Category: Popular

#327 CYNDI LAUPER TIME AFTER TIME

#327

CYNDI LAUPER

TIME AFTER TIME

 

Cyndi Lauper—Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper—(b. 1953) is a singer, songwriter, and actress from Astoria, Queens, New York City. Known as well for her variety of hair colors and eccentric clothing as she is for her singing and acting, her career was propelled by a series of pop hits in the mid-1980’s. “Time After Time” was part of Lauper’s debut album, She’s So Unusual.

I liked this song from the very first time I heard it, listening on the car radio. I was in my third year of being part of Sinclair’s Music faculty, Tiraje and I had a young son, and life felt like it was at its beginning…the happiness of this song permeated my mind.

I still find “Time After Time” difficult to just listen to it once–it always takes several re-plays for me to get my fill. It is a simple and well-composed song, with a catchy refrain. This may have been the peak of keyboard synthesizer usage in pop music, and it certainly got a boost here. Of special appeal to me was the flexible, repetitive bass guitar line (very good for air guitarists!).

The song, from 1984, has had an immense amount of recognition:

American Video Award for both Best Female Performance and Best Pop Video
BMI Award for Pop
Billboard Best Female Performance
Most Performed Foreign Song (in Canada)
MTV Best New Artist
MTV Best Female Video
Grammy Song of the Year
Grammy Best New Artist
Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Love Songs
VH1 Greatest Songs of 1980’s
Nerve’s 50 Greatest Love Songs of All Time

The language that critics used for Time After Time was florid and impressive:

• “Time After Time” stands tall among the music of the entire rock era as one of its all-time great timeless ballads”

• “a masterpiece…the best and most significant song Lauper ever wrote or recorded…sentimental, gorgeous”

• “gorgeously heartfelt, one of the decade’s finest ballads”

• “beautiful and bittersweet ballad”

• “Lauper’s most enduring masterpiece hits at the very essence of commitment…she captures real romance in the most simple and straightforward of lines”

Here are those straightforward lines:

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles confusion–
Is nothing new
Flashback–warm nights–
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after–

Sometimes you picture me–
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said–
Then you say–go slow–
I fall behind–
The second hand unwinds

If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time

After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows–you’re wondering
If I’m OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
The drum beats out of time–

If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time

You said go slow–
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds–

If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time

Time after time…
Time after time…
Time after time…
Time after time…

Lauper is understandably and immediately associated with “Time After Time.” But it should be noted—and I will, in a future post about her—that Lauper is a significant composer for Broadway. She won the 2013 Tony Award for her score to Kinky Boots. Additionally, she has attracted a lot of attention for her acting in films, on television, and on the Broadway stage—truly, a multi-talent.

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And, as an important aside about Lauper: she has long been associated with the LGBT movement, championing causes, raising support funds, and campaigning all over the world for equal rights. Her song, “Above the Clouds” was written in remembrance of Matthew Shepherd, the young Wisconsin man who was beaten to death because he was gay. Lauper’s True Colors House in New York City serves as a residence for homeless LGBT youth.

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#324 MINNIE RIPERTON LOVIN’ YOU

#324

MINNIE RIPERTON

LOVIN’ YOU

I first heard Minnie Riperton’s voice in the summer of 1967. My brother, then in college, had come home for summer break, and one of the albums he had acquired was The Rotary Connection by a group of the same name. It was psychedelic rock, and there were a few songs on it that were mildly attractive. But the main attraction was the stand-out voice of Minnie Riperton, their lead singer.

Rotary Connection was an experimental group, a project in which a group was artificially formed, created to take advantage of the psychedelic movement, then in full bloom. It was the brainchild of Marshall Chess, the son of Leonard Chess, the founder of Chess Records. Included in the group was Minnie Riperton, who in 1967 was working as a receptionist at Chess while simultaneously hoping to have a big break in the recording business.

