Friday, June 29, 2018

The Script (ft. – "Hall of Fame" (2012)

’Cause you burn with the brightest flame
And the world's gonna know your name
And you'll be on the walls of the hall of fame!

Announcing . . . (drum roll) . . . the 2 OR 3 LINES HALL OF FAME!

There are thousands of great pop/rock/soul/metal/hip-hop/punk records out there.  Sooner or later, 2 or 3 lines is going to feature each and every one of them.

But there are some songs that stand head and shoulders above the rest.  These songs deserve special recognition, and thanks to 2 or 3 lines, they are going to get it.

*     *     *     *     *

The 2 OR 3 LINES HALL OF FAME is actually going to be several halls of fame rolled up into one.  I plan to have an album hall of fame, a one-hit wonder hall of fame, and several others.  We’re talking hall of fame mishegas, boys and girls.

Today I’m announcing the first ten inductees into a hall of fame that will include the best top 40 hits from the golden decade of rock/pop music: 1964 to 1973.  

It’s no accident that this ten-year period begins when I was in 6th-grade – watch out, bub, here comes puberty! – and ends when I was a senior in college.

It’s also no accident that the first ten songs I’ve selected for this hall of fame were hits between 1964 and 1970.  The quality of top 40 music took a major nosedive after I graduated from high school in 1970.

To be eligible for the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME, a song not only has to have been released between 1964 and 1973, but also must have achieved a high ranking on the Billboard “Hot 100” charts.  A good number of the songs in this hall of fame will be #1 or #2 hits, and the vast majority will have been top ten singles.

The other criteria for inclusion in this hall of fame are more subjective.  For example, I’ll give additional points to songs that were unique and broke new musical ground.

The first ten songs inducted will be by ten different artists.  So will the next ten inductees, which I will announce next year.  Eventually, I will start to induct songs by artists who already have a song in the hall of fame.  

Finally, the songs that make it into this hall of fame will be songs that sound just as good today as they did when they were released – which was roughly a half-century ago.  

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I believe that it will be impossible for anyone to argue that any of those first ten songs I’ve chosen don’t belong – each is clearly hall of fame material.  (We’re talking Homer/Shakespeare/Dickens-level songs, boys or girls – or, if you prefer, Babe Ruth/Michael Jordan/Tom Brady-level songs.)

I’m not saying that my first ten picks are the best ten “Golden Decade” singles ever – although they might be.  But I don’t see how anyone can say these ten songs aren’t in the top 100. 

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You’ll probably be surprised to see that there are no Beatles or Rolling Stones songs in my initial hall of fame group of ten singles.  (It surprised me, too.)

Sooner or later – probably sooner – there will be Beatles and Stones songs in this hall of fame.  But the very best songs recorded by those groups didn’t crack the top 40.  So they aren’t eligible to be selected.

There will be Beatles and Stones songs in my next hall of fame, which will feature the best classic rock tracks that never made the top 40 – songs that were often the centerpieces of the albums you listened to in your dorm room, and that were staples on album-oriented rock radio stations.

*     *     *     *     *

Enough yakety-yak.  It’s time to announce the first ten inductees into the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.  

Here they are, in chronological order of release – oldest to newest:

1.  Animals – “House of the Rising Sun” (1965)

2.  Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)

3.  Who – “I Can See for Miles” (1966)

4.  Association – “Along Comes Mary” (1966)

5.  Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations” (1966)

6.  Byrds – “Eight Miles High” (1966)

7.  Steppenwolf – “Born to Be Wild” (1968)

8.  Grass Roots – “Midnight Confessions” (1968)

9.  Marvin Gaye – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968)

10. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Fortunate Son” (1969)

July’s 2 or 3 lines posts will take a look at each one of the fabulous singles.

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“Hall of Fame” was released in 2012 by The Script, an Irish band that formed in 2007 in Dublin.  The song features of the Black Eyed Peas.

Click here to listen to “Hall of Fame.”

And click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Echo & the Bunnymen – "Pictures on My Wall" (1980)

Can you hear it?
The sound of 
Someone thinking

Did you know that the official name of Mexico is the “United Mexican States”?  (In Spanish, it’s Estados Unidos Mexicanos.) 

Did you know that there were 31 states in the United Mexican States?  That’s not counting Mexico City, which is not part of any state.  (Until recently, Mexico City was officially the “Federal District” – or Distrito Federal – sort of like our District of Columbia.)

Like American license plates, Mexican license plates indicate the state of issuance.  The photo below – which was taken as a Mexican restaurant in my 'hood – shows license plates from Tlaxcala (which is abbreviated “TLAX”), Nuevo León (“N L”), Morelos (“MOR”), Tamaulipas (“TAMPS”), Chihuahua (“CHIH”), and the Distrito Federal (“D F”):

I found it interesting that Mexican license plates use English numbers instead of Spanish numbers.

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When I was a kid growing up in Joplin, Missouri, in the fifties and sixties, I remember that Chevrolets dominated the local automobile population.

Here’s a painting of a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air – a real classic – that was hanging on the wall of that aforementioned Mexican restaurant.  This painting and the other ones featured in this post were accurate enough that I was able to figure out the year and model of each car or truck:

Here’s a 1959 Chevy Impala:

The ’59 Impala weighed 3900 pounds.  You could get it with a six-cylinder engine, but most people went for one of two V-8s.  The smaller of those V-8s displaced 283 cubic inches and generated 230 horsepower, with a top speed of 106 miles per hour.  It got an estimated 9 miles per gallon in city driving and 12 MPG on the highway.  (That sounds terrible, but we didn’t care.  Regular gas went for 20 or 25 cents a gallon in the sixties.)

By contrast the 2018 Impala weighs 370o pounds.  Its base four-cylinder engine displaces only 150 cubic inches but generates 197 horsepower and has a top speed of 140 MPH.  According to the EPA, it gets 22 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway.

Here’s another 1959 Impala:

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Ford was the second-most popular car in Joplin back in the day.  

For some reason, my family never owned a Ford or Mercury.  We mostly had GM cars – Chevys and Oldsmobiles and at least one Pontiac – although my parents once owned a 1956 Plymouth and my grandparents had a 1957 DeSoto, a Chrysler marque that was discontinued in 1960.

Here’s a 1957 Ford Del Rio station wagon.  Note that it has only two doors, which seems odd for a station wagon:

The Ford Thunderbird eventually got big and flabby, but the early T-birds were hot little works of art.  Here’s a 1956 Thunderbird – it’s subtly different from the ’55 and ’57 T-birds:

I had a friend whose uncle occasionally let him drive around town in his late-fifties Thunderbird (which had a removable hardtop).  The friend came by my house on January 12, 1969, and we drove up and down Main Street a few times before stopping at the Dairy Queen.

I remember the date because that was the day that SuperBowl III was played.  You would have thought that a couple of red-blooded American teenagers like the two of us would have been glued to our televisions during the SuperBowl, but everyone know that Joe Namath’s New York Jets had no chance against the 13-1 Baltimore Colts.

Joe Namath in SuperBowl III
So instead of witnessing the greatest upset in SuperBowl history – perhaps the greatest upset in the history of American professional sports – we were cruising Main Street in a classic T-bird convertible.  I guess I can live with that.

By contrast, this 1953 Ford Crestline sedan was dull as dishwasher:

Finally, here’s a 1961 Ford F100 pickup:

I didn’t know a soul who owned a pickup truck back then.  I assumed that pickups were just for farmers. 

*     *     *     *     *

Echo & the Bunnymen were a Liverpool band that formed in 1978.

“Pictures on the Wall” – the group’s first single – was included on the first album, Crocodiles, which was released in 1980.  (You best believe I bought Crocodiles – it was a silly album.)

How did Echo & the Bunnymen get their name?  Here’s what the band’s original guitarist, Will Sergeant, had to say about that:

We had this mate who kept suggesting all these names like The Daz Men or Glisserol and the Fan Extractors.  Echo and the Bunnymen was one of them.  I thought it was just as stupid as the rest.

And you were right, Will Sergeant.

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to listen to “Picture on My Wall.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ray Charles – "I Don't Need No Doctor" (1966)

I don't need no doctor
'Cause I know what's ailing me

(Apologies to all you English teachers for that double negative!)

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Portraits of 30-odd prominent Harvard Medical School doctors once adorned the walls of the amphitheater at Harvard’s current teaching hospital.  But those portraits – all but one of which depict white males – are being taken.  

Gone but not forgotten!
That's because hospital’s president, the aforementioned Dr. Betsy Nabel, didn’t like what she saw on the faces of minority students who came into that amphitheater for lectures.

“I have watched them look at the walls.  I read on their faces, ‘Interesting. But I am not represented here.’  That got me thinking,” she told a Boston Globe reporter recently.

*     *     *     *     *

Among the many notable doctors whose portraits are being removed on Dr. Nabel’s orders was Dr. Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), the “Father of Neurosurgery.”  

Dr. Harvey Cushing
Dr. Cushing invented many of the surgical techniques for operating on the brain that are still used today.  He was the surgeon-in-chief at Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospital for many years, and was decorated by both the American and British governments for his groundbreaking work in the treatment of brain injuries suffered by World War I soldiers.

That's all well and good, Dr. Cushing, but you were a white male.  Hit the road, Harvey, and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more!

*     *     *     *     *

We’ve been busy knocking down statues of Confederate generals and other slaveholders recently.

As far as I know, none of the distinguished Harvard Medical School doctors whose portraits are being removed were slaveholders or white supremacists.  

Dr. Nabel and her white male husband
(who'd better watch his back!)
None of them have been accused of sexually harassing female nurses, and I have it on good authority that none of them voted for Trump. 

But it cannot be denied that when it comes to being white males, they are guilty as charged.
*     *     *     *     *

Penalizing someone on the basis of their race is racial discrimination – regardless of which race you're discriminating against.

Harvard is guilty of discriminating against Asian applicants for admission, just as it was once guilty of discriminating Jewish applicants.  So Dr. Nabel’s action should come as no great surprise. 

*     *     *     *     *

“I Don’t Need No Doctor” was written by Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, and Jo Armstead.  (Ashford and Simpson were songwriters and producers who worked with Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, and many other Motown artists.)

Ashford recorded the song a couple of months before Ray Charles, but his version didn’t make a dent on the charts.

Others who have covered “I Don’t Need No Doctor” include Humble Pie, Styx, John Mayer, and Joan Osborne.

Click here to listen to the Ray Charles cover of “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”  

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Television – "See No Evil" (1977)

What I want
I want now!

In the last 2 or 3 lines, I told you about day one of my two-day trip to northern Delaware, where I rode the bike trail that parallels the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.  You can click here to read that post. 

On day two of my trip, I first drove to Lums Pond State Park and rode the unpaved loop trail around Lums Pond.  It’s relatively flat and not so rough that you need a true mountain bike to handle it – my new 700x38-tired hybrid did just fine.

The Lums Pond trail is nothing special, but the weather was perfect, the trail was devoid of other bikers or hikers, and I had just refilled my iPod with fresh music.  So I had a very enjoyable ride.

On the Little Jersey Trail
in Lums Pond State Park
It was a short drive from there to St. Georges, Delaware, a very small town that sits almost directly underneath not one, but two C&D Canal bridges.

The St. Georges Bridge, which opened in 1942, is the oldest of the four-lane bridges over the canal:

For the last few years, only one lane in each direction has been open, and only vehicles weighing less than 15 tons have been to use the St. Georges Bridge, which will be closed to all traffic this fall while repairs are made.

The absence of the St. Georges Bridge will hardly be noticed because there’s a much newer six-lane bridge – the Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge – that crosses the canal less than a mile to the west:

St. Georges was smack dab in the middle of the part of the C&D trail that I hadn’t ridden on the previous evening.  After riding west and then returning to my starting point, I took a break and had lunch at the St. Georges Country Store – which is more a bar and music venue than country store.

The former owner of the joint was a merchant mariner who learned to cook in New Orleans, so the store has a real NOLA vibe.  If you’re ever in Delaware and get a hankering for a muffuletta sandwich (complete with olive tapenade) or an alligator sausage po’ boy, get your big-ass ass to the St. Georges Country Store!  

The St. Georges Country Store
For my lunch, I opted for a simple egg-salad sandwich and potato chips.  The $5 sandwich was so overstuffed with the store’s mustardy egg salad that I could barely finish it.

*     *     *     *     *

The eastern terminus of C&D trail – Delaware City, Delaware – was only half an hour’s ride from St. Georges.

Battery Park in Delaware City
There’s nothing fancy about Delaware City (which is home to roughly 1700 souls), but it has its charms – including a quaint little main street and Battery Park, which overlooks the Delaware River and Pea Patch Island.

Pea Patch Island is home to one of the largest migratory bird habitats on the east coast.  

It’s also the site of Fort Delaware, a 19th-century coastal defense fort that was later turned into a prison for Confederate POWs:

You can visit Fort Delaware by taking a short ferry ride from Delaware City.

*     *     *     *     *

After briefly exploring Delaware City, I settled in on the deck of Crabby Dick’s Bar & Grill to enjoy a big-ass beer and the beautiful weather:

Half an hour after leaving Crabby Dick’s, I was back in St. Georges, where I packed up my bike for the drive home. 

Before getting on I-95, I decided to stop at Stewart’s Brewing to replenish my precious bodily fluids.  

I sat at the bar next to a couple d’un certain age, and ordered a beer.  A moment later, the distaff member of that couple leaned forward and said, “Excuse me, but I’m the woman who made your egg salad sandwich today.”

And indeed she was.

*     *     *     *     * 

Thomas Miller and Richard Meyers met in 1965 when they were 11th-graders at the Sanford School in Hockessin, Delaware – just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the C&D Canal.  

The two ne’er-do-wells ran away from school together and ended up in New York City, where they changed their names to Tom Verlaine (a reference to the French poet Paul Verlaine) and Richard Hell (a reference to you know what) and formed the band Television.

Television performed regularly at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City in 1974 and 1975, and quickly established a cult following.  But schoolmates Verlaine and Hell went their separate ways shortly thereafter. 

I bought Television’s debut album, Marquee Moon, shortly after it was released in February 1977 – which was shortly before I graduated from law school.  

You can call Marquee Moon a post-punk album, or you can call it an art punk album, just as long as you recognize it as one of the most original and influential albums of its day.

The musicians who have cited Marquee Moon as an influence include members of U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M. Joy Division, and Echo & the Bunnymen.

Click here to listen to “See No Evil,” the first track from Marquee Moon.  

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kinks – "Sunny Afternoon" (1966)

Now I'm sitting here
Sipping at my ice cold beer
Lazing on a sunny afternoon

The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal – one of the only two sea-level canals in the United States – cuts through the northern isthmus of the Delmarva Peninsula just south of Interstate 95.  Ships going from Philadelphia to Baltimore (or vice versa) save about 300 miles by using the canal. 

The black oval marks the
location of the C&D Canal
The original C&D Canal, which opened for business in 1829, was only 36 feet wide and 10 feet deep.  The laborers who dug the canal with picks and shovels were paid an average wage of 75 cents a day.

Shortly after World War I, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over the canal and used steam-powered dredges to widen and deepen it.  Today, the C&D is 35 feet deep and 450 feet wide, which allows two-way traffic for all but the largest oceangoing ships.

That’s all well and good, but what’s more important to me is that there’s now a nice paved hiker-biker trail that parallels the canal for almost its entire length.

*     *     *     *     *

Now that I’m retired, I have more time for bike rides.  Because I’ve ridden most of the trails that are within an hour’s drive of my house over and over, I’ve expanded my search radius to include rides that are two to three hours away.  

It’s not worth it to drive that far, ride, and then drive back the same day.  (After all, the point of all this is to get out of the car and spend my time on a bike.)  So I’ve been looking for routes that provide enough mileage for two days of riding, justifying an overnight trip.

Lums Pond State Park
The C&D Canal trail, which opened a few years ago, is about 17 miles long.  Less than a mile north of the canal is Lums Pond State Park, which features several unpaved trails, including the eight-mile-long trail that circles Lums Pond.

Combine a round-trip canal trail ride with a ride around Lums Pond and you’re talking roughly 45 miles – which is a good distance for me to cover on a two-day trip.  

*     *     *     *     *

I had to take care of two doctors’ appointments and then visit my mother at her assisted living facility before hitting the road for my C&D Canal ride.  The traffic on I-95 was heavy, which meant it took closer to three hours to get to the trail instead of the two hours it should have taken.  So I wasn’t on my bike until almost 5:00 pm.  But it’s June, which meant I still had plenty of daylight to ride from the canal trail’s midpoint to its western terminus – Chesapeake City, Maryland – and back.

Here’s the Chesapeake City bridge, the westernmost of the five bridges that carry automobiles and trucks over the C&D:

And here’s the Summit Point bridge, which is several miles east of Chesapeake City:

Finally, here's a photo of the vertical-lift bridge that trains use to cross the C&D Canal:

*     *     *     *     *

After completing my ride, I stopped at Stewart’s Brewing in Bear, Delaware, for a beer – or two – and dinner.  

Stewart’s is located in a unremarkable suburban strip mall.  From the outside, it doesn’t look like anything special.  But the food is much better than what I would have expected from your generic brewpub.  

Stewart's Brewing
I ordered the BLT salad – essentially, a chopped version of a wedge salad – and added some ahi tuna to it.  The salad was excellent, and so was the tuna (which had been seared on the outside but was almost as pink as sushi on the inside, just the way I ordered it).

I first tried Stewart’s house-made wheat beer, which is actually made with equal parts wheat and barley.  I followed that up with a pint of Stewart’s maibock, a traditional German-style lager that was sweet and strong enough (7.5% ABV) to qualify as a doppelbock.  Both were distinctive and excellent.

*     *     *     *     *

I’ll tell you about the second day of my trip in the next 2 or 3 lines.  (Wait until you hear about the egg salad sandwich I ate for lunch!)

*     *     *     *     *

My bike-riding excursions often end with me sipping an ice-cold beer while I laze away a sunny afternoon – just like the singer of “Sunny Afternoon,” the 1966 Kinks single that was a top 20 hit in the U.S. and a #1 hit in the UK.

Years later, Ray Davies recalled the day he sat down and wrote the song:

I’d bought a white upright piano.  I hadn’t written for a time.  I’d been ill.  I was living in a very 1960s-decorated house.  It had orange walls and green furniture.  My one-year-old daughter was crawling on the floor and I wrote the opening riff.  I remember it vividly.  I was wearing a polo-neck sweater.

Click here to listen to “Sunny Afternoon.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Jefferson Airplane – "White Rabbit" (1967)

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall

In 1859, a wealthy Englishman who had emigrated to Australia was disappointed that the hunting there was so poor.  So he asked his nephew to ship some rabbits to Australia.  He hoped those rabbits would breed rapidly and provide him with good hunting in the future.

A British hunting party (circa 1868
It seems that the new rabbits crossbred with Australia’s existing rabbits and formed a hybrid that thrived in that environment.  The Australian rabbit population exploded, and threatened to denude the entire continent of plant life – which would have devastated the local sheep and cattle industries.

Hunters and farmers were given carte blanche to shoot rabbits.  They shot millions of them each year, with no appreciable effect on the population explosion.  

Other rabbit-control techniques included trapping, poisons, and the deployment of ferrets, but nothing made a dent in vast numbers of rabbits that infested Australia.

Between 1901 and 1907, the Australian government built the world’s longest continuous fence – the 1139-mile-long State Barrier Fence of Western Australia – in an attempt to protect the sheep- and cattle-grazing areas of western Australia from rabbits:

The fence was maintained at first by boundary riders riding bicycles and later by riders astride camels. . . .  In 1910, a car was bought for fence inspection, but it was subject to punctured tires.  It was found the best way to inspect the fence was using buckboard buggies, pulled by two camels.

The fence helped, but was not completely effective – in part because some rabbits jumped over it or dug under it, but primarily because there were already some rabbits in western Australia when the fence was finished.

The State Barrier Fence today
Scientists began working on biological control methods in the late-19th century, but it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that they came up with an effective strategy for controlling the Australian rabbit population, which had grown to an estimated 600 MILLION!

When the myxoma virus was released into the rabbit population, it quickly reduced the wild rabbit population to only 100 million rabbits.

But those rabbits developed resistance to the myxoma virus, and the population had rebounded to 200 million to 300 million by 1991.

Recently, the government unleashed a deadly and very contagious strain of calicivirus, which causes rabbit haemorrhagic disease.  (Advantage, Australian scientists – for the time being, at least.)

*     *     *     *     *

Australia is not the only place to be invaded by rabbits.

Click here to read a National Geographic story about Okunoshima, a small Japanese island that’s been dubbed “Rabbit Island”:

A rabbit-loving tourist on Okunoshima
A town on Whidbey Island, which sits in Puget Sound just north of Seattle, has been overrun by rabbits:

“There is feces everywhere and there are some illnesses that can be carried and transmitted,” Brian Miller, facilities director for South Whidbey School District, told [a Seattle television] station.  He added that rabbits recently dug up the middle school’s football field, which the district had to pay $80,000 to restore.   

The remote Scottish island of Canna – which was cleared of a serious rat infestation just a few years ago – is populated by only 19 human residents but thousands of rabbits.

The good people of Stockholm, Sweden have come up with a creative and practical solution to the problem of rabbit overpopulation.  

From The Local, an English-language Swedish news website:

Every year, the city of Stockholm kills off thousands of rabbits in an effort to protect trees and shrubbery in the city's extensive network of parks and green space.

According to Tommy Tuvunger with the Stockholm Traffic Office, the agency responsible for controlling the city's rodent and wild animal population, part of the problem rests with delinquent pet owners who decide to release their rabbits into the city's parks.

“Many of the released rabbits are tame,” he told the newspaper. . . .

Tuvunger explained that it doesn't take many newly released rabbits to do what rabbits are known for doing, much to the detriment of Stockholm's efforts to control the size of its rabbit population.

“People who think that the bunnies are cute and cuddly suddenly don't think they're as fun anymore and put the animals outside. They think, ‘There they can play with the other rabbits’,” he said.

Cleverly disguised Swedish rabbit hunters
Last year marked a new record for Stockholm's rabbit cull, with nearly 6,000 rabbits . . . being removed from Stockholm's parks.

But rather than simply disposing of the dead rabbits, the city instead froze them for eventual transport to a special heating plant in Karlskoga in central Sweden, where the bunny bodies are then burned as a form of bioenergy.

*     *     *     *     *

Grace Slick wrote “White Rabbit” when she was singing with the Great Society, a short-lived San Francisco band whose members included her then-husband, Jerry Slick.

The Great Society was offered a recording contract by Columbia Records, but by the the time the mailman delivered the contract, Grace had decided to join the Jefferson Airplane.  (Signe Toly Anderson, the Airplane’s original lead singer, had just quit that band.)

Grace Slick
The White Rabbit was one of the most iconic characters in Alice in Wonderland, which Grace’s parents had read to her when she was a child.  “White Rabbit” was one of the first songs she ever wrote.

Click here to watch a video of the Airplane performing “White Rabbit” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: