Monday, December 31, 2012

Patricia Barber -- "The New Year Eve's Song" (2008)

Seasons change.  
Will he?

Most of the posts on this blog use a song as an excuse for me to talk about myself. This will be something completely different.

This post originally appeared exactly three years ago – at 11:59 pm on New Year's Eve, 2009.  I repost it every year because I have a very high regard for the featured song, Patricia Barber's "The New Year's Eve Song."

This year I'm dedicating this post to a couple of old friends of mine who are newlyweds – I'll call them "M" and "D."  I don't think it's the first New Year's Eve they've spent together, but it's the first one they've spent as husband and wife.

M and D met in the fall of 1974, when M and I were law students and D was a freshman in college.  Why didn't they get married until 38 years had passed?  That's a long and complicated story, which you can read about by clicking on this link.

The point is that the story had a happy ending.  That happy ending was delayed for a very long time.  But that delay did not defeat M and D.  When the time for them to be together finally arrived, they had enough optimism and courage and faith in one another to seize the opportunity.

There's a Latin saying that is usually attributed to Cicero: Dum spiro spero.  That means "While I breathe, I hope."

I'm still breathing.  And so are you.  Let's both go do something about that, shall we?

M and D, happy New Year's Eve to you both.  Let me tell you about the perfect song to listen to as the clock counts down the last few moments of 2012.

*     *     *     *     *

Patricia Barber is a Chicago-based jazz singer and pianist whose repertoire combines original compositions (like "The New Year's Eve Song"), piano-bar standards ("Bye Bye Blackbird," "My Funny Valentine"), and classic-rock and pop ("Light My Fire," "The Beat Goes On"). You can read more about Patricia Barber on her own website, on Wikipedia (which has links to some reviews and interviews) or elsewhere.

This song (from a Barber CD titled The Cole Porter Mix) begins on a New Year's Eve and ends on the following New Year's Eve.  This use of New Year's Eve not only gives the song a tidy formal structure but also takes advantage of the holiday's symbolic significance.

New Year's is the time when we focus on our futures.  We usually resolve to make changes for the better, and we usually fail to do so. But it's also the day when we say goodbye to another year – a year that we may look back on as being happy, or sad, or not much of anything at all (which makes it sad, I suppose), but which always represents the passage of a significant chunk of our all-too-limited time on earth. (You can waste a day or even a week and not really feel that bad. To waste a whole year is a different thing altogether.) 

*     *     *     *     *

As the song begins, a man and a woman have said good-bye to their New Year's Eve party guests. The first lines ask one question, and the following lines pose a second question – the answers to both of which seem fairly obvious:

Will he 
kiss her on New Year's Eve, 
after the last guests leave, 
then kiss her again? Will he
peek in the mirror while she,
knowing he's watching her, tease,
stripping the gown with ease?

(By the way, I don't know if Barber would break the song into lines the same way I have, or whether my punctuation reflects her intent – what I've done is based solely on my personal interpretation of her performance, but there are usually alternatives that seem almost as convincing.)

Barber doesn't waste any time here, but jumps right into the song – there's no instrumental introduction. The first thing you hear is the unaccompanied word "will" – the music begins when she sings "he," which is held for for a full four beats. So there the listener sits, wondering to himself or herself, "Will he what?"

The first thing I asked myself after hearing the first few lines is how well does this couple know each other? Is it their first night together, or have they been married for years? Barber's description of the scene in the bedroom – him peeking in the mirror to watch her undress, her teasing him a little as she strips – implies to me that they have not known each other for very long.

I suppose it's possible that this is their first night together, but that seems doubtful because we're told they have known each other long enough to have fallen deeply in love – the first stanza ends with "So in love with her is he," while the next verse ends with "So in love with him is she." 

*     *     *     *     *

So far, so good – that New Year's Eve encounter was obviously pretty hot, and each one is "so in love" with the other. Sounds like things are going great, right?

Not so fast. The next part of the song is very different. The music changes, for one thing. In the first two stanzas, the last word of each line is held for the length of a whole note – which essentially inserts a pause at the end of each line, and makes the listener a little anxious to know what comes next.

The lines of first two verses all ended with long "e" words – "leaves," "he," "she," "tease," "ease," "sweet," "free," "dreams," "sleep," etc. – held for the length of a whole note. But suddenly the long "e" words disappear, and the line-ending whole-notes disappear – Barber stops singing the lines and instead delivers them more like an operatic recitative.

These lines ask a question as well, but the answer to this question isn't at all clear:

Will it be an affair to last through spring?
Will it be summer love to embrace warm afternoons
that quicken and chill? Red harvest moons?
The thrill a first snowfall can bring?

A book I recently read (Missing Joseph, by Elizabeth George) features two characters who have known each other a long time, but have only recently become lovers. The man wants to marry the woman, but she is hesitant because she is fearful that someday they will no longer feel the same way about one another, which would break her heart.

