Where are those who were before us?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Holding Out For A Hero" by Bonnie Tyler.

OK, more big-hair 80's: This Jim Steinman/Dean Pitchford composition was 1st recorded by Bonnie Tyler in '84 for the "Footloose" soundtrack. It peaked at #34 US and #2 UK. The classic opening couplet is a modern example of the nostalgic literary ubi sunt motif. Also part of the "Shrek 2" and "Short Circuit 2" soundtracks. Masterfully covered by Joss Stone.

Yesterday's answer: "Hold On, I'm Comin' " by Sam and Dave. My dear friend and lead guitarist in our H.S. band, Arturo Marchand, used to do a very respectable rendition of the trumpet work on his Fender Mustang run through a big bad Super Reverb.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Hold On, I'm Comin' " by Sam and Dave.

OK, back to the 60's: This '66 Sam and Dave classic on the Stax label topped the Hot Black Singles chart and peaked at #21 on Billboard's Hot 100. David "Dave" Porter and Isaac Hayes were at the Stax studios, where an intricate electronic arrangement had been fashioned between the main console and the men's room (!) to create echo and reverb. The composing just wasn't going as planned. Dave was taking a little longer in the men's room than Isaac thought was necessary so he yelled at him, "Hurry up!". Dave's answer inspired the song! Backup tracks by Booker T. And The MG's and the Mar-Key Horns. The Blues Brothers were patterned after Sam and Dave and this song plays on an 8-Track in the Bluesmobile during the movie's 1st chase scene.

Yesterday's answer: " 'Til" by The Angels. Beautiful tune. I particularly like The Vogues' version.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

" 'Til" by The Angels

OK, more 60's girl groups: The 1st hit (#14) for this iconic vocal trio came in '61 with a Charles Danvers ballad (French lyrics by Pierre Buisson; English lyrics by Carl Sisman) first recorded by Italian songstress Caterina Valente. It also charted in '57 for Roger Williams and Percy Faith, in '68 for The Vogues (#27) and for Tom Jones in '71. The original lineup included sisters Barbara and Phyllis Allbut and lead singer Linda Jansen (nee Jankowsi). "My Boyfriend's Back" (#1 in '63) became their trademark tune. Group? First hit?

"Think For Yourself". "Rubber Soul", in my book, was The Beatles' opus magnum. Those Vox fuzzboxes were built like tanks! Alejandro "Champi" Herrero, the bassist in our band in H.S. got one and, needless to say, for weeks all we heard was "Think For Yourself" (where are you, Champi?). He used to call it "fussitone" - that's fuzztone en espa~ol FYI!

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Think For Yourself"

OK, more Fabness: This track from "Rubber Soul" was only the 6th Harrison tune recorded by The Beatles at the time. Sung by George, it is about not buying into rumo(u)rs. Years later during an interview George said that he had no recollection as to what inspired the song but he suspected it might have been the government. Part of it was used in the "Yellow Submarine" movie 2 years later. Macca lays down 2 (!) bass lines - a "conventional" one and the trademark "fuzz bass" which dominates the song using a Vox Tone Bender fuzzbox.

Yesterday's answer: "You Send Me" by the late great Sam Cooke. Samuel Cook added the "e" to his surname shortly before recording this classic. Shot dead in L.A. in '64 at the young age of 33.

The Dixie Chicks were formed in Dallas in '89 as a cowgirl quartet by Laura Lynch, Robin Lynn Macy and the Erwin sisters. Not a big fan of Natalie ("shut up and sing!"). Martie and Emily are SOLID musicians, though.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"You Send Me" by Sam Cooke.

OK, more 50's romance: This R&B ballad was written by the artist and his brother Charles "LC" in '55 and 1st recorded as a demo with just him on guitar. He was a little short on $ and living in his producer's apartment at the time. His 1st non-Gospel composition. He added an "e" to the end of his surname and recorded the definitive version in '57, topping both the Pop and R&B charts and selling more than 2 million copies - his 1st hit of many to come. An artist WAY ahead of his time! #115 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All time. The original Dixie Chicks (when they were REALLY good - before Natalie!) did a killer version on their '92 indie "Little Ol' Cowgirl". Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Desafinado". Check out this video of Joao Gilberto on solo guitar - genius! Where do these Brazilians get those dissonant chords?! Not in any chord... book I've ever seen!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


OK, Will, you HAVE to get this one (another suggestion from my sister Laurin): This classic '59 Jobim/Mendonca bossa nova translates loosely "out of tune" or "off-key". Originally recorded by Joao Gilberto in '59. English lyrics by Hendricks/Cavanaugh. Some critics called bossa nova "music for off-key singers" because of the dissonant chords, harmonies and voicings - it is rumored that Jobim wrote this specifically to make fun of them. The '62 Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd version peaked at #4 on Easy Listening and at #15 on Pop. It won the '63 Grammy for Best Jazz Performance Solo or Small Group. Jobim and Gilberto played it for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at The White House in '62.

