Spotlight Dances, The Marcels and “Blue Moon”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, we had a Blue Moon at the end of January, and now coinciding with Easter, we’re going to have another one at the end of March – All down to timing, as the cycle between full moons is 29 and a half days. The short month February had no full moon at all but both months on either side have had one at the beginning and at the end. This time however there are no complications with it being a Super Blue Blood Moon – Oh no, this time a run-of-the-mill Blue Moon, that name of course also used to describe something that “doesn’t come along very often” (although I beg to differ, as here we are already with two blue moons in the first quarter of the year, but highly unusual granted).

The Rodgers and Hart song Blue Moon is one I have been aware of for most of my life as it has been recorded by just about everyone (Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Billy Eckstine, Mel Tormé, The Supremes, Bing Crosby, Rod Stewart….), and also appeared in many of the old movies I watched on Sunday afternoons as a youngster.

The Dance Contest

The movie I now associate it with most however is Grease, as it was the song used for the “Spotlight Dance” when Danny Zuko and the brash usurper Cha-Cha DiGregorio take to the floor after winning the dance contest which is being broadcast live to an unsuspecting nation (who didn’t realise that a group of so-called “mooners” would gate-crash this bit of poetry in motion).

The Spotlight Dance

Blue Moon by Sha Na Na (aka Johnny Casino and the Gamblers):

And here is where I confused myself earlier in the year – Because this next version of Blue Moon is just so dissimilar from the original, I had convinced myself that it was actually a different song, which meant I would have had one to coincide with each of the blue moons we have had in our skies so far this year. But no, it is of course the same song, it’s just that back in 1961 the Marcels (named after the “marcel waved” hairstyles worn by some of the group) added an infectious, nonsensical introduction performed by bass singer Fred Johnson – Dang-a-dang-dang, ding-a-dong-ding and so on…..

The Marcels novelty version of Blue Moon was an instant hit and topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. They followed it with a series of less successful novelty versions of standards and then disbanded in the mid ’60s. Their version of Blue Moon, along with several other moon songs, featured in the John Landis film An American Werewolf in London (one of Mr WIAA’s favourites as he had a bit of a crush on Jenny Agutter as a young man – a common affliction it seems). Having just watched some of the clips that feature the song, all quite unpleasant, so I’ll spare you the gore and just add a picture of the delectable Nurse Alex Price, who until she met backpacker David Kessler was “without a dream in her heart, or a love of her own” (shame he turned out to be a werewolf).

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s amazing how a single song can be covered just so many times over the years (it was first recorded in 1934), that it can end up barely recognisable compared to the original. Lots of examples out there, and although this time Blue Moon was given the full doo-wop treatment, other songs have been transformed into three minute ska, reggae, or disco triumphs. CC over at Charity Chic Music has run some excellent series over the last year asking us to compare and contrast cover versions to the originals, and I have also written a few posts that do just that (here and here). One of my most surprising discoveries was that the Blondie hit record Denis was actually a cover of a song called “Denise” by American doo-wop band Randy and the Rainbows.

But this is supposed to be a post about tomorrow night’s full moon, so just in case there is cloud cover and we don’t actually get to see it, here is another picture courtesy of my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera. It was taken at the end of January and was cleverly made into a bona fide Blue Moon using a special filter lens. I’m still hoping for a shot at some point that includes the moon alongside some of the amazing scenery we have up here, but not apparently always easy to capture. Only six posts into this series however, and seven to go, so still plenty of time!

Blue Moon highlands
The Blue Moon: Picture courtesy of R.J. and his favourite Nikon filter lens (it’s football related!)

Until next time, have a great Easter and look out for that Blue Moon on Saturday night.

Blue Moon Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart)

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper, ‘Please adore me’
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold

Blue Moon, now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Postscript:

One last thing – In case you haven’t heard of The Marcel Wave before, it looked like this…..

Bing+Crosby+A+Bing+Crosby+Collection+-+Vol-467446

…..and was invented by a Frenchman, who looked like this. Every day’s a school day!