He acknowledges that he is asking her to take a leap into the void, and that there is no guarantee that the future will turn out well for them. "We can't predict the future," he tells her. "We can only use the present to guide us hopefully in its direction."

That's the problem the two people in Barber's song are facing – how can they give themselves over wholeheartedly to each other, knowing that things could change in the future? After all, "seasons change – will he"? (Or will she?)

The last verse of the song takes place a year later. Once again the couple is hosting a New Year's Eve party, and once again Barber asks the question she asked at the beginning of the song:

Seasons change. Will he,
after the last guests leave,
still kiss her again?

The last lines of the song seem to deliver a happy ending:

We each with the other will be
So in love next New Year's Eve

*     *     *     *     *

I would describe Barber's usual singing style as restrained – she's not showy, and not a warm-and-fuzzy type – but she allows more emotion to show through in these final lines, ending the song on an optimistic note. It's as if she wants to believe that this is a love that will stand the test of time.

I like happy endings as much as the next guy, and I'd like to think that the couple here is over the hump for good. But let's not get all giddy. After all, they've only made it to their one-year anniversary. One swallow doesn't make a summer, and one year doesn't make a lifetime. Who knows if these two will still be together when the next New Year's Eve rolls around, or the one after that?

As the character in the Elizabeth George book says, we can't predict the future – we can only use the present to guide us hopefully in the future's direction.

Barber's use of questions is not the only aspect of this song's structure that keeps the listener feeling a little off-balance. For example, Barber inverts the usual word order in a number of places, placing the subject at the end rather than the beginning of a sentence in order to position the long "e" words at the end of the lines. Instead of the expected "She is bare as the New Year," Barber writes "Bare as the New Year [is] she." And instead of "He is so in love with her," she writes "So in love with her is he."

Patricia at the piano
As noted, the final word of most lines is a whole note long, which inserts a long pause between the lines and creates more tension and anxiety in the listener's mind. That effect is further enhanced by Barber's use of "enjambment" – a poetic technique that is defined as "the breaking of a syntactic unit (a phrase, clause, or sentence) by the end of a line of [poetry] . . . . It is to be contrasted with end-stopping, where each lingistic unit corresponds with a single line . . . The term is directly borrowed from the French enjambement, meaning 'straddling' or 'bestriding.'" The main effect of enjambment is to "make the reader feel uncomfortable," and that is certainly true of this song

The whole-note words that end each line usually don't end the "syntactic unit" -- Barber pauses in midstream, and the listener has to wait a few beats for her to complete her thought (which usually turns out to be a question). 

Let's use the first stanza to illustrate all this:

Will he
kiss her on New Year's Eve, 
after the last guests leave, 
then kiss her again? Will he
peek in the mirror while she,
knowing he's watching her, tease,
stripping the gown with ease?

As noted above, the first "he" is held for a full measure – the listener has to wait a long time to find out "Will he what?" "Eve" is held for four beats, as is "leave." There is a similar pause after the second "will he," and the following "she" is also held. (In other words, it takes four beats for Barber to sing "peek in the mirror while" and then she holds "she" for the same four beats.)

Barber does one other thing to keep the listener unsure of himself or herself -- just as the couple in the song feel unsure about their future together. Let's go back to the line quoted at the beginning of this post: 

Seasons change. Will he?

As elsewhere, the last word of the line – "he" – is held for four beats, which would ordinarily signal us that the thought is complete. (It's like inserting a period.) So when you first hear the song, you assume that the singer is asking if the man's feelings will change over time much as the seasons change as the year goes by.

But then it becomes apparent that "will he" is also the beginning of a sentence that continues on the next line:

Seasons change. Will he, 
after the last guests leave . . . kiss her again?

Because this is a song performed one word at a time rather than a poem written on a page, Barber can easily make "will he" do double duty – it completes one question, but at the same time initiates a second question. Barber has created the poetic equivalent of New Year's Eve – each "will he" and "will she" looks backward to the previous thought and forward to the next thought.

*     *     *     *     *

I've chosen to emphasize Barber's poetic talents. But the quietly intense music and her restrained singing style – with the touch of optimism at the very end – are a very good match for the words she has written. 

I'm familiar with a few other songs of Barber's, and all of them are intelligent and a bit of a challenge for the listener. As far as I'm concerned, none of them have the emotional impact to "The New Year's Eve Song." Less is more here – the story she tells and the words she uses to tell it are relatively simple and straightforward, but the overall effect is quite remarkable.

If I could write one song as good as this one, I think that would be enough – I'd be satisfied that I had left something really worthwhile behind.

In honor of Patricia Barber and this wonderful song, I'm posting this in the hour before midnight on December 31. The guests haven't yet left, so he hasn't kissed her yet – but very soon, all that will happen.

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to listen to "The New Year's Eve Song."