Growing up in Chicago, she sang throughout her teen years, and received enough recognition to become a backup singer for Etta James, Fontella Bass, Ramsey Lewis, and Chuck Berry. Rotary Connection’s popularity was relatively brief—they fizzled out in 1971—but by then Riperton’s voice has drawn enough attention that a solo career was inevitable. Her 1974 album, Perfect Angel, went to the top of the charts. From Perfect Angel, Riperton had three singles releases. The third one, Lovin’ You, was a number one hit in 25 countries in the spring of 1975.

Lovin’ You is notable for Riperton’s use of what is called the “whistle register”, the highest register the human voice can sing in. From what I have read about the whistle register in terms of pitch, it extends over an octave above the highest note that coloratura sopranos sing. (Think Queen of the Night by Mozart.) The lyrics of Lovin’ You are simple and innocent:

Lovin’ you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful
Makin’ love with you is all I wanna do
Lovin’ you is more than just a dream come true
And everything that I do is out of lovin’ you
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Do do do do do

No one else can make me feel
The colors that you bring
Stay with me while we grow old
And we will live each day in springtime
‘Cause lovin’ you has made my life so beautiful
And every day of my life is filled with lovin’ you

Lovin’ you, I see your soul come shinin’ through
And every time that we, ooh
I’m more in love with you
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Do do do do do

No one else can make me feel
The colors that you bring
Stay with me while we grow old
And we will live each day in springtime
‘Cause lovin’ you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful
And every day of my life is filled with lovin’ you
Lovin’ you, I see your soul come shinin’ through
And every day that we, ooh
I’m more in love with you
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Do do do do do
Na, ooh, la la la la la la la la la
Do do do do do

At what would turn out to be the apex of her career, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 1976. At the time of the diagnosis, the cancer had metasticized and she was given six months to live. She went public with her cancer, and bravely became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. She received their Courage Award from President Carter at the White House in 1978. Riperton died in July of 1979 at the age of 31.

Riperton had been married to Richard Rudolph, a music producer. Together they had two children. Maya Rudolph, the famous comedian/actress from Saturday Night Live, is their daughter. Although “Lovin’ You” has always been regarded as a romantic love song, if you listen closely to it, near the end, you’ll hear Riperton singing Maya’s name over and over—she regarded the song as a lullaby for two-year old Maya.

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#321 A DOZEN COLORFUL POP SONGS

#321

A DOZEN COLORFUL POP SONGS

I got to thinking the other day about pop songs that had COLORS in their titles. It was easier than I thought to start rattling them off. So, for your possible amusement, and definitely hoping to jog a few memories, I offer this post. I only had two qualifiers for inclusion: a song obviously had to have a color in its title, and I also had to love the song already.

1 BLUE
Hands down, there are more songs about blue—blue eyes, feeling blue, blue skies etc—than any other color. I think a separate post could easily be made for blue! Blue Navy Blue by Diane Renay was a real favorite of mine from 1963. But I also loved Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (1969) by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Crystal Blue Persuasion (1969) by Tommy James and the Shondells, and of course, Blue Moon by the Marcels (1961), Love Is Blue (1968) by Paul Mariat, and Blue Bayou (1977) by Linda Ronstadt. My favorite “blue” song, though, would have to be:

BLUE VELVET – Bobby Vinton (1963)

2 RED
I only have two “red” songs which I really love: Red Rubber Ball by Cyrkle from 1966 and this one, my favorite “red” song (also a favorite of Tiraje’s):

LADY IN RED – Chris DeBurgh (1986)

3 GOLD
Well, there are a number of personal favorites here, too: Silence is Golden (1967) by the Tremeloes, Goldfinger (1964) by Shirley Bassey, Band of Gold (1970) by Freda Payne, and Heart of Gold (1972) by Neil Young. My favorite golden song, though is:

FIELDS OF GOLD – Sting (1993)

4 WHITE
White is included in many song titles. White Room (1968) by Cream was a song I really liked. I’ve already posted Whiter Shade of Pale (1967) by Procol Harum, definitely a great song. I would have to say my favorite white song is:

NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN – Moody Blues (1967)