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Blood, Sweat & Tears, Petite Fleur and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”

Well, I hope everyone who celebrates it has enjoyed their Christmas Day. We were just four for lunch this year which is a really easy number to cater for so not too stressful at all. I don’t even feel as if I’ve eaten too much as instead of the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few snacks thrown in, on Christmas Day you just have breakfast, a whopping big festive lunch and then not much else, so it all evens itself out nicely. I realise not everyone is quite so restrained, but it works for me. As for the presents, lots of lovely things as ever and my daughter, who knows me just too well it seems, came up with this very appropriate gift. It is sitting beside me as I type so lets hope I will be inspired by the contents which sadly aren’t of the alcoholic variety as I am on driving duty, but I don’t mind, which is just as well.

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It has become my routine of late to post on a Monday so didn’t want to veer away from that pattern just because it’s Christmas Day. Also, the great thing is that we no longer have to share anything Christmassy as a song choice – I don’t know about you but if I ever hear Andy Williams singing It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year again whilst shopping, I will start a petition to have it banned. Unless your life really is on the up, and absolutely nothing bad has happened in the course of the year, it’s tough being constantly bombarded with Mr Williams’ chirpy lyrics. I always feel for those who may indeed not be having the MOST wonderful time. At one point I thought we ourselves might be having a bit of a Blue Christmas (Elvis version) this year as darling daughter is a bit lost spending it without her special someone, my mum is a bit lost without her memories and as regulars to this place know, I myself seem to have temporarily lost my “purpose”. As it turns out however it has been a really lovely day with no “blue-ness” making an appearance at all, for which I am really grateful.

But here I am linking to festive songs whereas the song that has formed an earworm over the last week is something quite different. I have mentioned recently that over the last few weeks I’ve been working my way through all seven series of the television show Mad Men on Netflix. Well here’s a bit of irony – The final season hasn’t fully made it on to Netflix yet so I had to buy back the same DVD I donated to a charity shop earlier in the year after embarking on a bit of decluttering. No matter, all for a good cause, but didn’t realise I would get quite so into it second time around. First time around I hadn’t starting blogging yet whereas this time the carefully chosen songs that feature in each episode are doubly interesting for me as the late 1960s seems to have become my favourite era to revisit. [Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet reached it, Season 6 is about to be mentioned!]

Megan

By the end of season 6, the main character’s wife had moved west to LA in order to further pursue her acting career. Megan Draper, the French Canadian secretary turned copy-writer turned actress, had always been captivating on screen ever since first appearing in season 4 but having set up home amongst the musicians and acting fraternity of Laurel Canyon, she seemed to have found her spiritual home. Her New York based, “Ad-Man” husband Don was suddenly an anachronism and it made for uncomfortable viewing watching the end of a marriage being played out on screen. Right at the end of episode 6 Megan hosts a party at her house in the hills – One of the songs played at the party was this one and although I had heard of the band Blood, Sweat & Tears and even seen pictures of them, they’ve never featured amongst the tracks of my years so I hadn’t realised they were responsible for this gem of a song – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy by Blood Sweat and Tears:

This beautiful song was written by Brenda Holloway amongst others and was first recorded by her in 1967 on the Tamla label. The song later became a huge hit for jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1969, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 35 in the UK Singles Chart. But the musical surprises didn’t end there in this particular episode as to husband Don’s discomfort, Megan proceeds to entertain her guests with an impromptu dance to Petite Fleur, a jazz instrumental played by some of her musician friends. This piece of music was originally written and recorded by Sidney Bechet in 1952 but became an international hit in 1959 for Chris Barber’s Jazz Band. It was this version with the clarinet solo that provided the inspiration for Megan’s “performance” – Very apt for the petite fleur that was French-speaking Megan Draper (née Calvet).

Petite Fleur by Chris Barber’s Jazz Band:

So, “What’s It All About” – Sometimes we don’t even realise how much time and effort has gone into choosing just the right music for a television show as it just feels incidental, but once you start to take note, as I have done re-watching this award winning drama, it adds a whole new dimension to the experience. The Blood, Sweat & Tears song was the perfect choice for this party in the Hollywood Hills of 1969 but also bittersweet as that evening perhaps marked the beginning of the end for the two main protagonists. Megan had made Don “so very happy” and vice versa, but those days were soon to be in the past. The petite fleur would soon be out of his life for good.

