Another Kind of Chain – Gene Pitney and “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa”

Don’t panic, I’m not about to highjack that most excellent of features, Jez’s “The Chain”, but I seem to be experiencing blogger’s block, and want to find a way of kick starting things again around here. 

I wrote last time about how I have very nearly completed my third year on the blogosphere. It’s been a joy, and although each year has been totally different for me in terms of what’s going on in the real world, this virtual world has been my anchor, my constant amongst all of life’s ups and downs.

Something that has kept me going more than anything else however, is that I seem to have become part of a little community, which I hadn’t bargained for when I started out in the blogging world. I suspect I would never have found this little community had I not discovered Jez’s place back in the early days, when I pretty much only wrote about the music (with a little anecdote thrown in). One of my early posts featured the three Jimmy Webb songs recorded by Glen Campbell in the late 1960s. One of these  songs was Galveston, and back then I used to perform a quick search before pressing the publish button, to check whether anyone else had written about it recently. Someone had, Jez, and as usual he had included a very funny story.

Many of us around here know that Jez has been a bit poorly of late, but after being absent for a wee while he seems to back firing on all cylinders in terms of his blogging output. I suspect there are a few more chapters to go in terms of what happened, but as ever, he has made what must have been a pretty awful time, very entertaining. Cross fingers he’s well and truly on the road to recovery.

Back in my early days of blogging, I used to find that each post linked to the previous one in terms of the thought process. I sometimes ended up with a string of posts all connected to each other in some way, as is wont to happen when you revisit older songs. Davy Jones followed on from David Bowie, for obvious reasons. Seals and Crofts followed on from the Isley Brothers, for possibly less obvious reasons, but great fun for me to delve into the respective backstory to their songs.

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Linked posts

Suggestions for Jez’s Chain were creative indeed. In fact there used to be a prize for the most tenuous link of the week, which led to a fair bit of “showboating”. Anyway, we all still miss The Chain, but respect the fact it took an awful lot of time and effort to put together, so no pressure to see it make a comeback. No indeed, no pressure at all!

But back to my chain and Galveston – What song links to it in terms of the thought process for me? Well I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts turned to Gene Pitney’s 1964 hit, Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa. We’ve moved across the state line from Texas into Oklahoma, but we’re still in the Southern States of the USA, we’re still in the 1960s, and it’s another song about leaving a girl behind. Oh yes, it wasn’t until I checked it out properly, that I came to realise the lyrics were about a chap finding himself just 24 hours from home, but falling head over heels in love with a woman he meets after stopping at a motel for the night. Apparently he “lost control as he held her charms“. This woman must have had stupendous “charms”, as hitherto, Gene had been looking forward to being back in the “arms” (not charms) of his wife.

Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa by Gene Pitney:

As a kid of course, back in the 1960s, I would never in a month of Sundays have worked out the meaning behind those lyrics when I first saw Gene perform the song on British telly. I do remember however that my dad used to do quite a good impression of him, as he did have quite a distinctive style. Oh how our little family of three laughed. But that was over 50 years ago, and for the first time ever, Mr WIAA and I will have none of our parents with us on Christmas Day. Only my mum left now, and she will have lunch in the care home. It really hit me this week, as I finally got round to doing some festive preparation, that our family has shrunk somewhat in the time we’ve been in our current house. The year we moved in, we had to hire a table and chairs to accommodate everyone, but over time we have lost a mum, two dads, an auntie and a best friend. Only ourselves and DD now, until the next generation make an appearance (and not quite ready for that yet, so will be patient).

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I hoped this post would kick start the writing juices again, and it seems it has. A whole week to go until Christmas Day, so time to return with something festive before then I think. And, another full moon post to fit in as well – Will have to exercise the act of brevity when blogging, something I’m not great at delivering on. Good luck with all the last minute shopping, and again, all the best to Jez for his continued recovery.   

Until next time….

Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David)

Dearest darling
I had to write to say that I won’t be home any more
For something happened to me
While I was driving home and I’m not the same any more

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
I saw a welcoming light
And stopped to rest for the night

And that is when I saw her
As I pulled in outside of the small hotel she was there
And so I walked up to her
Asked where I could get something to eat and she showed me where

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
She took me to the café
I asked her if she would stay
She said, “Okay”

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
The jukebox started to play
And night time turned into day

As we were dancing closely
All of a sudden I lost control as I held her charms
And I caressed her, kissed her
Told her I’d die before I would let her out of my arms

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
I hate to do this to you
But I love somebody new
What can I do
When I can never, never, never go home again?

Dionne, Aretha and “I Say A Little Prayer”

Now that I no longer have to commute to work every day, I seem to be missing out on those wonderful moments when a great song comes on the car radio, and you just have to turn up the volume to full blast.

I did however experience such a thing earlier this week on my way to the supermarket and needless to say it stuck with me for a good few days. The song was this one, I Say a Little Prayer, written by my favourite songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Inevitably the first person to record it back in 1967 was Dionne Warwick, as she was very much Burt’s “go-to” girl when he needed a chanteuse for his great material. What I hadn’t realised until now was that Hal David’s lyrics were meant to convey a woman’s concern for her man, who was serving in the Vietnam War (makes total sense now considering the timing). I have always loved those first few lines where the words wake up and makeup are used to such great effect. The rhyme just works so perfectly and for us girls, anything that happens before the morning ritual of putting on the makeup is early indeed, so doubly emphasizes the urgency of the prayer.

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you

Although Burt’s recordings with Dionne usually took no more than three takes, I Say a Little Prayer took ten takes and he still disliked the completed track, feeling it rushed. He was nothing if not a perfectionist that Burt Bacharach.

But the version I heard in the car the other day wasn’t by Dionne but instead by the person who had a big hit with it in the UK. Aretha Franklin was in the process of recording her 1968 album entitled “Aretha Now” when her backing vocalists, The Sweet Inspirations, started singing the song just for fun. It suddenly became apparent that I Say a Little Prayer could be a worthy inclusion on the new album which is exactly what happened. The song ended up being released in July 1968 as the B-side to the single The House that Jack Built, but after accruing its own airplay reached No. 10 on the Billboard Chart and No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

And here is where the music producers seem to get it horribly wrong at times – It had taken much persuasion for Burt to release the original recording by Dionne Warwick, but with Theme from Valley of the Dolls on the B-side, it became one of the most successful double-sided releases of all time. Aretha’s version was never expected to make any sort of mark in its own right, but in subsequent decades it has been ranked right at the top of lists relating to the “Greatest 150 Singles of All Time”. How bizarre and makes you wonder what other delights have slipped through the net and never been given the air time they indubitably deserved. Then again, is that not the case for every art form? How many great writers and artists (and I include Mr WIAA and some of my blogging buddies in those categories) slip through the net, not seeming to catch that lucky break needed to get to the important next level, where actual money changes hands for exceptional work done.

But before I go, it should also be mentioned that I Say a Little Prayer is one of several Bacharach and David songs to feature prominently in the 1997 rom-com/chick-flick My Best Friend’s Wedding. There was a reggae-style cover by Diana King and a version sung by the film’s cast. Diana’s cover was released as a single which brought the song back to the Top 40 almost thirty years after Dionne Warwick’s original.

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I Say A Little Prayer by Diana King:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Having included all three very different versions in this post, they are ripe for a compare and contrast. Dionne’s does indeed sound a bit too rushed and not typical of Burt Bacharach’s usual orchestral pop style. Diana’s reggae version certainly creates a very different sound where the lyrics are sung Jamaican-style (before mi put on mi makeup). Aretha however, being the Queen of Soul an’ all that, nails it for me and it’s probably why the car radio had to be turned up to such a volume earlier in the week. Some songs, despite having a very low key start in life, end up becoming the most memorable and that’s why I live in hope that some of my wonderful artsy friends also eventually catch that lucky break which leads to their work being reclassified from being ordinary, to being extra-ordinary.

Until next time….

I Say A Little Prayer Lyrics

(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break-time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I say a little prayer for you
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

My darling, believe me
For me there is no one, but you
Please love me, too
I’m in love with you
Answer my prayer
Say you love me, too
Why don’t you answer my prayer?
You know, every day I say a little prayer
I said, I say, I say a little prayer