5 BLACK
I’m not sure if the prevalence of “black” in so many songs is some kind of psychological barometer of our culture, but there it is… Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones, comes to mind right away, of course. Black Water by the Doobie Brothers, Blackbird by the Beatles, Black is Black by Los Bravos—all good songs. My favorite black song:

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN – Santana (1971)

6 YELLOW
Mellow Yellow (1966) by Donovan is wall-papered to my eighth grade summer memories. Similarly for the summer of 1969 is the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. But I’d have to say my favorite yellow song is:

GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD – Elton John (1973)

7 GREEN
I loved Green Green Grass of Home by Tom Jones in 1966. I remember reading that Elvis found out that Tom Jones was going to record it, and furiously went about trying to beat him to the punch, but to no avail. Green Tambourine from the fall of 1967 was a song I liked, recorded by a (somewhat) local group from nearby Cincinnati, the Lemon Pipers. Green-Eyed Lady by Sugarloaf happened to be on the radio during my first month as a student in the big city of New York, and it is permanently branded on my memory from that September. But, for green, I’ll go with the lyrical and lovely Barbra singing the theme song, written by the Bee Gees, from A Star Is Born:

EVERGREEN – Barbra Streisand (1976)

Other colors that are represented in my “favorites” list by only one song, are:

8 BROWN

DON’T IT MAKE MY BROWN EYES BLUE – Crystal Gayle (1977)

(Technically, I guess this song makes the “blue” list, too!)

9 SCARLET
I must have heard this song a hundred times while passing through my son Jonathan’s room back in his youth. The song has a one-word lyric: “Rejoice.” I do not know whether “Scarlet” references a person or the actual color, but in any event, it is a very pleasing song, featuring Bono’s pure voice.

SCARLET – U2 (1981)

10 PURPLE
I suppose this choice would be a no-brainer for a lot of people. Antonino and Carol Vincinette LoTempio—Nino Temple and April Stevens—were a brother-sister singing act from Niagara Falls. April Stevens was gorgeous, and half of the appeal of Deep Purple for me was her speaking voice. Incidentally—and ironically—the British heavy metal band Deep Purple—annually voted the loudest band in the world—took their name from this gentle love song.

DEEP PURPLE – NINO TEMPLE AND APRIL STEVENS (1963)

11 CRIMSON

Yes, Crimson and Clover, of course, by Tommy James and the Shondells (1968):

12 And finally, SILVER! In the Beatles weird and humorously sadistic–if those words can actually be paired together–lyrics:

MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER – Beatles (1969)

 

I know that other pop music lovers will have additional favorite “colorful” songs, and I will really love to hear anyone’s additional color-song suggestions. There are some “colorful” songs that were huge hits that never spoke to me–“Orange Crush” by REM, “Purple Rain” by Prince, and “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison for instance–but I am sure I’ve probably forgotten some other universal favorites.

I hope you have all enjoyed this. Back to serious business next post….

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#319 DAVE CLARK FIVE GLAD ALL OVER BECAUSE

#319

DAVE CLARK FIVE

GLAD ALL OVER
BECAUSE

Back in the days when the Beatles were an up-and-coming but still largely unknown band in Liverpool—and represented the best of what became known as the “Mersey Beat” sound—their main competitors from north London, representing the “Tottenham” sound—were the Dave Clark Five. Like the Beatles, the DC5 was not a hastily put-together group, hoping for some transient success. At the time of their big break-through in 1964, they had been writing and performing together for seven years already. They had honed a comfortable stage presence. Like the Beatles, they were ready for success.

The DC5 was the second group of the so-called “British invasion” to appear on the Ed Sullivan TV show in March of 1964—just weeks after the Beatles. They would ultimately have 18 appearances on the show, more than any of the British invasion bands. The DC5 had an impressive string of hits from 1964 to 1967:

• Glad All Over
• Bits and Pieces
• Do You Love Me?
• Can’t You See That She’s Mine?
• Because
• Any Way You Want It
• I Like It Like That
• Catch Us If You Can
• Over and Over
• You Got What It Takes

The Dave Clark Five was comprised of Dave Clark (drums), Mike Smith (keyboard) Lenny Davidson (lead guitar), Rick Huxley (bass), and Dennis Payton (sax, harmonica, guitar). They were always held in the highest esteem by their musical colleagues. Their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 was a memorable ceremony, with Tom Hanks officiating and narrating their story, and with performances of their music by Billy Joel, John Fogerty, and John Mellencamp. The group disbanded in 1970. Sadly, at the time of this writing, three of the members of the group have passed away—only Dave Clark and Lenny Davidson survive.

The musical style of the DC5 was vocally based, and relied on very tight harmony. They were equally adept at ballads and straight-ahead rock. The time of my life that corresponded to the DC5’s notoriety was sixth and seventh grades. A prized possession for me in those years was a Magnavox transistor radio, a miracle (to me) of engineering that kept me in touch with the world of pop music. I distinctly remember listening to both of these DC5 songs through its tinny little speaker, late at night.

The audio on these two tracks has been lovingly enhanced. Two great songs.

BECAUSE

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#317 JOHNNY RIVERS POOR SIDE OF TOWN – BABY I NEED YOUR LOVIN’

#317

JOHNNY RIVERS

POOR SIDE OF TOWN
BABY I NEED YOUR LOVIN’

I realize I probably put up quite a few posts that only appeal to people around my age. I apologize for this limited attraction. Like many kids growing up in the U.S. from the 50’s to the 70’s, popular music played an outsize role in my life. Perhaps more than any other time, pop music of the 1960’s played a significant part of American cultural life, so it was hard to avoid.

Not that I wanted to avoid it, though! In high school, throughout my college life, and on into young adulthood, pop music played a significant role for me in terms of what I was attracted to. For writing my daily posts, I keep three files on hand of music I want to post – classical, pop, and “other.” Although “other” is rather limited, the CLASSICAL and POP files are quite long—and about equal in size.

As I’ve said several times here, although I do have definite (most often mundane, but very specific) memories associated with all the pop music I know, whatever pop music I post is always music I love for musical reasons.

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I was still in ninth grade when Johnny Rivers had these two hits. I loved them both.

John Henry Ramistella (b. 1942) did not become “Johnny Rivers” until he was sixteen years old. This was on the advice of Alan Freed, the famous American disc jockey. Rivers had been born in New York City, but his family moved to Baton Rouge when he was still little. He started playing guitar when he was eight, and formed his own group, the Spades, when he was fourteen. He tried his luck as a performer back in New York City at the age of sixteen. Discouraged by a lack of success, though, he moved back to Baton Rouge, and eventually—giving up on the idea of making it as a performer—moved to Nashville, where he hoped to become a successful songwriter.

This plan morphed into his going to LA, where he finally had success as a studio musician. Through his own talent as well as strategic networking, Rivers finally became a successful recording artist. His early style, in 1964 and 65, was straightforward rock, including many covers by other artists. “Memphis”, “Maybelline”, and “Seventh Son” were some of his hits from these two years.

He changed his style to pop-soul in 1966, and it is from this year that he made the songs he will always be remembered for. I think the key to Johnny Rivers success lay in the timbre of his voice, always better in ballads than in rock, and the believability of his delivery. He was also a creative arranger.

Rivers wrote “Poor Side of Town” with touching lyrics that would appeal equally well to both his male and female fans:

How can you tell me how much you miss me
When the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t even kiss me
That rich guy you’ve been seein’
Must have put you down
So welcome back baby
To the poor side of town

To him you were nothin’ but a little plaything
Not much more than an overnight fling
To me you were the greatest thing this boy had ever found
And girl it’s hard to find nice things
On the poor side of town

I can’t blame you for tryin’
I’m tryin’ to make it too
I’ve got one little hang up baby
I just can’t make it without you

So tell me, are you gonna stay now
Will you stand by me girl all the way now
Oh with you by my side
They just can’t keep us down
Together we can make it girl
From the poor side of town

Oh, with you by my side
This world can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town

The attraction of Rivers’ voice can best be gauged by his success with “Baby I Need Your Lovin.” The song was a Holland-Dozier-Holland creation made famous by the Four Tops in 1964. It was their first big hit, their first million-seller, and (now) one of Rolling Stones Top 500 Greatest Songs. Yet, when Rivers cover of the song came out a few years later, it dwarfed the popularity of the original in the Billboard Top 100 list.

