Monday, February 29, 2016

Rolling Stones – "Gimme Shelter" (1969)

A storm is threatening
My very life today

The great rock critic, Greil Marcus, once said that "the Stones have never done anything better" than "Gimme Shelter.”  He couldn’t have been righter.   

"Gimme Shelter” is the opening track on the Rolling Stones' best album, Let It Bleed.  It begins with a nervous, twitchy guitar solo by Keith Richards, but then drummer Charlie Watts – always unsung, but perhaps the most essential of all the  Stones – takes over, propelling the song down the tracks as only he can.  

Mick Jagger's lead vocal is unusually strong, but the crucial element of "Gimme Shelter" – the one thing that lifts it above just about anything else the Stones ever recorded – is backup singer Merry Clayton.

I’ve written about “Gimme Shelter” before.  I’m not sure how you could have expected me to write about a thousand different songs without writing about “Gimme Shelter,” which belongs on the Mt.  Rushmore of rock songs.  

(What other rock songs belong on Mt. Rushmore?  That’s not an easy question to answer.  Maybe “Helter Skelter,” by the Beatles.  Maybe “I Can See For Miles” by the Who, and “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds.  Maybe Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” or Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.”  And there are some other worthy candidates.)

Click here to read my original “Gimme Shelter” post, which focused on Merry Clayton.

Scorsese and Robert DeNiro
on the set of "Goodfellas"
Martin Scorsese has used a lot of classic pop and rock songs on his movie soundtracks, including a half-dozen or so songs by his favorites, the Rolling Stones.

“Gimme Shelter” is on the soundtracks of no fewer than three of Scorsese’s movies: Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed.  Here’s a video containing the “Gimme Shelter’ scenes from all three of those movies:

I hope you enjoyed this year's "29 Songs in 29 Days."  NOT THAT ANY OF YOU SAID YOU ENJOYED IT AND THANKED ME FOR DOING IT.

What the hell – just click on an ad or two and we'll call it even.

Here’s “Gimme Shelter”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rolling Stones – "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1968)

I was crowned 
With a spike right through my head

When I was in college, I went to a lot of afternoon movie showings.  The price was right, and a dark, air-conditioned movie theater was a great place to escape the heat and humidity of a Houston afternoon.  

My college years – 1970 to 1974 – were a veritable golden age of American movies.  We’re talking about masterpieces like The Godfather (Parts I and II), Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show, The French Connection, American Graffiti, Badlands, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Conversation . . . and directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, George Lucas, and Terence Malick.

Martin Scorsese’s 1973 low-budget masterpiece, Mean Streets, is as good as any of those movies.  The critics went gaga over it: the Rotten Tomatoes website gives Mean Streets a 98% rating – which means that 49 out of the 50 critics who reviewed liked it.  (Try to think of something else you can get 49 out of 50 people to agree on.)

The soundtracks of many of Scorsese’s best movies utilize classic pop and rock songs, and Mean Streets is no exception.

Scorsese on the set of "Mean Streets"
with Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel
One of the great scenes in the movie is the one that introduces the character “Johnny Boy” (played by Robert DeNiro) to the audience.  The scene, which was shot in slow motion, depicts DeNiro strolling into a Little Italy bar that is inhabited mostly by small-time hoods and Mafia wannabes.  DeNiro has two coeds on his arm, and is the very essence of cool.  “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is the perfect song to accompany the scene.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was also used in the soundtrack of the 1986 movie of the same name, a spy comedy directed by Penny Marshall and starring Whoopi Goldberg.  The closing credits of that movie roll to a cover of the song by Aretha Franklin – the less said about Aretha’s version of one of the Stones’ most electric songs ever, the better.

Here’s a live performance of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”:

Click here to buy the studio version of the song from Amazon:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rolling Stones – "Monkey Man" (1969)

Yes, I'm a sack of broken eggs
I always have an unmade bed
Don't you?

I’ve always wondered what the point of making your bed is – after all, you’re just going to get back into it when it’s time to go to sleep tonight and mess it up again . . . right?  