Click below if you'd like to buy "The New Year's Eve Song" on

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fatal Shore -- "Morning Dew" (1997)

Now there's no more morning dew
What they were sayin' all these years is true
'Cause there's no more morning dew

All of the versions of "Morning Dew" that were previously featured on 2 or 3 lines were recorded in the sixties.

I haven't exhausted the sixties covers of the song -- Lulu (of "To Sir With Love" fame) recorded it . . . as did Duane and Gregg Allman (before the Allman Brothers Band was formed) . . . as did Lee Hazlewood (best known for his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra) . . . as did the Grateful Dead.

(I was tempted to feature one of many live Grateful Dead versions of "Morning Dew."  After all, the Grateful Dead were a hugely popular band, and they performed this song live for decades.  But that temptation passed quickly when I listened to a few of the band's performances of "Morning Dew."  Generally speaking, the Dead were godawful musicians.  It's become a cliche to observe that the popularity of the group is largely explained by the fact that their audiences were usually as high as kites, and would have cheered lustily for the screeching of a couple of unneutered cats having at it in an alley fight.)

There were plenty of covers of "Morning Dew" in the subsequent decades as well -- including those by Nazareth, Clannad, Long John Baldry, Devo, Screaming Trees, Led Zeppelin alumnus Robert Plant, Mungo Jerry, and Serena Ryder.

One of the more interesting "Morning Dew" covers from the eighties was the one done by Einst├╝rzende Neubaten (a German avant-garde group).  Click here if you'd like to hear it.  

I think it's time to bring the "Morning Dew" series to an end -- I don't want to try your patience too much.  (After all, I already try the patience of some of you more than enough with pictures of Kim Kardashian's posterior.)  Today 2 or 3 lines is featuring a 1997 cover of "Morning Dew" by Fatal Shore.

The Fatal Shore album
A lot of Johnny Cash songs featured what was termed a "freight train" rhythm -- boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom, etc.  Fatal Shore's cover of "Morning Dew" features that rhythm and has a "western" (as opposed to country-western) feel generally.

That's odd given that the band was formed in Berlin, Germany, in 1996.  And that's odd given that the founders -- the late Bruno Adams and Phil Shoenfelt -- were born in Australia and England, respectively.  

According to the official Fatal Shore website, Adams and Shoenfelt originally got together for a tour of war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina.  During that tour, they were fired upon by Serbian snipers and attacked by axe-wielding mujahideen.  While they were in Slovakia the next year to record their debut (and eponymous) album, Fatal Shore was held captive on a train by Ukrainian guest workers who wanted to hear one more song.

Shoenfelt and Adams
After the death of Bruno Adams in 2009, Shoenfelt and Fatal Shore drummer Chris Hughes formed a new band called Dim Locator (whatever that means).  They describe their music as "stripped-down industrial psych[edelic]-rock with influences from The Stooges, Beasts of Bourbon, The Birthday, Pink Fairies and Hawkwind."  So many bands, so little time . . .

Here's the Fatal Shore's cover of "Morning Dew":

Click here to buy this track from Amazon:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Robert Earl Keen -- "Merry Christmas from the Family" (1994)

Carve the turkey
Turn the ball game on 
It's margaritas when the eggnog's gone

Is Christmas a big drinking holiday at your house?

When I was a kid, my family woke up early on Christmas morning and drove a couple of hours south to Goshen, Arkansas, where my maternal great-grandparents lived.

My grandmother was one of seven kids, most of whom were quite fruitful and multiplied, so you can imagine how many cousins there were a couple of generations later.

A redneck Christmas wreath
I remember my great-aunts bustling around my great-grandmother's kitchen for hours to prepare big family Christmas dinners.  There were two dining-room tables completely covered with food each year.  (We ate off TV trays.)  The first one had ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans that had been grown in the garden and canned in the fall, and a whole lotta other stuff.  

The second table was covered with desserts -- cakes, pies, and a lot of desserts that involved Jello, fruit, and whipped cream.  I was not a big dessert eater when I was a kid (except for ice cream).  But many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins were big dessert eaters.  (My mother's family members were either overweight or not overweight, and either red-headed or not red-headed.  A fair number had really hit the lottery: they were overweight and red-headed.)

Robert Earl Keen
Like the family in this famous Robert Earl Keen Christmas song, my family was pretty much 100% redneck.  But my family didn't start making margaritas when the eggnog was gone.  We had eggnog, but it was strictly nonalcoholic, as were the rest of our Christmas beverages. 

My relatives constituted about two-thirds of the membership of the Goshen Church of the Nazarene, including the pianist and choir director and many of the choir members and Sunday-school teachers.  

Nazarenes do not believe in the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants, and I never saw a family member of mine drinking beer, wine, or anything else until I was a senior in college and visited a favorite cousin of mine who was living in Little Rock at the time.  As I recall, she and her friends and I made up for many Christmases of abstention in only one night.  