Yesterday's answer: "Sea Of Love" by Phil Phillips and The Twilights. Baptiste recorded as Phil Phillips and "The Twilights" was an ensemble of session musicians out of Khoury's studio.

"Sea Of Love" by Phil Phillips and The Twilights.

OK, more one-hit wonders: John Phillip Baptiste co-wrote this '59 classic with George Khoury while working as a bellboy in Louisiana trying to tell his then-girlfriend how much he loved her. #1 R&B, #2 Billboard Hot 100. He received only $6,800 in royalties for the song! A hit for The Honeydrippers in '84 and for Del Shannon in '81 (#33). Tom Waits' version is part of the soundtrack of the Al Pacino/Ellen Barkin '89 movie of the same name. Featured in the "Juno" soundtrack in '07. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "I'm Your Puppet" by James and Bobby Purify. Curiously, there was no "Bobby Purify". Robert Lee Dickey joined his cousin James Purify and adopted the surname. When Robert became ill, Ben Moore, an established R&B singer, "became" the 2nd "Bobby".

Monday, October 18, 2010

"I'm Your Puppet" by James and Bobby Purify.

OK, back to the 60's (this was a suggestion from my sister Laura (Laurin) from Owings Mills, MD): The "Bobby" in this R&B duo was actually 2 persons - the 1st one was Robert Lee Dickey, a cousin of the founder and the 2nd one was Ben Moore, who took Robert's place when he became ill. Their biggest hit was an Oldham/Penn composition which peaked at #6 in '66, spent 14 wks. on the charts and sold over 1 million copies. Covered by, among others, Dionne Warwick, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell and Sir Elton John. Duo? Hit?

Yesterday's answer: "Let It Be Me". Great tune. Saw the Everly Brothers in Vegas a few years ago - amazing! Don can still hit those notes in the stratosphere!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Let It Be Me"

OK, a little more romance: This '55 Becaud/Delanoe composition was 1st recorded by Gilbert Becaud as "Je T'Appartiens". With English lyrics by Mann Curtis, it was a minor hit in '57 for Jill Corey. The best-known version is by The Everly Brothers in '60 (#7); their 1st recording with strings and outside of Nashville (NYC). Highest-charting version was by Jerry Butler and Betty Everett - #5 in '64. A Top 40 hit for Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry in '69.
Yesterday's answer: "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes".

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

OK, a little romance: This '33 Kern/Harbach show-tune collaboration was written for the operetta "Roberta". Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra's version topped the charts in '34. Irene Dunne sang it in the '35 film adaptation. Masterfully covered by, among many others, Nat "King" Cole in '46. The "definitive" version is by The Platters ('58), topping the Pop charts and peaking at #3 R&B. Featured in "American Graffiti" in '73 and Holden Caufield listened to it while on the carousel in "Catcher In The Rye".

Yesterday's answer: "Talkin' Baseball" by Terry Cashman - it's October - what do you expect?!

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Talkin' Baseball" by Terry Cashman

OK, back to the 80's: Born Dennis Minogue, this
artist wrote and sang this '81 sports tune, co-producing it with Tommy West, Jim Croce's producer. He also wrote Spanky and Our Gang's "Sunday Will Never Be The Same". Inspired by
this pic of Mays, Mantle, Snider and DiMaggio taken at Shea Stadium during the '80 Old-Timers' Game. Written in 20 minutes (!) it mentions an array of the sport's characters active between the 50's and '81. "The Bachelor" and "Cookie" were not players but rather childhood friends. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Coconut" by Harry Nilsson.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


OK, more 70's: This '71 Harry Nilsson composition was the 3rd single release from "Nilsson Schmilsson" in '72, peaking at #8 on Billboard. A novelty calypso number, it features 3 characters - the narrator, his sister and the doctor - all sung by him in different voices. The entire song is played in 1 chord - C7. Featured in Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and sung by Kermit The Frog on "The Muppets". When asked in a '68 press conference whom his favorite American artist was, John Lennon answered without hesitation, "Nilsson". Best friends with Monkee Mickey Dolenz until his death in '94.