Rivers continued to record into the 1980’s. “Tracks of My Tears” (another cover), “Summer Rain”, and “Swayin to the Music” almost matched the popularity of his earlier songs. He is currently still touring, performing 60 shows a year all over the country. If I were in Beverly Hills, CA in two weeks, I’d definitely go hear him at The Sabon.

POOR SIDE OF TOWN

BABY I NEED YOUR LOVIN’

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#313 FRIENDS OF DISTINCTION

#313

FRIENDS OF DISTINCTION

GRAZING IN THE GRASS (1969)
LOVE OR LET ME BE LONELY (1970)

A couple of interesting facts about the late-1960’s vocal group, Friends of Distinction:

• They were discovered and ultimately made famous by the Hall of Famer football player, Jim Brown. Who would have guessed that? Brown also discovered Earth, Wind, and Fire.

• Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore, who later founded the Fifth Dimension, were members of the Friends before the group had its hits.

I was in high school in 1969-70 when the Friends of Distinction had their two big R&B hits, “Grazing in the Grass” and “Love or Let Me Be Lonely.” I really liked both of these songs. Friends of Distinction had a terrific sound. Their solid arrangements, which combined orchestral-and-rock-band textures, including great brass and percussion playing—not to mention their machine-gun vocals–were (and are) impressive with each re-hearing.

Friends of Distinction was comprised of Harry Elston, Floyd Butler, Jessica Cleaves, Barbara Jean Love. They stayed together only until 1975 and had no hits after 1970, which was always a wonder to me.

I suppose it is an interesting but commonplace observation on life that two of the members of the Friends of Distinction—this once vital and creative pop group—Floyd Butler and Jessica Cleaves–have already passed away. Their legacy to the world of pop music is in these two songs.

As one of the comments under this clip says: “It is amazing to recall how we took these folks for granted back in the day, but it is clear there is nothing close to them out there in this era.”

Anyway, today’s post is brief—have to get to work—but I hope you will enjoy these two clips—from nearly half a century ago now!

GRAZING IN THE GRASS

LOVE OR LET ME BE LONELY

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#311 ROY ORBISON CRYING

#311

ROY ORBISON

CRYING

Our musical intuition during childhood, I believe, is always greater than we realize at the time. It certainly seems so in retrospect. One picks up certain emotional and musical clues from a singer when you’re young—without actually understanding the gist of what their lyrics are referring to, and—actually—without even needing to know the language they are singing in. It’s all in the voice.

I would only have been in fourth grade when “Crying” by Roy Orbison (1936-1988) was being played on the radio. I suppose at that point in time, I had been listening to pop music on the radio for a few years. Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone, Del Shannon, and Bobby Vee would all have been receiving a lot of airplay. Yet I could tell that there was something singularly different about Roy Orbison. His voice was so full of emotion. He was on a different level of maturity from all those other singers.

You could just tell. He was a man, the others were boys. Ironically, one could tell this from the fact that the songs he wrote and performed all displayed a degree of vulnerability. “Vulnerability” was not a word a fourth-grader would even know, of course, but something one could nevertheless intuit from listening.

Orbison had been convincing in his first hit, “Only the Lonely,” in 1960. “Crying” was his follow-up hit song in 1961. In total, Orbison would have many songs that went to the top of the charts—“Running Scared,” “Dream Baby,” “In Dreams,” and “Pretty Woman” among them.

Orbison had grown up in Odessa, Texas. His father had given him a guitar when he was just six, and Roy eventually used his guitar playing and singing in the rockabilly music of the Teen Kings, a group he formed when he was just sixteen. They were soon picked up by Sam Phillips—the same man who made Elvis initially famous—and were fronting for famous names such as Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Carl Perkins, and Patsy Cline.

Orbison made his home in Nashville, and was recording for RCA by his mid-twenties. The Elvis-style music he was writing and performing, though, was fading in popularity. Elvis was in the army and out of the public consciousness, and the pop charts were dominated by Motown girl groups and teen idols. A fortuitous combination—his writing of the song “Only the Lonely” and his collaboration with RCA producer Bill Porter –turned the song into a hit, and the rest is history.

Porter had the idea of recording in a fashion completely different than what was standard. He put Orbison and the backup singers in the foreground with everything else—strings, piano, and especially the rhythm section—softly in the background. Near the end of the song, Orbison sings in a full-voice, very convincing falsetto.

Together, these performance facets became the “Orbison sound”—which can all be heard here in “Crying.” Orbison’s stage appearance—always dressed in black, dyed jet-black hair, and dark sunglasses—lent an aura of mystery and depth to his singing—as if it were easier to sing such emotion-laden songs while behind such a “screen.” Perhaps it was.

Roy Orbison eventually released nearly 30 albums, and there have been at least as many compilation albums of his songs, both here in the U.S. and internationally. Among his many honors, he won six Grammys including one for Lifetime Achievement. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Such a powerful song as “Crying” has been covered numerous times. Don McLean, k.d. lang, Jay and the Americans, Lynn Anderson, Gene Pitney, Billy Joe Royal, and Glen Campbell are justsome of the performers who also had hits with their respective releases of “Crying”—a tribute to Roy Orbison’s song-writing as well as the remembrance of his gut-punch emotional singing.

The comments section for this clip is thought-provoking. So many people baring their souls in response to “Crying.”

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#309 THE CARPENTERS NOW AND THEN

#309

THE CARPENTERS
RICHARD AND KAREN CARPENTER

NOW AND THEN (1973)

A highlight of the summer of 1973 for me was listening to the Carpenters’ new album, Now and Then. The “now” part of the album consisted of five tracks of freshly written material by Richard Carpenter, including three songs that rose quickly on the pop charts—“Sing,” “ Jambalaya,” and “This Masquerade.”

The “then” of the album consisted of an introduction song—“Yesterday Once More”—followed by killer arrangements of eight songs that even in 1973 were regarded as oldies—songs that were, at that time, ten or more years old. Here we are, 45 years after the release of the album—with the “oldies” on the album being over a half century old—and everything still sounds fresh.

I have to say, I have really loved this album. Not only because I loved each of the oldies that Richard Carpenter decided to arrange, but BECAUSE of his arrangements. For my money, he was (and is) one of the most talented arrangers in the pop music business.

I’ve listened to some of these tracks hundreds of times. First I had the LP, of course. Then the CD, then the remastered CD. If it is reissued in yet a higher standard, I’m sure I’ll aim to get that too.

What talent Richard and Karen Carpenter had! “One Fine Day” should have won awards all by itself. I really wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve listened to that track a thousand times.

I’m arranging tracks today in the order they appear on the album. On the album, the tracks ran right into each other with no breaks, so each YouTube/Carpenters track here will sound, at its end, just a little bit inconclusive.

As a sidelight of possible interest, I’ll list the original song and performer(s) for each track.

Intro: YESTERDAY ONCE MORE

1 FUN, FUN, FUN (Brian Wilson, Mike Love)

Carpenters:

Beach Boys:

2 END OF THE WORLD (Arthur Kent, Sylvia Dee)

Carpenters:

Skeeter Davis:

3 DA DOO RON RON (Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich)

Carpenters:

The Crystals:

4 DEAD MAN’S CURVE (Jan Berry, Dean Torrence)

Carpenters:

Jan and Dean:

5 JOHNNY ANGEL (Lyn Duddy, Lee Pockriss)

Carpenters:

Shelley Fabares:

6 THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (Benjamin Weisman)

Carpenters:

Bobby Vee:

7 OUR DAY WILL COME  (Mort Garson, Bob Hilliard)

Carpenters:

Ruby and the Romantics:

8 ONE FINE DAY (Carol King, Gerry Goffin)

Carpenters:

The Chiffons:

Don’t be led into thinking, by the way, that the Carpenters track of One Fine Day that I’ve listed—with less than 100 views—is in some way inferior to another one with 320,000 views. The audio is superior in the one I’ve listed; people simply haven’t found it yet.

But, the other one:

has some hagiographic comments about Karen Carpenter that I totally agree with, and I would hate for anyone to miss the chance to read them. You may want to check that out, too.

 

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#306 RANDY AND THE RAINBOWS DENISE

#306

RANDY AND THE RAINBOWS

DENISE (1963)

It sometimes surprises me when really short pop songs which are musically simple and repetitive become lifelong earworms. So it is for me with “Denise,” a song recorded by Randy and the Rainbows in 1963. This was their only hit song. I liked it from the first time I heard it. I was in sixth grade at Oakview Elementary School. The song would be coursing through my brain, over and over, as I sat in Mrs. Russell’s classroom, trying to pay attention in my best Eddie Haskell way.

Randy and the Rainbows were a doo-wop group from New York City. They were comprised of two pairs of brothers: Randy (their leader) and Frank Safuto, Mike and Sal Zero, and a fifth member, Ken Arcipowski. Italian-American kids from rough neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn figured prominently in the early 1960’s DOO-WOP sound, which was quite popular—and marketable—up until the time of the British invasion in 1964. The Mystics, the Duprees, the Del-Satins and—above all the Four Seasons—were all champions of the doo-wop sound. A high tenor, often singing falsetto, was a common characteristic of the doo-wop groups. Chord progressions were simple: just moving up a half-step for the next verse served as “modulation” for doo-wop groups—and it was always effective!

Although Randy and the Rainbows recorded a couple dozen singles during the 1960’s, none of them had the success of “Denise.”

I will be curious if anyone out there besides me remembers “Denise.” At the age of eleven, with no worldly experience, there was something about “Denise”–simple as I knew it was, even at the time—that made me feel in touch with something more “adult.” Much later on, I learned that this style of music—doo-wop—was the (mob-underwritten) music of Tony Soprano’s world.

This clip is an interesting montage of scenes from that year, 1963, a real walk down memory lane.

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#302 SONGS FROM “HAIR”

#302

SONGS FROM HAIR

AQUARIUS/LET THE SUN SHINE IN – FIFTH DIMENSION
HAIR – COWSILLS
EASY TO BE HARD – THREE DOG NIGHT
GOOD MORNING STARSHINE – OLIVER

The late 1960’s had to be one of the most interesting periods of my life or—I would guess—of most people’s lives who lived through them. Culturally, modern history seemed to be hinged on the late 1960’s—there was a before and there was an after. One of the hallmarks, musically, of this time was the appearance of rock musicals. Some of these musicals were meant to capitalize on both the ubiquity of rock music and the rather sudden emergence of a form of evangelical Christianity among young people—the “Jesus” people: musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.

But far and away , the most influential rock musical—and the one with the most long-lasting effect–was HAIR. Hair was a musical that depicted the hippie counterculture, the sexual revolution, a racially blind society, and resistance to the Vietnam War. ALL of these things were epitomized, at the time, by having long hair—especially for men.

I was certainly no exception to this. I left high school in 1970 with a traditional hair style and months later had shoulder-length hair—as did a majority of my classmates. It was just the way it was. (I’ll attach a picture of Tiraje and me, taken at the very first party we ever attended together. Yes, that is me…)

HAIR was extremely successful, running for nearly 2000 Broadway performances, followed by an even longer run in London. If one listens to the original cast album, the songs are attractive enough, and one can see why they made such an impact, musically and socially. But—IMHO—it was the cover versions of the best songs from Hair that will live on and on. These “covers” were made almost immediately after the success of the musical. I am including, without commentary on the groups (that will come later, I promise), four of my favorite songs from Hair. I LOVE each one of these songs. They capture—for me—a kind of coming of age—my late teens and early twenties—but they are also simply good songs given great performances.

I hope you enjoy them.

Pics: HAIR cast, Fifth Dimension, Cowsills, Three Dog Night, Oliver, me and Tiraje 1974.

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