It appears that Robert Earl Keen's family included no Nazarenes.  There is no sign of a teetotaler in the Keen clan.

Divorce was pretty much unheard of in my grandmother's and mother's generations, although it popped up relatively often among the cousins of my generation.  Marital flexibility is something the Keen family have experience with:

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife, Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay

Like the Keens, we did enjoy our football on Christmas Day.  The problem was that Goshen was a fair spell away from the Fayetteville TV stations.  My great-grandparents had a big-ass TV antenna mounted on a pole that was about 100 feet high and hooked up to an electric motor that you could use to rotate it in such a way to maximize the signal strength.  Even with all that state-of-the-art circa 1965 technology, getting a clear picture on either of the two Fayetteville TV stations was hit or miss.

Old TV antenna rotator control box
My Christmas routine is completely different these days.  I live a long way from Goshen -- the last time I saw more a couple of my Arkansas aunts, uncles, and cousins was at my grandmother's funeral about ten years ago.  

My last Goshen Christmas trip was in 1983, I believe.  I'm reasonably certain of that date because my first-born child was born that year, and I know we flew back to visit my parents and then drove down to Goshen to see my Arkansas relatives -- especially my great-grandmother, who was 95 at the time.  We have a picture of her with my grandmother, my mother, myself, and my son -- all of us were the oldest in our generation.

I'm featuring this song today at the request of someone I've known virtually my entire life.  And I mean that literally.  I was born just a few days before she was, and she says our mothers' hospital stays overlapped.  I can't say I remember her from the maternity ward, but I definitely remember her from kindergarten.  (She was sort of a homely little thing back then, but she turned out OK.)

About ten days ago, this friend e-mailed me to request that I feature this song for Christmas.  She obviously has no appreciation for how a wildly popular blog like 2 or 3 lines operates.  We have production schedules, and publication deadlines, and exquisitely timed publicity campaigns, and all that jazz.  Squeezing a post in on such short notice is like parallel parking the Queen Mary -- this baby doesn't exactly turn on a dime.

You might have thought she would volunteer to write a guest post -- there's a lot more that goes into producing a post than just the writing, but at least that would have minimized the workload on me and my staff (some of whom are very delicate, and don't handle pressure well).

But it is Christmas, and she's a girl, and 2 or 3 lines gives girls special treatment because it likes girls better than boys.  So we're featuring "Merry Christmas from the Family" today.  Even though Robert Earl Keen went to Texas A&M.  (You owe me, hon.)

Some of you may look at the final product and ask yourself, "What is Mr. 2 of 3 Lines bellyachin' about?  He cut and pasted some lines from the song, snatched a few photos off the internet, and spent most of his time leading us on yet another narcissistic and poorly edited stroll down memory lane.  Total time invested looks to be 20, maybe 25 minutes."

Don't kid yourself.  It was closer to 30.

Robert Earl Keen recorded "Merry Christmas from the Family" in 1994, and released it on his Gringo Honeymoon album.  It quickly became a cult favorite.  (Keen calls it the Rocky Horror Picture Show of Christmas songs because everyone always sings along when he performs it.)  

Keen released a live version of the song on a 1996 album.  He wrote a sequel to the song ("Happy Holidays Y'All") and published a book with the same title in 2001.  Mr. Keen obviously knows a good thing when he sees it, and he's milking this little ditty for all it's worth.

Keen's 2001 book
Here's Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family":  

Click here to buy a copy of the song from Amazon: 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sleigh Bells -- "Comeback Kid" (2012)

You're gone away 
But you'll be back some day

I've been saving this one until the right time.  And if Christmas Eve isn't the perfect time to feature a song by a group called the Sleigh Bells, you can butter my buns and call me a biscuit.

Let's get right to the music video for "Comeback Kid," shall we?

I'm not sure what you were hoping to get for Christmas from 2 or 3 lines, but I think a video that opens with a chick jumping up and down on a bed in slow motion while wearing a hot-pink bathrobe and holding a hunting rifle (complete with 'scope) is a pretty good present.

Alexis Krauss of the Sleigh Bells
The Sleigh Bells are a duo consisting of Alexis Krauss (the lead singer -- she's the one with the hunting rifle) and Derek Miller (who plays all the instruments).  "Comeback Kid" was the first single from their second album, Reign of Terror, which was released in February 2012.  

Here's a picture of the album's cover.

The story goes that during one of their live performances, Miller accidentally hit Krauss in the head with his guitar, and some of the blood from her wound ended up on her shoes.  Voil├á -- they had a cover for Reign of Terror.

Here's what Miller had to say about the album's cover when it was released:

If Keds are a symbol of youth and purity, having them tainted can be seen as a loss of innocence; a lot of life has happened to me in a very, very short period of time.  And the shoes are a reflection of Alexis as well.  She wears Keds every night on stage.  It's a ritual.  So I feel like we're both present in that cover. Aside from all that, it also just works as a striking, bad-ass image.