I also don’t understand why you have to put your bath towel in the washing machine.  You’re clean when you use a bath towel, so the towel doesn’t get dirty – it just gets wet.  So why the need for the washing machine?

Rolling Stone magazine ranks the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed #32 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

That’s about 31 spots too low.

I wouldn’t insist on ranking Let It Bleed as the best album of all time.  You could make a case for Pet Sounds or Revolver or Are You Experienced or the first Led Zeppelin album, all of which rightfully made the magazine's top 15.  

But I would give Let It Bleed the nod over all of them because it is the Platonic ideal of a rock album – Jagger sneers and leers, Richards slashes, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman are rock steady, and the dollops of piano, vibraphone, and tenor sax contributed by various guest musicians add just the right amount of seasoning to the basic Rolling Stones stew.

And let’s not forget Merry Clayton’s heart-rending vocals on “Gimme Shelter” – not only the best song on Let It Bleed, but the best song period.

Rolling Stone also ranked U2’s The Joshua Tree and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and The White Album ahead of Let It Bleed.  YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

The arrangements of the songs on Let It Bleed are almost perfect – none more so than “Monkey Man,” which begins quietly before some defibrillator-like chords from good ol’ Keith Richards give you a jolt.  From that point on, the song is 50% controlled, 50% chaotic . . . the tried-and-true Rolling Stones formula for success.

Two different snippets of “Monkey Man” are heard during the incomparable “Last Day as a Wise Guy” sequence at the end of Goodfellas.  Click here to view a fascinating discussion of that sequence.

Here’s “Monkey Man”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Rolling Stones – "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" (1971)

Can't you hear me knocking?
Throw me down the keys!

Martin Scorsese l-o-v-e-s him some Rolling Stones.

No director uses more classic pop and rock songs in his movies than Scorsese.  (And no director uses the eff word more than Marty – The Wolf of Wall Street uses “f*ck” 506 times, which is the all-time record.)

Scorsese featured a lot of Stones songs in his movies.  He used all seven minutes and 15 seconds of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” to accompany a long sequence in his 1995 movie, Casino.  Here’s part of that sequence:

“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” was originally supposed to be a three-minute song.  The long instrumental jam that began when Mick Jagger stopped singing was more or less accidental.

According to Stones guitarist Mick Taylor,

[The jam at the end] just happened by accident; that was never planned.  Towards the end of the song I just felt like carrying on playing.  Everybody was putting their instruments down, but the tape was still rolling and it sounded good, so everybody quickly picked up their instruments again and carried on playing.  It just happened, and it was a one-take thing. 

Mick Taylor and Keith Richards
Mick Taylor replaced original Stones member Brian Jones in 1969, and played on three of the group’s very best albums – Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street – before quitting the band unexpectedly in December 1974.  His long solo on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” may have been his finest moment as a Stone.

But as good as Taylor’s solo was, the guitar work of Keith Richards during the first third of the song is even better.  

If you want to learn to play Keith’s famous opening riff, there’s no shortage of instructional videos that will teach you how to do just that:

Here’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Harry Nilsson – "Jump Into the Fire" (1971)

You can climb a mountain
You can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire
But you'll never be free

I really don’t know why I bother with you people.    

No one has guessed what this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days” have in common – even though I gave you clue after clue after clue.  

And even though all you would have had to do to get the answer was take six or seven of the songs’ titles and put them into a Google search.

Are you all so clueless that you never thought to do that?  Or is the problem apathy?

Maybe we’re dealing with cluelessness and apathy.

Scorsese and DeNiro
In any event, this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days” all appear on the soundtracks of Martin Scorsese movies.  To be precise, they were taken from Martin Scorsese movies that starred either Robert DeNiro or Leonardo DiCaprio.

We’re talking classics like Mean Streets (“Be My Baby,” “Mickey’s Monkey”), Goodfellas (“Then He Kissed Me,” “Beyond the Sea,” “Sunshine of Your Love,’ “Layla”), Casino (“Working in the Coal Mine,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Boogaloo Down Broadway”), The Departed (“Baby Blue,” “Sail On, Sailor”), and Wolf of Wall Street (“Bang! Bang!,” “Never Say Never,” “Uncontrollable Urge”).