But here I am blogging with my new mug by my side at nearly 10pm on Christmas Day – DD has invited some friends round and by the sound of the laughter from the other room, they seem to be making her “so very happy”. Time to seek out Mr WIAA, as it’s probably time to make him “so very ….. ” – No that all sounds a bit wrong. Time to sign off for today before I get myself into trouble!

Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA – Hope you’ve had a good one.

Until next time….

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy Lyrics
(Song by Berry Gordy Jr/Brenda Holloway/Frank Wilson/Patrice Holloway)

I lost at love before
Got mad and closed the door
But you said try just once more
I chose you for the one
Now I’m having so much fun
You treated me so kind,
I’m about to lose my mind
You made me so very happy
I’m so glad you came into my life

The others were untrue,
But when it came to lovin’ you
I’d spend my whole life with you
‘Cause you came and you took control
You touched my very soul
You always showed me that
Loving you was where it’s at
You made me so very happy
I’m so glad you came into my life

Thank you baby, yeah yeah

I love you so much, it seems
That you’re even in my dreams I can hear
Baby, I hear you calling me
I’m so in love with you
All I ever want to do is
Thank you, baby
Thank you, baby

You made me so very happy
I’m so glad you came into my life
You made me so very happy
You made me so, so very happy baby
I’m so glad you
Came into my life
Mmmm, I want to thank you, girl
Every day of my life
I wanna thank you
You made me so very happy
Oh, I wanna spend my life thanking you
(Thank you baby, thank you baby)

Fireworks, Full Moons and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”

Well, socially it’s a busy time of the year in my neck of the woods and there have been two soirées in the last week alone. Last Tuesday our “across-the-road” neighbours hosted a Halloween party which was great fun. We all specialise in different kinds of events (I do quiz nights and landmark dates in the calendar) but Halloween belongs to them. Despite being in their late sixties now, their son’s old baby bath is hauled out to enable “dooking for apples”, the garage is given a spooky makeover and all the local kids drop by in their costumes.

Then on Saturday, friends who live across on what is called the Black Isle (it’s not actually an island but it’s bordered on three sides by firths, so almost), asked if we’d like to join them for their local Bonfire Night celebrations. The best bit of the whole night however was that we witnessed the most spectacular full moon I think I’ve ever seen. The picture below is not of that actual moon, as I wasn’t quite on the ball with my camera equipment, but it could well have been.

beach-full

Having looked into it a bit more it was called the Frost Moon which peaked this year on the 4th November. It is also called the Beaver Moon however, that name coming from the Native Americans as this was the time of year they set their beaver traps to make sure there were enough warm furs ahead of winter. It turns out all full moons have a name which is something I hadn’t realised before and they go as follows:

December – Cold Moon
January – Wolf Moon
February – Snow Moon
March – Worm Moon
April – Pink Moon
May – Flower Moon
June – Strawberry Moon
July – Buck Moon
August – Sturgeon Moon
September – Fruit Moon
October – Hunter’s Moon 
November – Beaver Moon

Over the last year I have written about all the landmark dates in the ancient Pagan, or Celtic calendar, but as that cycle is now complete I think I can feel a new series coming on, this time all about moons! But of course Saturday’s moon wasn’t just impressive because it was a full one – Oh no, it was also a “supermoon”, when it comes to that point nearest the Earth. Despite being only about 26,000 miles closer than at other times, it appears around 14% larger and a whopping 30% brighter than usual. I love all this stuff.

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But this is a music blog, so which song came to mind as I wandered along the beach on Saturday night on my way to the bonfire? Perhaps because I have written both about Frank Sinatra and the song Fly Me To The Moon in my last couple of posts, I ended up going down the Rat Pack route, and serenaded our friends with this golden oldie.

In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl, here’s what they say:

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore”

That’s Amore is a song written by Harry Warren and Jack Brooks which became a big hit (and signature song) for Dean Martin in 1953. Funnily enough, I remember it best from the Cher film Moonstruck, where she plays a widowed Italian-American who falls in love with her fiancé’s estranged, hot-tempered younger brother (played by Nicolas Cage). Cher won the Oscar for Best Actress in that one and as I haven’t watched it in years, I think I will now go and seek it out.

But what else comes to mind when I think of songs with the word moon in the title or lyrics. Well, this might be a good time to include something by Christopher Cross in the blog. I have held off as long as possible as it seems that Christopher has unfortunately ended up being attributed to that category of artists who produce what is called soft rock, or even worse yacht rock. Apparently yacht rock relates to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, who enjoys smooth music while out for a sail. Also, since sailing was a popular leisure activity in Southern California, many yacht rockers made nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork, particularly Sailing by Christopher Cross.

But hey, I have never owned a yacht nor am I ever likely to, but I still warm to the melodic tones of Mr Cross and always enjoy that romantic line from his Academy award winning song Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)If you get caught between the Moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love”.

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) by Christopher Cross:

It is no surprise really that I have always liked this song as it was written by Burt Bacharach (amongst others) for the 1981 film Arthur starring our own Dudley Moore. Burt’s song Wives and Lovers featured in my last post so definitely on a Frank and Burt roll at the moment it seems. What I have just discovered however is that the line about getting caught between the moon and New York City was inspired not by a romantic encounter but because one of the credited songwriters, Peter Allen, got stuck in a holding pattern waiting to land at JFK airport in New York several years earlier. Oh well, best not to know sometimes how these memorable lines came to pass.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I seem to have a new series on my hands! (Yes, I know I have a few others in progress but I will make time for them too, promise.) There are certainly many, many songs that mention the word “moon” in the title but which are your favourites?

In December, all being well we will witness the Cold Moon, that name again from the Native Americans as it was associated with the month when winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. Any suggestions for songs therefore that relate to both the moon, and to the cold grip of winter, gratefully received. I will get my thinking cap on myself before that date and apologies that I couldn’t muster up anything this time that related both to the moon, and to beavers – Might have been a stretch?!

Until next time….

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager/Christopher Cross/Peter Allen)

Once in your life you find her
Someone that turns your heart around
And next thing you know you’re closing down the town
Wake up and it’s still with you
Even though you left her way across town
Wondering to yourself, “Hey, what’ve I found?”

When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it’s crazy, but it’s true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do,
The best that you can do is fall in love

Arthur he does as he pleases
All of his life, he’s mastered choice
Deep in his heart, he’s just, he’s just a boy
Living his life one day at a time
And showing himself a really good time
Laughing about the way they want him to be

When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it’s crazy, but it’s true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do,
The best that you can do is fall in love

Postscript:

Out of interest here are a few pictures from the display we went along to on Saturday night – The fireworks were indeed spectacular but not quite as spectacular as that amazing full moon reflected on the water of the firth. Very special indeed.

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Chuck Berry, Back To The Future and “Johnny B. Goode”

My last two posts have in effect been tributes to artists who passed away in 2017. Another colossus from the world of music who died earlier this year, but whom I omitted to write about at the time, was Chuck Berry. It was not until after his death at the grand old age of 90, that I discovered he’d led such a colourful life, and not always because of his success as one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll. Oh no, over the years it was common to see him having been incarcerated for a variety of misdemeanours, so despite having come from a reasonably well-off, middle class family, there was something about his personality that must have made that likely to happen.

Chuck_Berry_circa_1958
Chuck Berry in 1958

As for me, being a child of the ’60s, Mr Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll career had kind of passed its heyday by the time I got to know about him, and ironically when I did, it was only because of the truly awful novelty song My Ding a Ling. For some reason, despite its awfulness, it must have resonated with the record-buying public back in 1972, and hit the No. 1 spot in several countries including the UK.

Chuck Berry has graced these pages before (link here) but only because I had written a post about songs chosen for crime dramas. Quentin Tarantino, a master at picking lesser-known and somehow timeless tracks for his movies, had used Chuck’s You Never Can Tell for the infamous twist contest scene in Pulp Fiction, where Mia Wallace instructs a nervous Vincent Vega that she wants to win that trophy (and what Mia wants, Mia gets).

pulpfictiondance

But no, I’m sure we’d all agree that the song most closely associated with Chuck Berry is none other than Johnny B. Goode. It was written back in 1955 and was all about an illiterate, guitar-playing country boy from Louisiana who dreamt of having his name in lights. Although originally about a “coloured boy”, Chuck changed the lyrics to “country boy” to make sure of airplay and it sits at No. 7 on that list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

There also however can’t be many people of my age who don’t know that his whole career was based on a chance phonecall from his cousin Marvin Berry, who had accidentally injured his hand and needed a guitar-playing stand-in at short notice. Fortunately, a time-travelling kid from 1985 was literally waiting in the wings for his chance to shine and the rest as they say, is history – Chuck had finally found that new sound he was looking for. (Check out the proof at 1:30)

Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry:

But of course that couldn’t really have happened, even in the fanciful world of Steven Spielberg movies, as it would have constituted a paradox. Marty McFly in the film Back To The Future would never have known the song Johnny B. Goode in 1985 had Chuck not written it in 1955, but a great little bit of space-time continuum humour for the movie. In October 2015, whilst on holiday, it became apparent via social media that we were celebrating Back To The Future Day – As luck would have it the day was a bit of a miserable one weather-wise, so how better to spend it than to watch all three BTTF movies back to back – How accurate had the film-makers been in predicting how we would live in the future? Not too bad at all as it turns out although to date I have never popped to the shops on a hover board!

And here is where my geek credentials come to the fore – I do love the whole concept of time-travel (this blog’s domain name is “jukeboxtimemachine.com” after all) so I decided, once and for all, to document the BTTF journeys made by Marty and Doc Brown. It’s easy to get a tad confused over the sheer number of trips made by our intrepid duo over the course of the trilogy but by the end of film number two it was all on paper, and was making total sense – A seemingly inconsequential action taking place in an alternate past can change the future from being a rosy one, to one of utter chaos and that’s exactly what had happened. It was time to go further back in time, to 1885.

Now it was starting to get really complicated but I soldiered on over the course of the afternoon recording the many, many DeLorean journeys back and forth in time. By early evening I thought I had it, and clearly marked on the bit of paper I had commandeered from our holiday cottage sideboard, that there were indeed no paradoxes. What a fool I was however as I had clearly not considered the fact that Mr Berry’s song, duck walk and guitar riff had, according to cousin Marvin, not even been thought of yet. As it turns out, many other paradoxes have been discovered over the years by eagle-eyed fans (or should that be pedantic geeks), but on that evening of 21st October 2015, I was still feeling really quite chuffed with myself.

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So, “What’s It All About?” – It seems that for someone my age, Chuck Berry is not so much remembered for being pivotal in the melding of rhythm & blues with country music and bringing it to a mainstream audience in the form of rock ‘n’ roll, but instead for a (really bad) novelty song, the music used for Pulp Fiction’s twist contest and for that highly entertaining musical paradox in a film about a pair of time travellers. What can I say, I am a product of the pop culture of my times.

I feel as if I have now caught up with this year’s tributes and am crossing fingers that no more will have to be written for a while, although unlikely considering the age of some of the rock royalty still around – We wouldn’t want to admit it but I can’t be the only one who has conjectured on who will be next. Before I go however we should really see some more of Chuck in action, as it sounds as if without him there might not have been any Beatles or a myriad of other ’60s bands influenced by him and his ilk. Without Chuck there would probably have been no British Invasion, so however his life panned out, that is quite a legacy to leave.

Until next time….

Johnny B. Goode Lyrics
(Song by Chuck Berry)

Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play a guitar just like a-ringing a bell

Go go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Johnny B. Goode!

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Oh, the engineer would see him sittin’ in the shade
Strummin’ with the rhythm that the drivers made
The people passing by, they would stop and say
“Oh my, but that little country boy could play”

Go go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Johnny B. Goode!

His mother told him, “Someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big ol’ band
Many people comin’ from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name’ll be in lights
Sayin’ ‘Johnny B. Goode tonight!'”

Go go
Go Johnny go!
Go go go Johnny go!
Go go go Johnny go!
Go go go Johnny go!
Go
Johnny B. Goode!

An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited Massachusetts (tricky to spell but that’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it) so we are now heading west towards New York, first passing through Rhode Island. This tiny state, only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long is made up of islands, inlets and peninsulas but also what appears to be chunks of mainland America plucked from Connecticut and Massachusetts (drat had to spell it again). The name came about because the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano thought that the large pear-shaped island sitting in Narragansett Bay looked like the Greek island of Rhodes. The official name is actually the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the plantations part being an archaic name for “colony”.