Miller is clearly full of sh*t, and so are a lot of other young indie musicians.  But being full of sh*t is not limited to the current generation -- a lot of older musicians (Mick Jagger comes to mind) were full of sh*t as well.

Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss pose for GQ
I wouldn't be surprised if Miller was responsible for the press release that accompanied Reign of Terror, and which describes the album as "the sonic equivalent of a beautiful shotgun to the head."

Critics are full of sh*t, too.  The music of the Sleigh Bells has been described by critic as noise pop, indie rock, dance-punk, synth punk, digital hardcore, etc., etc. -- do those terms really tell you anything?  "Noise pop" actually isn't a bad way to describe the Sleigh Bells' music, but all those other labels are either just plain wrong or so general and all-inclusive as to be useless.

You're going to love how Krauss and Miller got together.  

Miller joined a hardcore band based in south Florida when he was 17, playing guitar for them for five years before quitting to write songs.  He waited tables and bartender to pay the bills.  

At about the same time Miller joined his band, Krauss joined a tween pop group -- she was 12 at the time.  After the group broke up several years later, Krauss went to college, taught Spanish at a Bronx elementary school, and moonlighted by singing at weddings.

In 2008 Miller moved to Brooklyn expressly to find a female vocalist for some song demos he wanted to do.  He got a job at Miss Favela, a Brazilian bistro (which the Brazilians would call a botequim) in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood.

Miss Favela
One day, Krauss and her mother walked into the restaurant.  Miller was their waiter, and he mentioned that he was a songwriter in search of a singer.  Krauss's mom immediately nominated her for the job.  Miller played his demos for her, and the rest is history.

Krauss told the New York Times that she was pursuing a Rhodes Scholarship at the time, but that "with her family's blessing" she decided to join musical forces with Miller.

Let me translate this:

1.  "Pursuing a Rhodes Scholarship" sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it?  When I was in law school, there was a very good wide receiver on the Harvard football team was repeatedly touted as a "Rhodes Scholar candidate" in the local press.  A friend of mine who had gone to Harvard College with this scholar-athlete shed some light on how one becomes a Rhodes Scholar.  "You go to this office on campus, pick up a Rhodes Scholar application form, fill it out, and hand it in" he explained.  "Then you're a Rhodes Scholar candidate."

Cecil Rhodes, who established
the Rhodes Scholarship program
2.  As for having her family's blessing, Krauss's father was a New Jersey musician -- musicians have no common sense, and musicians who end up in New Jersey instead of the Big Apple are likely to be desperate to see their kids do better.  As for Mrs. Krauss, she was obviously a major stage mother who would do anything to help her wonderful little girl become a star.

Don't get me wrong -- I like the Sleigh Bells.  "Comeback Kid" is one of the better singles of 2012, and the video is pretty entertaining.

So here's the "Comeback Kid" video one more time so you don't have to wear out your poor widdle fingers scrolling all the way back up to the top of this post:

You can use this link to buy "Comeback Kid" from Amazon:

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Damnation of Adam Blessing -- "Morning Dew" (1969)

Thought I heard a young girl cryin', too
Thought I heard a young girl cryin', too
You didn't hear no young girl cryin'

The Damnation of Adam Blessing was a Cleveland group that formed in 1968 and issued three albums in the next three years.  The band’s frontman was a guy named Bill Constable, who got the name of the band from a 1961 Vin Packer mystery titled The Damnation of Adam Blessing.  (I don't think Constable ever read the book.  Apparently he just saw the name in an advertisement in the back of a different paperback.)

(Vin Packer was actually one of several pseudonyms used by author Marijane Meaker, who wrote the very popular lesbian pulp novel Spring Fire in 1952, and later wrote several nonfiction books about gay men and lesbians.)

The group was a very popular live act in Cleveland, and once headlined at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles.  They opened for a number of legendary rock-and-rollers (Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Traffic, Grand Funk, and Alice Cooper –and their fellow Clevelanders, the James Gang), but none of their albums was a commercial success.  The group changed their name to Glory, released one more album, and broke up in 1973.

The band’s music is usually described as psychedelic or acid rock, but they weren’t exactly consistent when it came to musical style.  Allmusic compares them to the Yardbirds, Amboy Dukes, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Moby Grape, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. 

The cover of The Damnation of Adam Blessing (1969)
Most of the songs that The Damnation of Adam Blessing recorded were originals, but they did some covers as well – including a rather odd “Last Train to Clarksville” and a version of “Morning Dew” that sounds nothing like Bonnie Dobson’s original.  (Both songs are on the group's eponymous debut album, which was released in 1969.)

Their "Morning Dew" does sound quite a bit like the Jeff Beck Group’s version, which had been released the year before.  (I actually like Adam Blessing’s vocal better than Rod Stewart’s.)

Ray Benich takes a solo in 1970
In 1972, when the group was playing at a club in Ft. Lauderdale, a “dark-haired beauty from Delaware” named Sarah caught the eye of the band’s bass player, Ray Benich.  I’ll let Ray tell you what happened next.

After our last set of the night, [which ended] around 4 a.m., as the night owls drift[ed] their separate ways, I saw Sarah standing on the dance floor talking to her girlfriend.  I approached her from behind, and without saying a word, I gently placed my hands on her hips and drew her body next to mine.  As the contours of our bodies met I could feel the energy flow.  For a few seconds she hesitated, then turned to me and said, "Do you always introduce yourself like that?”  Sheepishly I confessed, "No, I'm sorry, you just looked soooo beautiful, I lost control."

After returning to Cleveland, Ray got a call from Sarah.  At that point, things began to get complicated.

When Sarah came to Cleveland, several weeks later (having phoned from Lauderdale to say, "I'm on my way to New York, on a fashion assignment, I was wondering if I could stop over in Cleveland to see you"?) it was inevitable that this situation would be viewed in a dim light by my first wife Sue. 

Hold the phone -- so Ray was married?  Don't you love the way he slips that fact in?  ("Viewed in a dim light by my wife"?  That may the understatement of all understatements.)

Sue and her family hated my career and almost everything it brought me into contact with, other than the money. They tried their best to talk me into giving up music and going to work for her father, who was an executive at the Ford plant in Cleveland.  This very issue had a great deal to do with exactly why I was "playing around" on Sue.  When I met Sarah I was in fact looking for a friend, a lover that would accept me for what I was.  When both girls started showing up at the bands gigs in the Cleveland, area, it presented some very sensitive situations, that the other band members found quite amusing.

But the eventual outcome of Ray’s affair with Sarah was far from amusing.

I had fallen so deeply in lust with this girl, how could I have ever imagined, in my wildest dreams, that one day she would silently stand by and watch as an attempt was made to murder me.  And when that failed, she would lie under oath in a court of law, to help insure my conviction to charges that would equal more than a life sentence.

A Delaware prison
Ray’s account of what happened next is somewhat unclear.  What is clear is that he was involved in “a crime of passion” – a shooting.  Ray is at pains to point out that “no one was permanently injured,” which I take to mean that someone was injured.  

In spite of having no prior criminal record “except for that Glory album” – give Ray credit for maintaining a sense of humor – Benich was sentenced to 27 years in prison.  He ended up serving 17 years and 10 months in Delaware prisons.

After his release in 2000, Ray Benich briefly reunited with his The Damnation of Adam Blessing bandmates for a reunion concert at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Benich after his release from prison
Ray Benich has written a book about his experiences titled Illusions of Justice.  I don’t think it has been published, but you can click here if you'd like to read some excerpts from it on Ray’s website.

Here's an excerpt from a lecture Ray Benich gave to a sociology class at the University of Tennessee after he was released from prison:

Here's Damnation of Adam Blessing's cover of "Morning Dew":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Morning Dew -- "Young Man" (1969)

When I was a young man
I had my ups and downs

Some things never change, do they?

Let's take a break from our current series, which features some of the many versions of Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew," and feature a song by the group Morning Dew.

In 1961, Mal Robinson and Don Sligar were schoolmates at Holliday Junior High School in Topeka, Kansas.  With various friends, they formed several bands -- like the Impax, the Durations, the Runaways, and the Toads.

Check out the Impax, a Ventures-style instrumental band from 1963.  (These dweebs made my old group, the Rogues -- who wore white dinner jackets and ascots when we appeared as 8th graders at the 1966 South Junior High "May Fete" -- look almost cool.)

The members of the Toads liked the Tim Rose version of "Morning Dew" so much that they changed their name to Morning Dew in 1966.  (It appears that Morning Dew never recorded "Morning Dew," however -- I wonder if they ever performed it live?)  

Once the Toads, now Morning Dew
For the next several years, Morning Dew criss-crossed Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, occasionally taking a few days off to record a single at a local recording studio.  

Roulette Records became interested in the group based on a demo they recorded in the summer of 1968 at Fairyland Studios in Columbia, Missouri, but the band's original bass player had been drafted and the label wanted to hear what the new lineup sounded like before offering them a deal.  

So the Morning Dew returned to Fairyland in May 1969 and recorded "Young Man" -- like most of their original songs, it was written by singer-guitarist Mal Robinson.  They recorded a cover of "Get Together" by the Youngbloods the same day.

That's Mal Robinson at the mike
Roulette must have liked what they heard because they signed Morning Dew to a two-record deal shortly thereafter, and the boys drove to New York City a couple of months later and recorded an eponymous album.  For some reason, it wasn't released for a year.  

The album didn't sell, despite having a nude couple on the cover.  (Unfortunately for us red-blooded males, you see a lot more of the guy than the girl -- he does have a nice butt, ladies.)

The group recorded more original music in the summer of 1970, but Roulette never released a second album.  Morning Dew broke up in 1971 but reunited in 2010 to play together one more time when they were inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.  Click here for a video of them performing "Young Man" that night.

"Young Man" sounds a little like the MC5, who had released their first album just a few months before.  The most distinctive thing about it is the very abrupt key change that occurs at 1:40 of the song.  The band returns to the original key just before "Young Man" ends.  

I'm not sure what I think about that key change.  The song has a killer hook, but it is a bit repetitive, I suppose -- the key change shakes things up, but I think I would have been quite happy without it.

Here's "Young Man":

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bonnie Dobson -- "Morning Dew" (1969)

You can't go walking in the morning dew today
You can't go walking in the morning dew today

In 1969, Bonnie Dobson re-recorded “Morning Dew” for an eponymous album that was released in the United States on RCA.  

The album was produced by Jack Richardson, a Canadian who is best-known as the Guess Who’s producer.  (Richardson also produced albums by Alice Cooper, Poco, Badfinger, and Bob Seger’s very successful Night Moves.)

Dobson’s previous album had what one reviewer termed a “sparse, chaste style” – most of the tracks featured only Dobson’s voice and an acoustic guitar.  (Think early Joan Baez.)  But her 1969 album represented a shift in style from traditional folk to middle-of-the-road pop – the arrangements incorporated a little percussion but a lot of strings.  (Think Bobbie Gentry without the Southern accent.)

I like this arrangement of “Morning Dew” a lot.  Dobson has a very pure soprano voice, and her vocal style is simple and straightforward.  There’s nothing groundbreaking about the arrangement or her performance, but there’s nothing objectionable either.   Primum non nocere – “first, do no harm” – applies to musical performance as much as it does to the practice of medicine.

The lyrics on Dobson's 1969 recording of "Morning Dew" are slightly different from the original lyrics.  This version has five verses, although the first and last verses are essentially identical.

Bonnie Dobson in 1969
Each verse consists of two pairs of repeated lines.  The second pair of lines seems to be spoken by a different person, and represent a negative response to the first pair of lines.

For example, here's the first (and last) verse:

Take me for a walk in the morning dew, my honey
Take me for a walk in the morning dew, my love  
You can't go walking in the morning dew today
You can't go walking in the morning dew today

The first speaker in the second verse says (twice) "I hear a man moaning, 'Lord.'"  The second speaker responds by saying (twice) "You didn't hear a man moan at all."

In the third verse, the first speaker says "I know I hear my baby crying, 'Mama!'" and then repeats herself.  But her companion answers in the negative: "You'll never hear your baby cry again" (and then repeats himself).

Finally, the first speaker in the fourth verse twice asks "Where have all the people gone?"  Mr. Answerman twice responds "Don't you worry about the people anymore."

So the whole song really has only eight lines.  It doesn't seem as if it would be that hard to come up with eight lines.  But I've never come up with eight lines that I've turned into a song.  (Have you?)  Bonnie Dobson has, which is why 2 or 3 lines is talking about her today.

Bonnie Dobson in 2009
By the way, Bonnie released yet another version of "Morning Dew" on her 2010 album, Looking Back.  I don't like that arrangement as much as the one on the 1969 recording, but I think her voice is just as pure and beautiful as it was 40 years ago.  (It's hard to believe she was almost 70 when Looking Back was recorded.)

Here’s Bonnie Dobson’s 1969 recording of “Morning Dew”:  

Click the link below to buy the 2010 version of "Morning Dew" from Amazon:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jeff Beck Group -- "Morning Dew" (1968)

Thought I heard a young man cryin'
Thought I heard a young man cryin' today
You didn't hear no young man cryin'

You could say that the Yardbirds had some pretty good lead guitarists.  Eric Clapton joined the band in late 1963.  Jeff Beck replaced him in May 1965.  Beck’s good friend, Jimmy Page, joined the band in 1966 – initially he played bass – and remained when the band gave Beck the boot later that year.  Rolling Stone ranked those guys as #2, #5, and #3 on their “100 Top Guitarists” list.

Jeff Beck
After he was fired by the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck formed the Jeff Beck Group.  Rod Stewart was the group’s lead singer and Ronnie Wood (who later joined the Rolling Stones) its rhythm guitarist.   "Morning Dew" is from the group's 1968 debut album, Truth.  

The most interesting song on the album -- an instrumental titled "Beck's Bolero" -- had been recorded in the spring of 1966 by Beck, Keith Moon of the Who, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones (a busy session musician who shortly thereafter joined forces with Jimmy Page to form Led Zeppelin), and Nicky Hopkins (best known for his keyboard work on several classic Rolling Stones albums).

Beck had hoped to record an entire album with this group, but contractual difficulties presented what might have been the ultimate supergroup album from getting off the ground.  (Damn lawyers!)

Here's "Beck's Bolero," which was composed by Jimmy Page:

The Beck-Stewart-Wood lineup recorded one more album before Beck broke up the band just before a scheduled appearance at a little outdoor music festival which has come to be known as “Woodstock.”  Bad timing, n’est-ce pas?

The Jeff Beck Group
Beck's "Morning Dew" followed the Tim Rose template rather than the Bonnie Dobson-Fred Neil template.  For example, the Dobson version said "I hear a young man moaning', Lord," while Fred Neil and Vince Martin sang "I heard a young man moanin', Lord."  But there Rose-Beck versions go with the lines quoted above.  

The Rose and Beck recordings have another verse that is almost exactly the same, except that it refers to a young girl instead of a young man, although Rose the "young girl" verse before the "young man" verse, while Rod Stewart sings those two verses in reverse order.  (I don't read much into that -- it was probably just an accident.)

Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in 2009
Beck's version is also like Rose's when it comes to being more rock-and-roll than folk in style.  

Here's Jeff Beck's version of "Morning Dew," featuring Rod Stewart on vocals:

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tim Rose -- "Morning Dew" (1966)

Now there's no more morning dew
What they were sayin' all these years is so true
They have chased away all our morning dew

You regular readers of 2 or 3 lines may be surprised to see me posting on a Thursday.  

("Surprised?" I can hear you saying to yourselves.  "Thrilled is more like it!")

I usually post three times a week -- Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.  (Except for February, when I post each and every day, and twice on SuperBowl Sunday.)  This week, you're getting a bonus fourth 2 or 3 lines at absolutely no extra charge -- you don't even have to pay additional shipping and handling!

Of course, the free bonus post is about a cover of the same song that was featured in the previous two posts.  Back in the day, I might have written one big-ass post featuring not only the original version of "Morning Dew" but also all the significant cover versions.

Now that I'm an experienced blogger, I've learned to break those long posts into four or five small ones . . . make it look like the reader is getting more product when he or she is really getting less.  (Hey, I'm a busy guy.  I still have a lot of Christmas shopping to do.)

Why am I giving you this peek behind the curtain of my wildly successful blog?  Because I'm honest with my readers -- I believe in full transparency.  Also because I've pumped this post full of enough hot air that I only have to do a cursory research job on Tim Rose to end up with enough material.

Tim Rose grew up in the Washington, DC, area in the fifties, and graduated from Gonzaga College Prep School, a noted Jesuit all-boys high school near the U.S. Capitol.  

After a brief stint with the Air Force, Rose joined forces with his boyhood friend, the late Scott McKenzie, who had a big hit in 1967 with "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," and John Phillips (of Mamas & Papas fame) to form a group.  Later, Rose was in a folk trio called "The Big 3" with Cass Elliot before going solo.

In 1966, Rose's single of "Hey Joe" was getting a lot of airplay, especially in San Francisco.  The song had been copyrighted in 1962 by singer Billy Roberts, but Rose claimed he had heard the song sung when he was child and credited himself as the author of the song on his single.  Jimi Hendrix released his version of "Hey Joe" -- which was similar in style to Rose's -- later that year.

Rose's 1966 cover of "Morning Dew" was inspired by the Fred Neil-Vince Martin version.  Rose claimed a co-writing credit for the song, which outraged the song's creator Bonnie Dobson.

"If anyone is going to be credited as co-writer or co-lyricist, it should have been Fred Neil because all Tim Rose did was take Freddy Neil's changes," Dobson said in a 1993 interview.  "I've written songs with other people and never claimed them for my own.  I just think it was a dreadfully dishonest thing to do."

The lines quoted at the beginning of this post are from Rose's cover of the song -- the Bonnie Dobson and Fred Neil-Vince Martin versions did not include those words.  I thought that the "morning dew" referred to the radioactive fallout that was about to snuff out the lives of the people who had survived the fictional nuclear war in the movie On the Beach, which inspired Dobson to write this song.  In Rose's version, "morning dew" seems to refer to . . . morning dew.

Rose's take on "Morning Dew" is much more rock-and-roll than Bonnie Dobson's or Fred Neil's.  It influenced many of the bands who did subsequent covers of the song -- those covers use Rose's lyrics and feature a similar musical style.  

Tim Rose in 2002
Rose released six albums between 1967 and 1976, but then his career stalled.  He worked as a construction laborer, sang jingles and did voiceover work, graduated from Fordham University in 1984 (when he was 43), and worked for a time as a stockbroker.

With the help of Nick Cave, Rose moved to the UK and revived his career in the nineties.  He released his final album in 2002, and died of a heart attack later that year.

Here's Tim Rose's version of "Morning Dew":

Here's a link you can use to buy a CD of Rose's 1969 album, Through Rose Colored Glasses (which includes "Morning Dew"), from Amazon: