Saturday, 5 March 2011

Spinning on the turntable this weekend.............well or the MP3 player.

The Hissing of Summers Lawns - Joni Mitchell

Back to Mono - Phil Spector

Electric Rendezvous - Al di Meola

Christine McVie - Christine McVie

Under the Covers Vol. 2 - Matthew Sweet & Suzanna Hoffs

At War With the Mystics - The Flaming Lips

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain but all my cares just drift right into space on the roof

Songs Everyone Should Know

“Up on the Roof” by Carole King and James Taylor (2010)

Holy crap where do I begin! There is so much historical significance here I fear I can barely scratch the surface, but I will try to give you an idea or two.

This album from last year has a good cover of the song the Drifters1 originally made famous in 1963. That is where we start..........

Married when they were teenagers Carole King and her husband Gerry Goffin worked as part of the song writing team in the Brill Building in New York. (in Manhattan not far from the famous Tin Pan Alley – another story, another time).  The Brill Building is important for song writing and publishing that pre-dates World War I.  This is where ‘Big Band’ hits were pounded out. You might think this sounds sort of contrived, but music was big business. Was there a formula for a hit song? Arguably the results speak for themselves. You could cut a demo, find a manager, find a publisher, and find someone to release your work all in one building. Song writers worked in cramped rooms side-by-side to craft the next pop hit, competing head- to- head, under a lot of pressure to find that elusive song. Carole and Gerry were deep in the mix.   

Carole King went on to be one of the biggest female singers of the ‘70s with the pinnacle of her career coming with the album “Tapestry” in 1971, number 1 album on the charts for 15 weeks and staying on the charts for some 300 weeks.  It was huge and Carole became a household name. No more being stuck in the little cubby hole in the Brill Building!

Interestingly Carole and Gerry’s daughter Louise Goffin is a talented singer-songwriter but never hit the big time like her famous parents. (I like her first album ‘Kid Blue’, with songs like “Red Lite Fever”, and “All I’ve Got to Do” and some help from her famous parent’s producer friend Danny Kortchmar1). Her most recent album “Sometimes a Circle” of 2002 is a much more mature effort.

A bit obscure, my favourite Carole King song to this day is “Main Street Saturday Night”. A kind of disco-era one-off describing American teen culture – a good reprieve from all the disco at the time really.  She also put out a very cool version of “One Fine Day” which was a number one hit by the Chiffons that Carole and Gerry wrote (actually originally intended for Little Eva, their babysitter of ” Locomotion” fame)

If you look under “singer-song writer” the definition will likely be ‘James Taylor’. “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve Got a Friend” were huge for James in the early ‘70’s. Anthems for the underdog! This is where we first get our connection to Carole King – She Wrote “You’ve Got a Friend”. If you want a good primer for James Taylor I would give the album “Sweet Baby James” a listen. Sweet Baby James was a song he wrote for his brother’s recently born baby that he called ‘James’ after his famous uncle. He purportedly wrote this on his way back from touring England with this ‘Fire and Rain’ fame requiring him to tour.

Finally, The Troubadour coffee house built in Los Angeles (1967) was originally modeled after the Troubadour coffee house in England – the sign even looks the same.  Serious music fans have gone here to see artists ever since. It is on the famous Santa Monica Boulevard (referenced by Sheryl Crow in her 1993 ‘All I Wanna Do’.)  If you were crusin’ in your stingray late on night3 you probably would drive by it.
Everybody and his dog has played here include Carole and James, but also Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen, and even Guns N’ Roses, and Motley Crue.
This album is worth a listen for its own sake never mind the myriad of music history here.

1.       The Drifters -Popular doo-wop group popular in the late '50's early '60's.
2.       Danny Kortchmar produced many famous artists, including but certainly not limited to Don Henley, Jackson Browne, and Hall & Oats.
3.       Refers to the Jan and Dean song “Deadpan’s Curve” 1964.

Carole King & James Taylor - Up On the Roof (Live)

Thanks to all who have been enjoying Davo-rama Music! We had over 250 hits this week. Keep sharing with friends and family that may enjoy it. Cheers!

Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life (Prince, 1984)

Fun Fact of the Week

Besides being a bizillionaire, Prince is a very prolific song writer. Some of his shared successful efforts include – Manic Monday by The Bangles, Stand Back by Stevie Nicks, Pray by M.C. Hammer, Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor, When you Were Mine by Cyndi Lauper, and A Love Bizarre by Sheila E.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Tommy James & the Shondells - Crystal Blue Persuasion.wmv

Do You Think You're Alone Now?

70's Pick of the Week

“Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells (1969)

So this is technically a 1969 release but it had such an impact on the ‘70’s I claim artistic license to include it here. When I was talking to a buddy, Stu a few months ago it reminded me of this childhood memory-

When I was about 10 years old, we were visiting a friend of my parents who had a son about 3 or four years older than me.  Being very impressionable, particularly where music was concerned, this was an important evening as it would turn out.

Jimmy, besides being a chemistry nut and having the new spirograph, (you know the real fancy one that came out later), and was totally into music. He asked me if I had any records. I told him I had a few K-Tels but that was about it. He laughed and said “You have to hear this record”. He proceeded to put this strange small record (45) on his little record player and out came “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells. I was ‘knocked out’ as they would say at the time. I just sat there and listened to it over and over and over.  (I had seen LP records, like the big ones, because my Dad had many of them but never had I really noticed one of these before that I recall..........)

After what seemed like an hour, Jimmy’s mother yells up the stairs – “Would you shut that noise off Jimmie!” Off came the record and Jimmy ran down stairs with me in hot pursuit to find out what this ball of fire was up to next. Into the living room where everyone was sitting around he announced that we were watching TV because the “Tom Jones” show was on.  Jimmy flipped the channels (yes manually in those days) till we saw Tom singing “Delilah” I think it was.( I am thinking “Whassup with the ‘fro dude? ......not really, I was 10)

By the time I went home that night I had learned: 45s are cool. Tommy James and the Shondells are cool. Tom Jones is cool (although I don’t really understand the whole thing with the women fawning over him), Jimmy was cool. And music itself is very cool!  Quite a lot to take in, in one evening for a 10 year old.

 Tommy James knew what he wanted to do from a very early age – be a rock star. He thought well, Elvis can do this, so can I. I remember something David W said to me once in school, “I want to be a movie producer, what are you going to do?" I told him I did not have a flippin’ clue........of course he is a movie producer now and Tommy became a rock star. I on the other hand I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

Tommy James first single “Hanky Panky” was recorded when he was in high school and became a bit of a local hit. Not getting the attention he thought he should, Tommy kept at it and a few years later it was dug up and became a hit. Eventually it was recorded on Roulette records.

Still not getting the public exposure he thought he should get, Tommy shleped his demo around.No one would talk to him and he was getting frustrated. Finally Jerry Wexler (of Atlantic records fame) told him that Morris Leavy of Roulette records had called him and everyone else and told him to “back off, it is our record!”.

You see, Rouleete records was a front for the Mob. As a result, the Shondells never did get a fair share of royalties. The upside though was, Roulette was a small label and they let Tommy do whatever he wanted as long as he was pumping out the hits. No pressure!

As my daughter and I were talking the other night, at the time, singles (in  45 rpm format)  were what you needed to succeed. They came first before the album. It has come almost full circle now as Lady Gaga puts out her songs one at a time. (It would be great if they put out a Lady Gaga 45!)

Tommy James and the Shondells have sold over 110 million records so far, so you have to know some of these, or at least their successful covers:

·        Mony, Mony (later covered by Billy Idol)
·        Crimson and Clover (later covered by Joan Jett)
·        Draggin’ the Line (later covered by R.E.M. for “The Spy Who Shagged me”
·        I Think We’re alone now (later covered by Tiffany) 
·        Sweet Cherry Wine
And finally-
·        Crystal Blue Persuasion (a Jimmy favourite that sold some 3 million copies)

Another interesting tidbit with ‘Mony, Mony’ was that apparently Tommy was under the gun to come up with a song (maybe literally). He was staying in a hotel in New York and  looked out the window for inspiration. There was a sign that said ‘Mutual of New York’. The legend is that this became the inspiration for MONY, MONY. Who knows?

Thanks Jimmy. Still love TJ & the Shondells!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

What Davo-rama is listening to this week

Here is what I am listening to this week-

4 non-Blondes – Bigger, Better, Faster, More!
Os Mutantes - Os Mutantes   

Tom Waits - Closing Time
Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All these Years
Quicksilver Messenger Sevice - Happy Trails

Elvis Presley... Good Rockin' Tonight - 1954 (Rockabilly)

If You Could Bring a Dead Rock Star Back to Life, Who Would it Be?

Dead Rock Stars You Should Know

Elvis Presley 1935-1977
John Lennon 1940-1980
Jimi Hendrix 1942-1970
Kurt Cobain 1967-1994
Jim Morrison 1943-1971
Marc Bolan 1947-1977
John Bonham 1948 -1980
Nick Drake 1948-1974
Freddy Mercury 1946-1991
Michael Jackson 1958-2009
George Harrison 1943-2001
Roy Orbison 1936-1988
Peter Tosh 1944-1987
Dennis Wilson 1944-1983
Doug Bennett 1951-2004

And if you are much younger than me:
The Notorious B.I.G. 1972-1997
Tupac Shakur 1971-1996

You know all of these right?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Pretenders - My City Was Gone

Went Back to Ohio but My City Was Gone........

Pick of the Week

“My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders (1982)

From the very cool “Learning to Crawl” album which sustains it’s poise to this day. Certianly my favourite Pretenders album.

My friend Scotty B. actually gave me the idea to revisit this song a few weeks ago when we talked about the economic conditions in Cleveland and Detroit. The social and economic implications ring clearly through here. 

From the loose, vibrant opening base riff to the guitar interplay of a very tight band this song rocks! The sultry, breathy Chrissie Hynde reminds us of how fragile an urban setting can be and this is so apropos with the economy in the U.S. right now. Her concerns are as valid now as they were then - Cleveland is in tough shape.

Chrissie Hynde is the picture of tenacity and an interesting story..........From Akron Ohio, and in classic style an art school graduate, she landed in the punk scene in London in 1976. )She was in the U.K. and France earlier trying to form a band to no avail She had worked a bit as a writer for the U.K. NME (New Music Express) but really was trying to form a band. She responded to an ad in NME to form a band with what would become the punk band 999, who I once had the pleasure to meet.  (I  had the keys to the games room and let them in to play Galaga – nice guys!)

Anyway, Chrissie did not succeed in that band and was asked by Malcolm McLaren, famous for his management of the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols to leave the group just as it became ‘The Damned’ (produced by Nick Lowe).  One might give up, but Chrissie didn’t. 

Finally in 1978 with the help of Dave Hill of Real Records Chrissie put together “The Pretenders”. I think this was based on the song ‘The Great Pretender’ by the Platters – feeling kind of that way at this point I’m sure.

So the result was The Pretenders by the Pretenders (produced by Nick Lowe – he put out “Labour of Lust" with “Cruel to be Kind” the very next year – great album BTW)). A great first effort including a single called “Brass in Pocket” that finally made Chrissie famous!  

 Usually I do not like versions of songs for tributes, commemorations or ‘causes’ as the efforts can be less than stellar. The artists come together at the last minute, don’t practice and produce lacklustre results. There are exceptions though and a sweet surprise is a version of this song done for the “The Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” in 1996. 

Dire straits - Sultans of swing (1979)

Coming In Out of the Rain to Hear the Jazz Go Down

Songs Everyone Should Know

“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Staits (1978)

My parents were out of town and my friend was over. We bought a couple of steaks and were making french fires listening to Dire Straits by Dire Straits. It sort of bounced through the bungalow with open windows on a warm summer evening. We don’t get many in Calgary maybe that’s why this album stuck with me, or maybe it was the smell of french fries; they say smell has the best connection to memory of any of the senses. 

The phone rang and it was this girl I know who wanted us to come over. Her friends had a pickle jar full of god- knows-what and wanted to know if we could pop by. I told her we would be over after we finished listening to the record. When we got there, I remember they were playing K-tel records – the one with Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sherriff” but that is another story...........anyway........

Ya, o.k. so this could be a ‘70’s pick too but it is important culturally. Mark Knopfler was just getting warmed up as an artist at this point and the album Dire Straits is one of those well-crafted ‘flow’ albums – you can listen to the whole album and it makes sense, has some continuity. Sometimes albums having the same name as the artist is a clue that the band is going to put in a good effort on this, their debut album. Like The Doors by The Doors, The Eagles by The Eagles, Bad Company by Bad Company, or The Cars by The Cars. It can be a clue, but like every rule there are exceptions - like Duran Duran by Duran Duran. Do you know any of the songs on that album? (If you guessed “Hungry like the Wolf” you would be wrong!)

The British had long romanticised American blues and roots music. Knopfler was a student of this school also. But remember: this is at the time of the rapid decent of disco. Punk was going full bore in the U.K. - with bands like The Damned opening for The Sex Pistols, only a year or two before. Musically, probably a bit confusing for a guy raised on blues.  So I think he decided to do what sounded good to him.  Maybe this song is autobiographical – or so he may have thought at the time. Was it Knopfler himself who stopped in the rainy street and told his mates to shut up so he could hear what the band was playing in that club over there? Maybe the smell of French fries was in the air. Who knows?

“Sultans” talks about the end of an era and the change in direction that the youth were taking. They were throwing another proverbial “hero up the pop charts” as Paul Simon would say later. The King was now Johnny Rotten. (There seems to be a theme this week)

The band scene was huge in England with live music everywhere. Kids did not want to listen to this kind of music represented by the symbolic “Sultans” who themselves knew that as proficient as they were, they were approaching the end of the road. The Punk and then New Wave bands would blow the rest of the blues cobwebs out of the U.K closet for good.............well maybe.

Close to you

I See Your Sweet Sweet Smile Everyday

***New Catagory this week***

Hip to be Square

“(They Long to Be) Close to You” by the Carpenters (1970)

I decided to introduce a new section this week – ‘Hip to be Square’. The name was my daughter’s idea actually and it works. The Huey Lewis song (1986) of the same name told the baby-boomers that it was time to rejuv. Was it so wrong saying it was hip to be square?

Everybody has those songs they like but they would prefer not to admit. Not everyone has the confidence of Johnny (Nick Cage) in Ghost Rider where he openly states that he like the Carpenters, and proceeds to play the music.

Since the dawn of pop music there have been these songs. Sometimes they start off as ‘public’ songs but soon you find you are playing them in the basement, singing them in your car – and turning down the volume when someone cruises up beside you at the light. 

The Carpenters were and are the classic square band. The A&M1 record label really wanted and pleaded with them to be squeaky-clean. They put something like 15 number one songs on the chart. Nobody’s parents minded if you played a Carpenter’s LP2 in fact au contraire they may have even have bought you one for your birthday (if they loved you!)

Burt Bacharach was the prolific king of square song writing in the 60’s and early 70’s. You have no doubt heard many of them -  “Do you know the way to San José” and “Walk on By”  (Dion Warwick), “The Look of Love”  (Dusty Springfield, later done by Dianna Krall), “Baby it’s You “ (The Shirelles, The Beatles), “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (B.J. Thomas), “What’s New Pussycat” (Tom Jones), and many more. 

Anyway, Burt gave the song to Herb Alpert who owned the record company and Herb gave it to Richard Carpenter who made his little (anorexia poster-child) sister sing it and boom-baby: Instant number one record!  As we  talk about, the year 1970 was classic rock heaven, so who the hell had time to listen to this, let alone buy enough vinyl to make it number one? If a record is number one, than it was a lot more than squares listening to it – everybody was! All over the freakin’ globe! This stuff was huge!

The sweet, sweet syrupy voice of Karen swept the world and made us mellow once again. If you were missing the peace and love of the sixties dude and you were tired of In-A-Gada-Da-Vida-ing3 your weary brain everyday this was the ticket. 

Hey don’t get me wrong I love the Carpenters and I would not include the ‘Hip to Be Square” song if I was not the guy that stops singing when I pull up beside you at a light and hit the 'down volume' button. 

1)      A&M Records – a large record company owned by Herb Albert and Jerry Moss.
2)      LP – Common abbreviation for ‘Long Play Records’. They revolve at 33 revolutions per minute, considerably slower than the ‘45” or 45 rpm record which was the format for singles.
3)      “In-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly (1968)

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Flying Lizzards - Money thats what I want 1979

Let's Get this Party Started

Pick of the Week

'Money' by the Flying Lizards (1979).

I listened to this at my friend's house the other night - still one of my faves if I am in a zany mood.

It drips with distant disdain on the nothing less than stand-offish delivery of Deborah Evans-Sticklan  The Flying Lizard create a unique ambiance with the Barrett Strong (of Motown fame) song. Although sounding clearly dated it is fun and full of life. It got covered by the Beatles in the '60s but it is not nearly as fun as this.

I wonder what Barrett would think of this?

Songs Everyone Should Know

"Hound Dog" by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton (1952)

Arguably a precursor to rock - Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller penned this beauty later recorded by Elvis (you know who that is right?).
The emphasis she has on certain parts like "yoooooooooo ain't nooooooothin'" make this great. I also love her little dog yelp at one point. Although I have tried, I cannot replicate it.

She reputedly got next to nothing for recording this song that got scooped by the King and she died a poor, skinny, alcoholic - far from the robust and delightful woman who sang this song.

70's Pick of the Week

"Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty (1978)

What a cool song! I used to listen to the 45 rpm (revolutions per minute for those who do not know) over and over with the arm up. Old phonographs (record players) used to have this feature just for this purpose. You could play it all day if you liked.

Anyway, the reason I picked this song is because Gerry passed away recently and i was saddened.
Purportedly the original sax player did not have a cool enough name so they replaced him with lesser known

Raphael Ravenscrof and thank god they did! He soars! The song has an air of desperation and expresses it clearly though clever lyrics and delivery.

If you have not heard this song you must have been under the proverbial rock. It was staggeringly huge at the time!

Fun Fact of the Week

Eric Clapton's biological father was in the Canadian Air Force.

Have a good week!

Welcome to Davo-rama Music where I share my thoughts on music!

Since I first heard the Beatles "Michelle" play in the back of my Dad's station wagon until now, I have always loved music. It is very much an integral part of my life. O.K. ya so I kind of gave you an idea of how old I am. The upside is I know a lot of music, the downside is, the older you get the less you seem to connect to new music. Now this may not be true for some people and if that is true for you, excellent you have a gift, so enjoy it!

Music is one of the oldest forms of social media that there is - people have a message in what they say in songs. Some of these songs have good lyrics and some have good music. Some don't. The one thing that is clear - everybody has their own unique preferences when it comes to music!People's preferences are as unique as people are. Cool, now that we get that let's move on........

In my blog I will explore music that is from my experience - that means it is mostly the 70;s with some '50s, 60's, 80's. 90's. and the other odd song thrown in here and there for good measure. If you don't know much about music I can hopefully expand your horizons if you have an open mind. If you do know a lot about music hopefully you find something that we share in common, or maybe a new gem that you had not heard before or that reignites your interest in that artist.

I have a vast knowledge of music from the right source - actually listening to it! The more you listen to music the more you like it. I love a great variety of music and this can vary depending upon my mood. It is a very emotional connection we all have with music after all.

Of course I have my preferences that form the base of my enjoyment of music (which does actually slowly shift over time believe it or not). Again, all music has something in common - someone is expressing something meaningful to them and they are trying to get others to connect to that thought, and more importantly, feeling.

In my blog I intent to provide a weekly update with several categories. I will try to provide a bit of background to give context or meaning to why I chose the song as well (time permitting).

Pick of the Week

This is my selection of a song that I think is interesting or unique is some way. It may not be mainstream, but it is interesting in how it sounds, what it says, who did it or what connection it has to others.

Songs Everyone Should Know

My selection here will be mainstream songs for beginners or younger people to hear songs that are classics that in my opinion are staples of a strong musical knowledge.

70's Pick of the Week

This will be one of my favorite'70s songs.

Fun Fact of the Week

The artist of a song has a personal story and life. Here I intend to share a fun tidbit about someone. This could also relate to the songs I pick that week.

Have fun listening,