Rhode Island

And now for the part I am coming to enjoy most about this series – The random fact element. Rhode Island is also called the Ocean State and due to its geography has a long history of sailing. The America’s Cup, offered up as a prize by the British Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, was first won by a boat called America which is how it got its name. The cup has spent much of its time in Newport, Rhode Island ever since and poor Britain has never won it back. The MGM musical High Society was set in one of the many fully staffed mansions that littered the state back then and one of the most memorable scenes was when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly took a trip on the True Love which in turn inspired the song for the movie. I do remember being troubled by their age difference when first watching it as a child – Having just looked it up, Bing was 53 and Grace 27 when the film was shot, but not unusual amongst wealthy Rhode Islanders back then I suppose. In fact the mansions, or “cottages” as they were called, were originally built by rich plantation owners in order to escape the heat of the Southern summer. Later on rich Northern families started to do the same as the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors reached its staggeringly opulent zenith. Never had so much money, been made so fast, by so few, and much of this wealth was reflected in the Cliff Walk properties of Newport, RI.

But hey, as usual I am being side-tracked, for this is supposed to be a music blog. Not many obvious contenders for this state but last time both CC and Rol came up with the suggestion Sweet Rhode Island Red by Ike and Tina Turner. A good one but not my featured song for this post as although most of us who are not even au fait with the world of poultry farming have heard of the Rhode Island Red hen (the state bird), the song is not about the hen or even set in the state. Also, although I really enjoyed Tina’s output during her reincarnation of the 1980s, I’m not so fond of the songs she recorded with Ike (or Ike), especially Nutbush City Limits, but we’ll come to the reason for that another day.

ike and tina

But not everyone in Rhode Island lives in mansions and owns yachts. Some of you will know of the animated sitcom Family Guy created by Seth MacFarlane. The series centres on the Griffins family who have an anthropomorphic pet dog called Brian. Seth MacFarlane is not only a talented actor, writer, singer, film-maker but is also (I think) extremely good-looking and it turns out he is even descended from one of the original passengers from The Mayflower (grrr…). He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design so not unusual to have set the show in the fictional city of Quahog, RI. I give you the Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie!

All this talk of the Gilded Age and opulent mansions however has made me look into it a bit more and has inspired my choice of featured song for this post. One of the largest “cottages” was Hammersmith Farm owned by the stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier, Hugh D. Auchincloss. She of course went on to marry John F Kennedy and their wedding reception was held there. The property was also used as the setting for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I have a feeling that Grace Kelly may well have also “graced” the terraces of Hammersmith Farm at some point, perhaps not in High Society as that appeared to be a film set, but perhaps in her role as Princess Grace of Monaco.

Some of you will know that Baz Luhrmann also made a dazzling version of The Great Gatsby back in 2013 and the song Young and Beautiful was specially written and recorded for it by Lana Del Rey. It was perfect for the film as she has a deep, sultry voice and a look that is evocative of a much earlier time. Also, a song about “the young and the beautiful” was totally appropriate for the tale of The Great Gatsby. All of the people mentioned in the paragraph above were rich, young and beautiful but whether characters in fiction or real people, they all died prematurely or experienced tragedy in their lives. Again a very tenuous link to this state, and again from a film, but just reinforces the knowledge we all have that a life of wealth and privilege does not necessarily bring happiness.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:

Having done a bit of research, it seems that Lana Del Rey adopted her exotic sounding Latin name and look after spending time with friends in Miami. She is however originally from New York and has a Scottish heritage. Her real name is Lizzy Grant which I find amusing as where I come from in the North-East of Scotland there are many older ladies called Lizzy Grant – Absolutely none of them look like Lana Del Rey!

So, a longish post about the smallest state. Heading into Connecticut next and drawing a blank myself for that state at the moment, so again, any suggestions more than welcome. I can think of a couple of siblings who came from there and whose songs I have featured in this place recently, so may well go down that route. We’ll see, but in the meantime, I think I’ll have another listen to the haunting and sombre sound of Young and Beautiful.

Until next time….

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Postscript:

Because I mentioned the film High Society a fair few times above, I feel I should share this excellent clip of the inimitable Mr Louis “Satchel Mouth” Armstrong giving us a potted version of what is to come. Yes, this was high society Rhode Island-style, back in 1956. Enjoy.

May Day, Ella Fitzgerald and “Summertime”

Well, it’s May Day and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland it’s been a wonderful sunny day. As ever I am celebrating this landmark date in the calendar with a few of the old customs. First of all I managed to do a symbolic washing of my face with morning dew – With any luck I may wake up tomorrow morning looking like a young maiden, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Next on the agenda was to gather some spring flowers for the little shrine I’ve got used to putting together on such days – Cherry blossom, narcissi and a few pink flowers I don’t know the name of. Along with a candle, some ribbon and some symbolic dew, it all looks very nice.

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Holy wells are popular places to visit on May Day or Beltane as it used to be called here in Scotland. As luck would have it we have a clootie well a short drive away and as Mr WIAA and I were both on holiday, that seemed like a good plan. This ancient spring is dedicated to Saint Curetán where the rags, dipped in the water from the well, are hung on the surrounding bushes and trees. It was once thought to have had the power to cure sick children. The spring runs into a kind of basin and just as we got there a young maiden was indeed washing her face – Just as well we knew the significance of the day or it would have all been a bit weird.

Beltane marked the beginning of summer for the ancient Celts and that was when their cattle were driven out to the higher pastures and rituals were performed to protect cattle, crops and people. Bonfires were kindled, their flames, smoke and ashes deemed to have protective powers.

Most of us are no longer pastoral people with cattle, but suburban people with garden furniture and fire pits so instead of driving my cattle to high pastures today, I have just got the rest of the accoutrements of summer out of the shed and lit a symbolic fire to celebrate Beltane. A wee spot of Drambuie also slipped down nicely and was my toast to the coming of summer.

Whenever a fire is lit the young people all seem to want to congregate round it – Darling daughter did a bit of texting and we now have a garden-full. Perhaps a bit of a novelty that drags them away from their electronic devices – Whatever, we have now left them to it, so time for a quick post to celebrate this special day.

The song I’ve chosen could not be less Scottish if it tried, but one I have always loved. Summertime was composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. The one I have in my music library is by Ella Fitzgerald who would have last week reached the age of 100. For over half a century Ella was the jazz singer who commanded the largest popular following and her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong were amongst her most notable. No long wordy post from me today then, just this lovely version of one of Gershwin’s finest compositions.

Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong:

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by George Gershwin/Dubose Heyward)

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Postscript:

It’s not an Oscar winner and I’m still learning how to do this, but here is my little film of our day out – It all ends rather abruptly I’m afraid but I will improve!

Ray Stevens, “Misty” and the Story of a Song

My last post was about the Roberta Flack song featured in the film Play Misty for Me and in the comments boxes, Rol, whose excellent My Top Ten blog is one I visit often, threw down the gauntlet and asked, “Any chance of a follow-up post on Misty itself, by Ray Stevens? If you don’t, I will!”.

After watching the film again the other night, it confirmed for me that the version of Misty that was requested so often (tring, tring, …”Play Misty for me”) by mad-stalker-woman Jessica clintWalter, was not indeed the one by Ray Stevens (as it wouldn’t have been recorded for another four years), nor by Johnny Mathis who did a very romantic version in 1959, but in fact the original instrumental composed by jazz pianist Erroll Garner. Mr Garner was born in Pittsburgh in 1923 and started playing piano at the age of three. He came from a very musical family all of whom played piano but he never did learn how to read music and always played by ear. I give you the original Misty, composed in 1954 (the familiar part starts at 0:30).

And here is where I made a brand new discovery – I mainly know Johnny Mathis from his mid ’70s offerings I’m Stone In Love With You and of course When A Child Is Born, the big 1976 Christmas No. 1 hit. At that time Johnny always looked as if he’d just got off the golf course but in the late ’50s and early ’60s he was apparently the “Master of The Love Ballad” or more crudely put, “The King of Necking Music”. Despite being an outstanding athlete, he chose music as a career and amazingly Sinatra and Presley are the only male artists to have sold more albums. It should come as no surprise therefore, that when Johnny Burke wrote lyrics for the previously instrumental Misty, Johnny Mathis would be the very person to record this new version which became a big hit for him in 1959.

But this was supposed to be a post about the Ray Stevens‘ version of the song and at last I am getting round to it. Although Ray Stevens had been a very successful, multi-talented entertainer from the early ’60s onward, I probably only knew him from his early ’70s comedic novelty songs. There was Bridget the Midget (Queen of the Blues) in 1971 and then The Streak in 1974 released on the back of that very unusual fad of running naked through sporting venues. Fortunately, British bobbies’ helmets at that time were well designed for containing those body parts best kept under wraps, but still amused the crowds at Twickenham, Wimbledon and even at a Winter Olympics curling final (brrr…).

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In 1975 Ray Stevens decided to record a very countrified, up-tempo version of Misty which was a bit of a departure for him after so many novelty records. He was however born in Georgia in 1939 (still with us, I have just checked) and became a producer and studio musician in Nashville, so it would have made sense for him to go down that route especially as during the mid-70s country music had kind of become mainstream. Looking back at the charts of 1975, around a quarter of the records were by people whose names ended in a “y” or an “ie” – Tammy, Dolly, Johnny, Kenny, Billie, Charlie and so on. Yes, country-pop as a sub-genre had come of age, even outwith the US, and I think a lot of it was down to the fact that for the first time in ages, people of my parents’ generation had new music they could identify with and enjoy. Maybe it was different in the cosmopolitan cities, but where I came from in Scotland venues were packed out with people keen to watch their American country stars of choice perform songs that were set in the Appalachians, in Tennessee or Kentucky. Very apt really as these songs were written by the offspring of the Scottish, Irish and other Celtic immigrants who played well-known traditional instruments, such as fiddles, banjos, harmonicas and acoustic guitars.

Misty by Ray Stevens:

Ray Stevens‘ version of Misty is the one I know best and whenever I hear that intro I know exactly what is going to come next – That first line about being so love-struck that you’re “as helpless as a kitten up a tree”. Yes, we’ve all been there, but fortunately not for some time in my case (the helpless kitten part). I’m not sure if Erroll Garner or Johnny Mathis would have approved of this version, but it was certainly the most commercially successful here in the UK and won a Grammy Award in the category of Music Arrangement of the Year. Ray was never as well-known here as in his native US but I have just had a bit of a déjà vu moment where I am reminded of watching him appear on the Andy Williams Show back in the late ’60s. He was a regular as it turns out, but at the time I would have been just far too preoccupied with that very good-looking band of Osmond brothers who also used to appear regularly, performing their very polished barbershop routines.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Not sure how well I’ve risen to the challenge of writing about this song, but I have enjoyed revisiting Misty and finding out so much more of its back story. I know Rol would have probably approached it differently but hey, this is how I do things here at WIAA? so hopefully whoever drops by will find something of interest. The question now is, do I continue to ask for suggestions on what song to write about next? I think this approach is sufficiently different to what we do on The Chain, so for one more post only, please enter suggestions in the comments boxes below to a song that links to Misty by Ray Stevens and I’ll see what I can come up with – A challenge indeed!

Misty Lyrics
(Song by Erroll Garner/Johnny Burke) 

Look at me
I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree
Ah, I’m walkin’ on a cloud
I can’t understand, Lord
I’m misty holdin’ your hand

Walk my way
And a thousand violins begin to play
Or it might be the sound of your “hello”
That music I hear, Lord
I’m misty the moment you’re near

You can say that you’re leadin’ me on
But it’s just what I want you to do
Don’t ya notice how hopelessly I’m lost
That’s why I’m followin’ you

Ooh, on my own
Should I wander through this wonderland alone, now
Never knowin’ my right foot from my left
My hat from my glove, Lord
I’m misty, and too much in love

You can say that you’re leadin’ me on
But it’s just what I want you to do
Don’t ya notice how hopelessly I’m lost
That’s why I’m followin’ you

Ooh, on my own
Should I wander through this wonderland alone, now
Never knowin’ my right foot from my left
My hat from my glove, Lord
I’m misty, and too much in love

(Misty) too much in love
(Misty) too much in love
(Misty)
(Misty) too much in love…