Yesterday's answer: "The Last Time" by the Rolling Stones. One of my fave early stones tunes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"The Last Time"

OK, more 60's: This '65 Jagger/Richards collaboration was The Rolling Stones' 3rd UK #1 single and their 1st original composition to reach #1 (2 wks.). "A stern warning to a girl". "Play With Fire" was the B-side. The distinctive opening riff, pervasive throughout the song, was played by Brian Jones on his trademark British-made white Vox Mark III (teardrop) with Keith Richards playing chords and the solo. Based upon a '55 The Staples Singers gospel tune. Recorded in 1 day with Phil Spector co-producing and thus the classic "Wall Of Sound". A staple of the Stones' concert repertoire until '67 - they "revived" it in '97 for their "Bridges Of Babylon" tour. Covered by The Who in '67 to raise bail money for Jagger and Richards, in jail on drug charges (imagine that - gotta love those bad boys!).

Yesterday's answer: "Since I Fell For You". Dang, he was SMOOTH!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Since I Fell For You"

OK, back to the 40's: This blues ballad and big-band standard was written by band leader Buddy Johnson in '45. First recorded by his sister Ella accompanied by his orchestra. Covered by, among many others, Eartha Kitt, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and The Rascals. The most famous version was by a relatively unknown Lenny Welch on Cadence Records in '63 (#4 on Billboard). It broke into the top 40 on Nov. 23, 1963, the day of JFK's assasination and stayed in the charts for 3 months.

Yesterday's answer: "Outside Woman Blues". Delta Blues at its best! "If you lose your money, great God, don't lose your mind. And if you lose your woman, please don't fool with mine."

"Outside Woman Blues"

OK, more blues: This blues standard was written and recorded by Blind Joe Reynolds in '29 - one of his few known recordings. Covered by, among others, Hendrix and Van Halen. Perhaps the best-known version is Cream's on "Disraeli Gears" ('67), arranged by Clapton. This LP introduced his famous "Woman Tone" (hint, hint!) sustain, achieved by using his Gibson SG with humbuckers run through a Marshall tube amp and with strategic positioning of his wah-wah pedal.

Yesterday's answer: "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" by Solomon Burke. Ultra-kool kat. NOBODY did it like Jake and Elwood, though - (...four fried chickens and a Coke/some dry white toast...).

Solomon Burke (RIP) - "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love"

OK, more R&B: This Philly-born Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall-of-Fame member left us yesterday at the tender age of 70. The self-proclaimed "King of Rock 'N Soul". His biggest hit was a collaboration with Berns and Wexler which he 1st recorded in '64 - #429 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. "Extolling the virtues of the one you love". Covered by Jerry Garcia, The Rolling Stones ('65), Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett ('67) and, most famously, by The Blues Brothers in their movie ('80). A bare-chested Patrick Swayze danced with Jennifer Grey to his "Cry to Me" in "Dirty Dancing". He appeared on "Emeril Live", making his signature Turkey Delight sandwich (BAM!). Artist? Biggest hit?

Yesterday's answer: "A Sunday Kind Of Love". One of the best concerts ever - a good friend from residency took us to see Etta James while visiting in Houston at a small venue - blew me away!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"A Sunday Kind Of Love"

OK, more 40's on a lazy Sunday (hint, hint!) morning: This Bell/Leonard/Rhodes/Prima '46 jazz and pop standard was 1st recorded on the same year by Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra. Masterfully covered by, among others, Ella Fitzgerald, The Del Vikings, Etta James (saw her doing it live in Houston years ago) and Lenny Welch. My fave happens to be Kenny Rankin's '75 rendition - a masterpiece!

Yesterday's answer: "Watching the Wheels" by John Lennon, who would have been 70 today. Sometimes I still can't believe he's dead! My fave solo Lennon tune.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Watching The Wheels" - John Lennon

OK, happy 70th birthday, old chap: John Lennon wrote this tune in '80 to account for his "househusband" period between '75 and '80 when he completely abandoned music to be with Yoko and to raise Sean. Released posthumously in '81, the 3rd and final single from "Double Fantasy" - #10 US, #30 UK. A hammered dulcimer plays along with the piano.

Yesterday's answer: "I Should Have Known Better" by The Beatles. One of my Beatles faves. Bittersweet, though, as I was listening to it in '64 when I received the news that my best childhood friend Jose Luis Capacete ("Louie") had died. Still think of him every time I hear it. Sweet because my guitar hero Roger McGuinn bought his 1st Rickenbacker after watching Harrison play his on "A Hard Day's Night"...and the rest is jingle-jangle history!

"I Should Have Known Better" - The Beatles

OK, more Fabdom: This '64 Lennon composition was inspired by Dylan, whom the blokes had just met. Recorded at Abbey Road Studio in 3 takes as part of the "A Hard Day's Night" soundtrack - it was the B-side to the title track in the US, where it peaked at #53. Trademark Lennon harmonica intro. Harrison debuts his just-acquired Rickenbacker 360/12.
Yesterday's answer: Joey Dee and The Starliters - "The Peppermint Twist (Part 1)". They quasi-evolved into the Young Rascals.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Peppermint Twist (Part 1)" - Joey Dee and The Starliters.

OK, more 60's: David Brigati (Eddie's brother - as in The Young Rascals) was the lead singer for this early 60's NYC group. Their biggest hit was a Dee/Glover composition inspired by the dance craze of the day and the venue where they were the house band. It replaced Chubby Checker's "The Twist" at #1, sold over 1M copies and earned them a Gold Record. Too long to fit in a 45 RPM, it was split into 2 parts, Part 2 being instrumental. Covered by Dee Dee Sharp and part of the "American Graffiti" soundtrack in '73. Joe Pesci played guitar in an early lineup and Jimi Hendrix toured with them in '65. Group? Song?

"You've Got Your Troubles" by The Fortunes. What "makes" the song is the unique is the unique 3-part counterpoint harmony on the last verse with the trumpet accompaniment.

"You've Got Your Troubles" by The Fortunes.

OK, more British Invasion: This "brum beat" group from Birmingham started out as The Cliftones in '65. Their 5th and most successful single was a Greenaway/Cook composition (#2 UK, #7 US). Outstanding vocals by bassist Rod Allen. The group also did the famous "It's The Real Thing" and "Things Go Better With Coke" for Coca Cola. Group? Hit?

Yesterday's answer: "Taxi" by Harry Chapin. "Harry, keep the change". He left us too doggone soon

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Taxi" - Harry Chapin

OK, more 70's: Harry Chapin debuted his first hit on the Tonight Show in '72. The response was such that Johnny brought him back the next night to reprise it - 1st and only time in the show's history. Peaked at #24 and stayed on the charts for 16 wks. Old lovers meet by coincidence after many years. "60% true", according to Harry. Based upon his college relationship with a Clare MacIntyre. In '80 he released "Sequel" - what happened afterwards... Masterfully covered by Mandy Patinkin in his "Experiment" album.

Yesterday's answer: The Critters "Mr. Dieingly Sad." Another great tune from a one-hit wonder. The Byrds, The Beatles, The Monkees, The Animals, so they figured, what the heck, and called themselves The Critters.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mr. Dieingly Sad - The Critters

OK, more one-hit wonders: This neo-Baroque group from Westwood, NJ started out in '64 as The Vibratones. They eventually changed their name to emulate other "animal" groups of the day. Don Ciccone penned and sang their top-selling hit, peaking at #17 in '66. Captivating melody and sublime vocal harmonies. Later on Don toured with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and with Tommy James and The Shondells. Group? Hit?

Yesterday's answer: "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" by Brian Hyland. In those days bikinis were just starting out and were considered "scandalous" in some circles. The song singlehandedly boosted bikini sales!

"Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" by Brian Hyland

OK, more 60's: This Vance/Pockriss '60 novelty composition was the 1st and biggest hit for a 16 year-old singer from Queens, NY backed by the John Dixon Orchestra. The "adventures" of a shy girl at the beach. #1 US, #8 UK. Trudy Packer recited the spoken phrases before each chorus. Sold 1 million copies the 1st 2 months. Used in a Yoplait Light TV ad, in "Sister Act 2" and in "Revenge Of The Nerds 2". Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: From John Passow: "One of my favorite songs from the very early 70's ... Toast & Marmalade for Tea ... Tin Tin .... I thought for the longest time this song was by the Bee Gee's ... for good reason ... Maurice Gibb is closely connected :) A GREAT song!!"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Toast And Marmalade For Tea - Tin Tin

OK, more one-hit wonders: This Australian duo (Steve Kipner and Steve Groves) took its name from a Belgian crime-fighting cartoon character. Their ethereal hit was penned by Groves, reaching #20 in '71. The distorted sublime keyboard sound was obtained when the recording engineer accidentally leaned on the tape machine. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Kung Fu Fightin' " by Carl Douglas. Dang, I'm SO sorry - I just don't know what came over me! BAD song - one of the worst ever - I promise I'll be better next time (maybe a little Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs?! - NOT!!!)