Scorsese and DiCaprio
If you’re a Scorsese fan, you know that he used a number of Rolling Stones songs in his movies.  I’m saving the best for last – the final four songs I’m featuring in this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days” are Rolling Stones songs (including one that Scorsese used in not one . . . not two . . . but three of his movies).

“Jump Into the Fire” accompanies the astonishing “Last Day as a Wise Guy” sequence of Goodfellas – probably the best thing Scorsese ever did.  

Watch this video and you’ll fully appreciate just how remarkable that sequence is:

The late Harry Nilsson was one of a kind.  

His two biggest hits – “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “Without You” – were written by other songwriters, while the best-known song he ever wrote – “One” – became a hit for Three Dog Night.

Nilsson had a strange sense of humor, as songs like “Coconut” (“You put de lime in de coconut”) and “You’re Breakin’ My Heart” (“You’re breaking’ my heart, you’re tearing’ it apart, so f*ck you”) demonstrate.

Click here to view the trailer for a 2010 documentary about Nilsson.

I think “Jump Into the Fire” (which was released on 1971's Nilsson Schmilsson album) is the best track Nilsson ever recorded.  James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem seems to agree – “Jump Into the Fire” was the penultimate song that LCD Soundsystem performed at its farewell concert in 2011:

Here’s the album version of “Jump Into the Fire”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Derek and the Dominos – "Layla" (1970)

Tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down

Everyone knows that Eric Clapton wrote “Layla” for Pattie Boyd when she was still married to his close friend and musical collaborator, George Harrison.  

George Harrison and Pattie Boyd
What you may not know is that the song was named for the heroine of 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi’s most famous work, Layla and Majnun.

In case you’re wondering how the hell Eric Clapton became acquainted with a 12th-century Persian poem, he received a copy of it from Ian Dallas, a Scottish playwright and actor who had converted to Islam in 1967, taking the name Abdalqadir as-Sufi.    

In Layla and Majnun, a young man named Qays becomes so obsessed with a young woman named Layla that the people in his community begin to refer to him as Majnun (which means “madman”). 

Layla and Majnun
Layla’s father refuses to allow her to wed Qays.  Instead, he marries her off to a rich merchant.  The heartbroken Qays leaves his tribe’s camp and wanders in the surrounding desert until he dies. 

Unlike Qays, Clapton eventually got what he wanted.  From Boyd’s autobiography:

We met secretly at a flat in South Kensington. Eric Clapton had asked me to come because he wanted me to listen to a new number he had written.

He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was “Layla,” about a man who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable.

Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd
He played it to me two or three times, all the while watching my face intently for my reaction.  My first thought was: “Oh God, everyone's going to know this is about me.”

I was married to Eric's close friend, George Harrison, but Eric had been making his desire for me clear for months.  I felt uncomfortable that he was pushing me in a direction in which I wasn't certain I wanted to go.

But with the realization that I had inspired such passion and creativity, the song got the better of me.  I could resist no longer.

Pattie Boyd's autobiography,
"Wonderful Tonight"
Clapton also wrote “Wonderful Tonight” for Boyd.  (He penned that song just before attending Paul and Linda McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly party with her.)  

Pattie divorced Harrison (who had written “Something” for her) and eventually married Clapton in 1979.  But they separated after only a few years.  Apparently man – or woman – does not live by love songs alone.

“Layla” is actually two songs in one.  Clapton wrote the first part – the part with the words and the famous Duane Allman guitar riff.  After recording that part of “Layla,” Clapton heard Derek and the Dominos drummer Jim Gordon playing a piece on the piano in the recording studio, and asked Gordon if he could use it in “Layla.”

Martin Scorsese famously used Gordon's piano coda in Goodfellas:

By the way, Jim Gordon used a hammer and a butcher knife to murder his mother in 1983.  He’s been in prison ever since.

Here’s “Layla”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Miracles – "Mickey's Monkey" (1963)

Monkey see, monkey do
C'mon, you can do the monkey, too

The Visual Thesaurus website has an article that discusses at some length the history of the expression, “Monkey see, monkey do.”  Click here to read it in its entirety.

Neal Whitman, the author of that piece, believes that it comes from an African folktale:

In a folktale from Mali, a hat salesman has his entire inventory of hats stolen by monkeys, who grab them while he naps under a tree, and then climb out of his reach.  Upon waking, he gestures and screams angrily at the monkeys, only to have them imitate his gesturing and screaming.  Finally, he throws his own hat to the ground in frustration.  The monkeys do the same, and happy ending ensures.

This story is retold in the 1999 book, The Hatseller and the Monkeys, by Baba Wague Diakite, who explains in an author's note that versions of this tale also exist in Egypt, Sudan, India, and England, and that ”the theme of a peddler having his wares ransacked by monkeys while taking a nap was a popular motif in European art during and after the Middle Ages." 

Whitman found a 1908 book that actually uses the phrase, “Monkey see, monkey do.”  He uncovered several older printed examples of “Monkey sees, monkey does” – oddly, all those examples appeared in newspaper advertisements for men’s shoe or clothing stores.

Here’s one example of a such an ad from an 1897 issue of a San Francisco newspaper:

Why “Monkey sees, monkey does” became “Monkey see, monkey do” is a mystery – as is the origin of “The Monkey,” a fad dance from 1963.

Don't know how to dance the monkey?  Just watch this video and you'll be monkeying around in no time:

“Mickey’s Monkey” was a top ten hit in 1963 for the Miracles (who later became Smokey Robinson and the Miracles).

The song was written by Motown’s most successful songwriting team: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland.  The background singers who sang on the record included Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, and members of the Temptations and the Marvelettes.

Here’s “Mickey’s Monkey”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, February 22, 2016

Beach Boys – "Sail On, Sailor" (1973)

Always needing
Even bleeding
Never feeding
All my feelings
Damn the thunder
Must I blunder
There's no wonder
All I'm under
Stop the crying
And the lying
And the sighing
And my dying

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.”

(That saying is sometimes attributed to John F. Kennedy, who said something very similar to that to a reporter after the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961.  He was actually paraphrasing Mussolini’s son-in-law and foreign minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, who said essentially the same thing – in Italian, of course – in 1942.)

Count Galeazzo Ciano
But when it comes to the lyrics for the Beach Boys’ “Sail On, Sailor,” it seems just the opposite is true.  The song’s lyrics are a train wreck.  (If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at the verse quoted above.)  But there’s no shortage of people claiming credit for fathering this musical child.

The liner notes for the 2000 reissue of Holland, the album that “Sail On, Sailor” was released on, stated that the song was originally written by Brian Wilson, the late Tandyn Almer (a forgotten genius whose greatest songwriting accomplishment was “Along Comes Mary”), and singer/songwriter/producer Ray Kennedy; that longtime Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks structured the song and added a “middle-eight”; and that the group’s manager, Jack Rieley, revised the lyrics at the last minute.  (All five of those men were given writing credits for the song.)

Brian Wilson later said that he wrote the music to “Sail On, Sailor,” and Kennedy wrote the lyrics.

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks
But longtime Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks told a very different story.  Parks claimed that he came up with a rough version of the song, recorded it on a Walkman, and played it for Wilson.  According to Parks, 

I came up with that lyric when I was working with Brian, as well as the musical pitches those words reside on. . . . I'm glad that every one came out of their little rooms to claim co-writing credit on that song [but] I authored the words and the musical intervals to "Sail on Sailor."  

Author Peter Ames Carlin has said that the song was essentially co-written by Wilson and Parks in 1971, but that Kennedy and Almer contributed lyrics during some impromptu sessions at the house of Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton.  

Kennedy has said that he, Wilson, and Hutton wrote “Sail On, Sailor” – which was originally intended for Three Dog Night – over the course of three days in 1970.  According to Kennedy,

We went in and cut the basic tracks with Three Dog Night; we hadn't slept in about a week.  Then Brian got up with a razor blade and cut the tapes and said, “Only Ray Kennedy or Van Dyke Parks can do this song.”  And he left.  We all stood there looking at each other going, “What?” 

I understand Kennedy’s reaction.  Right now, I’m sitting here looking at my cat and going, “What?”

Here’s “Sail On, Sailor,” which was released as a single in 1973, but did better when it was re-released in 1975:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Staple Singers – "I'll Take You There" (1972)

I know a place
Ain't nobody cryin'
Ain't nobody worried

Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his children (Cleotha, Pervis, Mavis, and Yvonne) started singing in Chicago-area churches in 1948, when “Pops” was 33 and the children ranged in age from nine to 14.

For some reason, they called themselves the Staple Singers – not the Staples Singers.

In the beginning
The group signed its first recording contract in 1952, and had a few hits with traditional gospel songs.  Their performing style took a sharp turn in the direction of Memphis soul when they signed with Stax Records in 1968.

“I’ll Take You There,” which was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama, made it to the #1 spot on both the Billboard “Hot 100” and rhythm-and-blues charts in 1972.  

Mavis Staples in 1972
The song is lyrically and musically quite simple and repetitive, but lead singer Mavis Staples absolutely kills it.

The short instrumental introduction was taken from “The Liquidator,” a 1969 reggae record by the Harry J Allstars:

Here’s “I’ll Take You There”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Donovan – "Atlantis" (1969)

Way down below the ocean 
Where I want to be 
She may be

I won’t lie to you, boys and girls.  I absolutely loved this song when it was released in 1969.

All of Donovan’s songs (with the possible exception of “Season of the Witch”) were hippy-dippy in the extreme, and “Atlantis” was the hippiest-dippiest of them all.  But I didn’t care – the song may have been a hot mess, but I loved it regardless.  

“Atlantis” was released in the U.S. as the b-side of “To Susan on the West Coast, Waiting.”  It somehow became a top ten single.  

The first third of the five-minute-long song was a bunch of spoken-word nonsense about the lost continent of Atlantis.  (In case you've got a lot of time on your hands, you can click on this link to be taken to a website that discusses all the mistakes in "Atlantis.")

The last two-thirds of the song consisted of the lyrics quoted above being sung over and over – by my count, the chorus was repeated 14 times.

Like “Atlantis,” “Hey Jude” by the Beatles and “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” by Grand Funk Railroad were very long songs that closed with choruses that were sung over and over.  I loved those songs, too.

“Atlantis” got a surprising amount of radio play back in the day.  When I was in high school, there were AM radio stations in Springfield, Missouri and Little Rock, Arkansas and other unlikely spots that I listened to that regularly played long songs like “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin, and “Midnight Rambler” by the Rolling Stones, and “Monster” by Steppenwolf.

“Atlantis” is featured in a scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro beat the crap out of a gangster nicknamed Billy Batts, shoot him in the head, and then drive him way out into the country to bury him.  (I took my older son to see Goodfellas when he was barely seven years old, and I vividly remember the look of horror on his face during this scene.)

So have you figured out the theme of this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days”?  No?  Geez Louise, it's as plain as the nose on your face.  (If it was a snake, it would have bit you.)

Here’s “Atlantis”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Badfinger – "Baby Blue" (1972)

Guess I got what I deserved
Kept you waiting there too long, my love

In the words of one pop music writer, Badfinger is “inextricably linked” to the Beatles:

  – After the Beatles started their own record label in 1968, Badfinger – then known as the Iveys – were the first group they signed to a recording contract.

  – Paul McCartney gave them the song that would be their first big hit: “Come and Get It,” which made it all the way to #7 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  (There was no better song to sing along to when you were a teenage boy driving around with you friends after school in 1970, the year the song was released.)

  – George Harrison produced the group’s biggest single, “Day After Day,” in 1971.

  – Members of the group contributed to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album and Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” single.

The media compared Badfinger to the Beatles for the entirety of their career – and for good reason.  “The thing that impressed me so much was how similar their voices were to the Beatles,” producer Tony Visconti said.  “I sometimes had to look over the control board down into the studio to make sure John and Paul weren't singing lead vocals.”

Badfinger eventually left Apple to sign with Warner Bros.  The band’s management contract provided that all its sales royalties and other income was to be paid to its manager, Stan Polley, who was supposed to pay the band members salaries and invest the rest.  Polly’s financial shenanigans resulted in lawsuits, a fraud investigation by the Riverside County (California) district attorney, and the 1975 suicide of Pete Ham, the group’s singer/songwriter/guitarist.

Ham was 27 when he hung himself.  His suicide note called Polley “a soulless bastard.”  

Ham’s bandmate, Tom Evans, never got over Ham’s suicide.  Evans hung himself in 1983. 

“Baby Blue,” which was written by Ham, was a top-20 hit in 1972.  The song was featured in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, but it was the use of the song during the last scene of Breaking Bad that returned “Baby Blue” to the public’s consciousness over 40 years after its original release:

Here’s “Baby Blue”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Foo Fighters – "Everlong" (1997)

You've got to promise not to stop
When I say when

Dave Grohl (who was born in 1969) grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.  

When he was a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Grohl would play snippets of records by local punk bands (like the Circle Jerks and Bad Brains) before he read the morning announcements over the school’s public address system.  

Grohl spent a lot of nights at the legendary 9:30 Club in DC.  “I went to the 9:30 Club hundreds of times,” he told the Washington Post. “I spent my teenage years at the club and saw some shows that changed my life.”  (I went to the 9:30 Club two or three times.  Maybe he was there one of the nights when I was.)

Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl
Grohl joined Scream, a local hardcore punk band, when he was only 17.  Kurt Cobain saw that band play in Seattle in 1990, and invited Grohl to be Nirvana’s drummer when Scream disbanded.  

After Cobain committed suicide, Grohl thought about becoming the drummer for an existing band, but decided to start his own group instead.  The Foo Fighters’ eponymous debut album was essentially a Grohl solo album – he played all the parts on it (except for a single guitar track).

Grohl then recruited the other original members of the Foo Fighters, who toured in support of the first album for a year before going into the studio to record The Colour and the Shape, which included “Everlong.”

Louise Post of Veruca Salt
Grohl wrote “Everlong” after falling in love with Louise Post of Veruca Salt.  David Letterman says the song helped him through his 2000 heart surgery – the Foo Fighters performed it on Letterman's first show after that surgery, and returned to perform it on Letterman’s very last show in 2015.

Here’s the music video for “Everlong.”  The version of the song used in the video runs a little longer than the original version.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Fantastic Johnny C – "Boogaloo Down Broadway" (1967)

Come on, baby
It ain't hard to do
You've been doin' it
Ever since you were two

Broadway is the oldest north-south thoroughfare in New York City.  It runs some 33 miles from the southern tip of Manhattan Island north through the Bronx and Westchester County, ending just beyond Sleepy Hollow.

Broadway is the most significant exception to the strict east-west/north-south Manhattan street grid created by the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811.  Following an old Indian trail, it crosses Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Avenues diagonally as you follow it northward.

Times Square
The most famous stretch of Broadway is between 42nd and 47th Streets, where it intersects with Seventh Avenue and forms Times Square.  To most people, Broadway refers not to a street but to the 40 or so professional theatres in that neighborhood. 

Johnny Corley, a/k/a “The Fantastic Johnny C,” was discovered by record producer Jesse James, who heard Corley singing in a gospel music group that rehearsed at the Macedonia Baptist Church in Norristown, Pennsylvania – the church that both men attended.  (James later discovered Cliff Nobles – who had a gold record with “The Horse” in 1968 – at the same church.)  

The Fantastic Johnny C
Corley had four singles that cracked the Billboard top 100, including “(She’s) Some Kind of Wonderful,” which was a much bigger hit for Grand Funk Railroad several years later.

“Boogaloo Down Broadway” is the second boogaloo record in a row featured on 2 or 3 lines.  But that’s just a coincidence – it has nothing to do with the theme of this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days.”

Here’s “Boogaloo Down Broadway”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Joe Cuba Sextet – "Bang! Bang!" (1966)

Cornbread, hog maws, and chitlins
Bang! bang!

Boogaloo (originally bugalú) is a style of Latin music and dance that was popular in the United States – especially the New York City area – in the 1960s.  It’s sometimes described as a fusion of Afro-Cuban music and R&B.

The first boogaloo hit was Mongo Santamaría’s 1963 recording of “Watermelon Man,” which was composed by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.  

But the biggest boogaloo record of the sixties was Joe Cuba’s million-selling “Bang! Bang!”

Joe Cuba
The boogaloo craze threatened the continued viability of old-school Latin dance bands, and some say that those more traditional musicians colluded with record companies and dance-hall owners to squelch boogaloo’s popularity.

Others think boogaloo was just another short-lived dance fad like the twist, the electric slide, and the hustle.

In any event, boogaloo’s popularity waned by 1970, as salsa’s waxed.

The Joe Cuba Sextet
The most popular of the boogaloo bandleaders was Joe Cuba, who was born Gilberto Miguel Calderón in New York City in 1931.  He was a conga drummer of Puerto Rican descent — in other words, a “Nuyorican.”  

When he was a teenager, Calderón was more interested in stickball than music:

Stickball was a central part of the neighborhood.  Of course back then the cops used to bust up the games and break the sticks, but we got good at hiding the equipment and running away from them.  The Devils [a stickball club organized by his father] became a neighborhood tradition, known for their great teams through the years, and the club had guys from all ages.  There were the Devil Seniors, Devil Juniors and Young Devils. . . .

Stickball players
There was actually a connection between my playing ball and playing music.  I starting getting involved with music in early fifties when I was 19 years old.  I broke my leg playing stoop ball, sliding into the sidewalk of all things, so I asked my friend to lend me his conga.  My leg was up in a cast and I couldn't do anything, so for the next few months, I practiced in the house all the time. 

Calderon was inducted into the Stickball Hall of Fame in 1985 and the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1999. 

If you haven’t figured out what the songs that are featured in this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days” have in common, “Bang! Bang!” offers you not one, but two clues.  (Come on, boys and girls – you never heard of Google?)

Here’s “Bang! Bang!”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Allman Brothers Band – "One Way Out" (1972)

‘Cause there’s a man down there
Might be your man, I don’t know

Here’s a statistic I stumbled across while researching the previous 2 or 3 lines: the ratio of single men aged 65 or older to single women aged 65 or older is 0.33 to 1.  

In other words, there are three times as many 65-plus single men as there are 65-plus single women. 

Remember Jan and Dean’s 1963 hit, “Surf City”?  It was about a fictional surfing town where there were two girls for every boy.  

"Two girls for every boy!"
But when you’re a guy who’s 65 or older, you’re living in a place that’s even better than Surf City – a place where les femmes d’un certain âge outnumber you by three to one.

In today's featured song, the singer is canoodling with a woman in an upstairs bedroom when someone – mayhaps her husband? – unexpectedly comes to the front door.  The singer has got to eight, skate, and donate toot sweet, and there ain’t no way he’s going out the front door.  He’s got only one way out:

Raise your window, baby 
I can ease out soft and slow

When you’re a resident of 65-Or-Older City, it’s unlikely you’ll have to go out the bedroom window because the odds are you won’t be sharing that woman with another guy – not when there are three women for every man.

But don’t get too cocky.  You don’t want to end up in a Three in the Attic situation, like poor Paxton Quigley:

“One Way Out” was first released by Sonny Boy Williamson II in 1961.  The Allman Brothers Band cover was recorded at Fillmore East, but it wasn’t included on the group’s live At Fillmore East album.  Instead, it ended up on the Eat a Peach double album.  

The title for that album refers to a Duane Allman quote – “Every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace – which drummer Butch Trucks said was a reference to the “Do I dare to eat a peach?” line in T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”  

Duane Allman (1969)
It seems that Allman, who died in a motorcycle accident just before Eat a Peach was released, was as big a fan of “Prufrock” as 2 or 3 lines is.

Martin Scorsese used “One Way Out” in the “Get him a cranberry juice” scene in The Departed:

Here’s “One Way Out”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: