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In Memoriam – September 2014

September 25th, 2014 7 comments

The round-up of September”s dead and their music comes prematurely this month because owing to travel commitments I shall be unable to complete the post in time for first Thursday of the next month. Of course next month”s In Memoriam will include the remainder of September”s musical deaths.

In Memoriam - September 2014Just as there is an increased interest again in the Four Seasons, due to the release of the The Jersey Boys film, their long-time songwriter and producer Bob Crewe has died. Crew co-wrote classics, as lyricist, such as Big Girls Don”t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Sherry, Rag Doll, Can”t Take My Eyes Off You, Let”s Hang On, My Eyes Adored You and Bye, Bye, Baby for the Four Seasons/Frankie Valli, for whom he also wrote songs that became big hits for others, Silence Is Golden (for The Tremeloes) and The Sun Ain”t Gonna Shine Anymore (Walker Brothers).

Crewe”s first hit record was Silhouettes, recorded in 1957 by both The Rays and then The Diamonds, but a bigger hit later for Herman”s Hermits. The Rays” b-side was Daddy Cool, a 1977 hit for Darts, also co-written by Crewe. Later he wrote the lyrics to such hits as Music to Watch Girls By (which he originally recorded as The Bob Crewe Generation) and Lady Marmalade.

On the same day as Crewe died, we lost another musician featured (briefly) in The Jersey Boys was composer, arranger and musician Johnny Rotella. Like the next artist, he did session work for Steely Dan (on My Old School). Better yet, the multi-talented musician “” he played the saxophone, flute, piccolo “” played for Frank Zappa and wrote for Frank Sinatra. Early in his career he played with the big bands led by Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Billy Vaughn. He played on the scores for both Godfather films in the 1970s as well as The Wiz. He was a band regular on the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and played on many other television shows, including those hosted by Andy Williams and Sinatra.

In April we lost original Jazz Crusaders trombonist Wayne Henderson; in September the band”s great keyboardist Joe Sample left us. He stayed with The Crusaders until their end, in 1987. He wrote or co-wrote many of their great songs, including the two classics featuring Randy Crawford, Streetlife and One Day I”ll Fly Away. In between he released a few acclaimed solo albums. He also did a lot of session work, much of it on songs heard in the Covered With Soul and Any Major Soul series (Merry Clayton, Maxine Weldon, Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton),for jazz giants (Gene Ammon, Quincy Jones) and legends of rock and folk (Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Steely Dan, Tina Turner, for whom he produced her slowed-down version of The Beatles” Help). Conscious of his mortality, in 2011 Sample put the band together again, with Henderson, saxophonist Wilton Felder and flautist Hubert Laws, but without drummer Stix Hooper, who declined taking part.

Depending on your age, Polly Bergen may not be remembered so much as a singer — despite releasing 11 albums, singing on her 1960s TV show and appearing in Broadway musicals “” but as an actress. As a fan of the TV series The Sopranos I feel duty-bound, however, to give her a special mention: in the show she played the former mistress of Tony”s father Read more…

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A Life in Vinyl: 1978

September 18th, 2014 6 comments

Life In Vinyl 1978

In 1978 I made it my business to become a respectable buyer of pop music — at least, to be more respectable than my fellow 12-year-olds. My benchmark in such things was my older brother, who had a broad record collection. He introduced me to things like Jethro Tull’s Aqualung LP (which I’d buy two years later). So in April I bought a bunch of singles: Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”, Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” and, yes, something by Jethro Tull. My brother never indicated whether he was impressed; happily I liked my purchases.

A little before that I had also discovered punk. In the spring and summer of 1978, my best friend at the time and I bought records by the Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Sham 69, The Damned, Boomtown Rats and, erm, Plastic Bertrand (who, it later turned out was the Milli Vanilli of punk).

I was aware of disco, of course, and bought the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, though I didn’t play it much. I liked Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” though.

1978_1

But the records I’m most proud of are the singles I bought in January 1978, just weeks after I had still bought a single by Harpo: The Runaways’ “School Days”, Tom Robinson’s “2-4-6-8 Motorway” and Blondie’s “X-Offender”. All are still favourites, though the Blondie track featured here is the single I bought on a trip to Amsterdam.

Which brings me to the illustrations for these posts: of the records I actually owned, I include the cover of the format in which I bought them — single or LP. In the case of the Blondie record, I naturally use the Dutch cover.

And of this lot, I had all the records except those of John Paul Young (who would lend his name to two popes later that year), El Pasador, Brian & Michael, Marshall Hain and Exile — those I include because they recreate the smells and sounds of my 1978.

1978_2As always, CD-R length, covers, PW in comments.

1. The Runaways – School Days
2. Tom Robinson Band – 2-4-6-8 Motorway
3. Status Quo – Rockin All Over The World
4. Uriah Heep – Free Me
5. Wings – With A Little Luck
6. John Paul Young – Love Is In The Air
7. Darts – Come Back My Love
8. Genesis – Follow You, Follow Me
9. Brian & Michael – Matchstalk Men & Matchstalk Cats And Dogs
10. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Davy’s On The Road Again
11. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street
12. Jethro Tull – Moths
13. Goldie – Making Up Again
14. Blondie – (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear
15. Sham 69 – Angels With Dirty Faces
16. The Stranglers – Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
17. The Motors – Airport
18. Sex Pistols – My Way
19. Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi
20. Boomtown Rats – Like Clockwork
21. Marshall Hain – Dancing In The City
22. Clout – Substitute
23. Exile – Kiss You All Over

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Any Major TV Theme Songs Vol. 1

September 11th, 2014 15 comments

TV themes: the great ones are over all too soon. So here’s a mix of full versions of 23 well-known TV themes, stretching from the 1970s to the present — extended versions of many TV themes which I posted exactly a year ago.

It seems that whereas in the past themes used to be written specifically for a show, modern series adopt songs previously released by often obscure artists. Which is great news for the artists, especially commercially. Examples of TV shows whose themes were derived by that method include The Wire (first recorded by Gravelly-Voiced Grinch whose name rhymes with Wom Taite in 1978), The Sopranos (by an English band in 1997),Mad Men (2006), True Blood (2005), Suits (2010) and Shameless (US version, 2005), as well as, I think, that of the great Justified.

This used to be much rarer in the past. One example of a song that was repurposed as a TV theme was Andrew Gold’s 1978 song “Thank You For Being A Friend”, which was re-recorded by Cynthia Fee to score the title credits for The Golden Girls. For more on that, and how Gold’s became to be the first voice to be broadcast on Mars, go to my post on The Golden Girls.

Another song that existed before the series it scores is that of How I Met Your Mother, an initially very funny show which outlived its welcome by about four years. Its theme is very brief. It is, in fact, a 11-second snatch from a song by a garage band called The Solids called “Hey, Beautiful”, written by band members Carter Bays and Craig Thomas — who are also the originators of the show which, what’s more, was based on them and their friends. I’ve written about How I Met Your Mother HERE.

Another show I’ve written about is Welcome Back, Kotter. Its theme is a 1970s archetype, in a way that’s better than it sounds. It was written and performed by John Sebastian, formerly of The Loving Spoonful and an alumnus of the crowd which The Mamas and the Papas sang about in “Creeque Alley”.

I also like the theme of WKRP In Cincinnati, much more than the show itself. The theme doesn’t really reveal the excellent musicianship of the track, so hearing Steve Carlisle’s full version, with its jazzy instrumental break is quite surprising.

I think I have enough good stuff for another two mixes, so there’s the answer to the question: “And where, may I ask, is the best-theme-ever, Dragnet/Hawaii-Five-O/Magnum P.I./Barney Miller/Twin Peaks?”

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-tuned covers. PW in comments.

1. Pratt & McClain – Happy Days
2. Gary Portnoy – Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Cheers)
3. Mike Post feat. Larry Carlton – Theme from Hill Street Blues
4. Big George Webley – Handbags And Gladrags (The Office UK)
5. Wom Taits – Way Down In The Hole (The Wire)
6. Alabama 3 – Woke Up This Morning (The Sopranos)
7. Gangstagrass – Long Hard Times To Come (Justified)
8. Jace Everett – Bad Things (True Blood)
9. RJD2 – A Beautiful Mine (Mad Men)
10. Ima Robot – Greenback Boogie (Suits)
11. Jane’s Addiction – Superhero (Entourage)
12. The High Strung – The Luck You Got (Shameless US)
13. The Solids – Hey, Beautiful (How I Met Your Mother)
14. They Might Be Giants – Dog On Fire (The Dailly Show)
15. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation (Freaks & Geeks)
16. Hepburn – I Quit (Buffy The Vampyre Slayer)
17. Barenaked Ladies – Big Bang Theory
18. Steve Carlisle – WKRP In Cincinnati
19. John Sebastian – Welcome Back (Kotter)
20. Bob James – Angela (Taxi)
21. Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (re-recorded for The Golden Girls)
22. Al Jarreau – Moonlighting
23. Henry Mancini & His Orchestra – Theme from Charlie’s Angels

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In Memoriam – August 2014

September 4th, 2014 5 comments

gravestones

Last week I switched on our local talk radio station, one that never plays music during weekdays. And there it was, playing George Michael”s “Kissing A Fool”. My first thought was: “Shit, did George Michael die?”, which would explain the music.

My second, rather cynical, thought was: “Oh well, that means we”ll have a headline death for In Memoriam”. When “Kissing A Fool” was over, a Billy Joel song came on, alerting me to the fact that George Michael was still happily alive. It seems the radio station merely had transmitter problems and was filling, ahem, dead air. All this is to say that this month, the Reaper was easy on the superstars and legends of music, presumably having had his fill in the world of cinema. But two August music-related deaths merit particular mention.

The producer and record company co-owner Henry Stone helped start the careers of Ray Charles in 1952, James Brown a few years later, Betty Wright in the “60s, and a host of disco artists, such as George McCrae, Gwen McCrae and KC and the Sunshine Band ion the TK label, which he co-owned. As a Read more…

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