The Hymie’s blog is taking a couple days off to go camping with the kids. We’ll return to our regular programming on Thursday. Until then we found a few nature-themed posts from the past.
Here, from 2013, is a post about frogs…
Our three year old daughter is really into The Muppets’ Frog Prince album, which is getting a couple spins a day in our house. It’s actually an adapted soundtrack from a 1971 TV special produced by the Sesame Street crew, featuring (in some cases introducing) several Muppet mainstays, like Kermit’s nephew Robin and the delightful Sweetums. Nova doesn’t know there’s a video yet, so she put the album on her Fisher Price player nearly every day.
The Frog Prince is interesting in that it’s one of the very first times Kermit is identified as a frog. When you think about it, he could be all kinds of things, like a lizard, a salamander, or even … “a hoppy toad!” It’s also got a lot of frog jokes, like how they are disgusted by the idea of sleeping in a bed and wearing clothes, and how much they love the stagnant waters of their swamp.
So here is a playlist of songs for our little girl who loves frogs…
We all know the twist the funky chicken and the electric slide – most of us have probably done at least one of them at a wedding Here are some dances that may be unfamiliar to you (although Laura and Dave danced all of them at their wedding)
(as introduced by Alvin Cash and the Crawlers)
“Bumpity bump bump…” Sounds pretty good to us.
(as introduced by Ichabod and the Cranes)
This seems like it would be the perfect hipster dance because all you do is stand there. If only you could also talk about the time you saw the band before they were cool.
(as introduced by Bert)
Sesame Street Fever is not the first time Bert did the pigeon. Its just the funkiest.
(as introduced by Maureen Gray)
Must have been a slow dance.
THE HUMPTY DUMPTY
(as introduced by Bobby Pickett)
This is the B side of a single that came out a year after the million-seller “Monster Mash” (credited to Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt Kickers). Like everything Pickett recorded after his smash hit debut – even the 2005 protest song “Climate Mash” – it never escaped the shadow of the perennial Halloween classic. Still, we love to do the Humpty Dumpty. Let’s all do the Humpty Dumpty!
Mary Lou Williams, who refused to be bound by a contract and even once founded her own independent label, is one of our favorite figures in jazz history. Her career outlasted the swing era and included collaborations with beboppers and free jazzers, and she was beyond simple ahead of her time. Her music was in many ways timeless.
She was connected to so many seminal moments in jazz history, performing with an early version of Duke Ellington’s Washingtonians (at the age of thirteen) in 1924. A year later, while playing with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in Harlem, her playing so pleased Louis Armstrong that he paused in his tracks to listen before kissing her.
Williams is best known to swing aficionados for her work with Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy in the 1930s. She was originally brought to Kirk’s orchestra by her first husband, John Williams, who was a saxophonist in the group. By the time she left, about a decade later, she was the primary reason for their success, which you can quickly tell from any compilation of their singles (the ones arranged by other members simply don’t swing the same). “Walking and Swinging” (1936) and “Mary’s Idea” (1938) are two of our favorites.
She began her freelance career while working for Kirk’s Clouds of Joy, who had taken a long engagement in Kansas City. She did work for Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, and for Benny Goodman. One track Goodman was especially pleased with was “Roll Em.”
The King of Swing was so pleased with the theme she wrote for his NBC Radio program, sponsored by Camel cigarettes, that he tried unsuccessfully to pin Williams down with an exclusive contract. She refused and continued to work for a variety of bandleaders.
Her second husband was trumpeter Shorty Baker, and when he was briefly engaged with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, she came along and arranged her version of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” for the Duke (as “Trumpet no End”), as well as adding “Walking and Swinging” to his prestigious repertoire.
One distinctive talent she shared with Ellington was an ability to arrange music to bring out the best in a specific performer. While still working for Kirk she produced “Floyd’s Guitar Blues” for Floyd Smith with the intention of highlighting his Hawaiian style on the lap steel guitar. The result is one of the earliest hit records to feature an electric guitar.
Williams made a number of her own recordings during these productive years, including a couple solo sides for Brunswick in 1930 which we would sure like to find one day. She was not, however, completely rooted in the swing era and became a close associate of Dizzy Gillespie and his wife Lorraine. Bebop musicians, notably Thelonious Monk, held her in high esteem. She had a regular program on New York’s WNEW (Mary Lou’s Piano Workshop), broadcast from Barney Josephson’s influential Cafe Society club. “During this period Monk and the kids would come to my apartment every morning around four or pick me up at the Café after I’d finished my last show, and we’d play and swap ideas until noon or later”, she explained to Melody Maker in a 1954 interview. Williams’ remarks reflected a welcoming attitude towards bebop and other developments in jazz not always held by members of her generation.
Right from the start, musical reactionaries have said the worst about bop. But after seeing the Savoy Ballroom kids fit dances to this kind of music, I felt it was destined to become the new era of music, though not taking anything away from Dixieland or swing or any of the great stars of jazz. I see no reason why there should be a battle in music. All of us aim to make our listeners happy.
Mary Lou maintained this attitude throughout her professional career, collaborating with free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor in 1978 on one of the most unexpectedly moving jazz albums of its era. Williams seems like one of those musicians who was capable of playing just about anything, but had the dedication to take her talent where she felt inspired.
Williams wrote or arranged a few songs for Gillespie’s experimental big band, which was one of the most interesting groups in the history of jazz (we last listened to them here, in a post about percussionist Chano Pozo). One of these songs was “In the Land of Ooh Bla Dee,” featured a fun vocal by Joe Carroll and, naturally, a great solo by Diz.
It was Gillespie who convinced Williams to come out of her brief retirement with a performance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival — she is featured on his live album of the performance. Her life thereafter was focused on liturgical music and charitable work, and her compositions during this time blend jazz with choral arrangements and traditional blues. The most famous of these is her Mass for Peace, commonly called “Mary Lou’s Mass,” which was recorded in 1970.
“I am praying with my fingers when I play,” she once said, adding that she hoped to inspire people’s spirituality with her music. Williams performed her Mass on The Dick Cavett Show in August 1971. Sadly, while you’ll have no trouble finding footage of John Lennon’s jackassery on the same program, nobody has posted Williams’ performance online. Priorities, huh?
Williams’ work involved at one time operating thrift stores which supported musicians and supporting children’s music education through programs like Billy Taylor’s Jazzmobile — in fact, one of her many fans was no less than Mr. Rogers, who had her as a guest on his show in 1973. And that was a clip we were happy to find.
We wouldn’t call her a contender for “America’s teenager,” but it’s still hard to believe Cyndi Lauper is sixty-two years old. Her birthday was yesterday — a day she shares with Kris Kristofferson, Roy Drusky, and one Osmond or another (Alan? Is that an Osmond?).
We have a paperback of This Day in Music History in the office. It’s where we find the birthdays we write on the blackboard each week. Afterwards its not really something we think much about, but this week it seemed like the musical birthdays would make a peculiar playlist. Here today are a few from this weekend.
Lionel Richie was born on June 20, 1949, and was thirty-four years old when Can’t Slow Down, his second solo album, began its fifty-nine week stay in the top ten. That’s why you see copies of this album in nearly every record store in America — but you know what, it’s that popular for a reason. When was the last time you played your copy? You’ll be surprised how much you enjoy hearing it again.
Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual isn’t quite as ubiquitous as the first three Lionel Richie albums, but for folks in their thirties these days its an old favorite. That’s why Lauper took the entire album on a world-wide 30th anniversary tour two summers ago.
This was the song which set singer Anne Murray’s career on track — it wasn’t originally chosen as a single from her album Country in 1969, but becoming an unexpected hit when released the following year. “Snowbird” was written by another Canadian, Gene MacLellan.
Golf For Women magazine named Murray the world’s best female celebrity golfer in 2007. Betcha didn’t know that.
Billy Guy was one of the longest-serving original members of the Coasters. He also released a series of solo singles in the sixties on Double L Records and — true to the group’s narrow walk between pop and novelty — had a couple of comedy projects in the seventies. One was a double album about drag queens and the other, The Tramp is Funky, featured his own raunchy stand-up material. “Poison Ivy” captures the Coasters’ flair for suggestive humor.
And last we have Brian Wilson, the enigmatic Beach Boy who released his eleventh solo album, No Pier Pressure, earlier this year. We still have one copy in stock for those of you interested in hearing it. The album was originally planned to be a Beach Boys record, to follow their 50th anniversary album That’s Why God Made the Radio, and so includes some of his former bandmates, though obviously not Mike Love who for all intents and purposes fired founding members Wilson and Al Jardine, and David Marks who had been a member since 1962. Mike Love has his own, more profitable version of the Beach Boys which is playing shows in California this month. We’ll let Cyndi sum it all up for today…
Burt Bacharach is turning eighty-seven on Tuesday, and local guitarist Brian Peterson asked if he could come in and perform some of Bacharach’s many famous songs — so he’ll be here this evening at 5pm for your listening enjoyment. In the meantime, we had fun looking for some interesting recordings of his songs. Here’s the ones we chose:
The Story of My Life
“The Story of my Life” was one of the first major successes for Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who had started writing songs together about a year earlier. The single by Marty Robbins reached #1 on Billboard’s country chart and #15 on the pop chart in 1957 — another version in England by Michael Holliday was also a #1 hit. Robbins later re-recorded the song for a 1970 album, and its title was used for a Columbia Legacy compilation disc.
Bacharach also wrote songs over the years with Hal’s brother, Mack. One of them was “The Blob” for the 1958 monster movie starring Steve McQueen. The silly song was recorded by a Los Angeles studio band led by Bernie Knee. The single by the Five Blobs was a surprise hit, reaching #33 on Billboard’s pop chart.
Folks in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania host an annual “Blobfest” which includes re-enactments and a photo opportunities at a facsimile of the basement of Chef’s Diner.
Move it on the Backbeat
“Move it on the Backbeat” is another song Bacharach wrote with Mack David. The uncredited singers are the Gospelaires, an in-demand backing vocal group which including at that time Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, as well as Cissy Houston.
You can also hear them singing on records by the Drifters, Dinah Washington, Ronnie Hawkins and on Doris Troy’s “Just One Look” (Troy was previously a member of the group). And of course “Move it on the Backbeat” was the beginning of a long collaboration between Bacharach and Dionne Warwick, who recorded dozens of Bacharach/David songs.
The Look of Love
Casino Royale was the third soundtrack album Bacharach worked on. The title song was performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and Dusty Springfield sang the sultry, memorable tune “The Look of Love,” one of the most well-known Bacharach/David songs of all.
In the days before eBay and internet dealers, original stereo pressings of Casino Royale were one of the most sought-after albums for audiophiles. This is a result of the recording process, in which high-grade tape was used and heavily saturated to nearly the point of distortion, leading to extreme high and low ranges on playback. Our fairly worn mono copy is hardly a gem, but then again we’ve never really understood audiophiles anyways — they sure can take all the fun out of record collecting!
South American Getaway
Bacharach’s score to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of the records we’ve had in our collection for the longest. He received one of his three Academy Awards for the music, and the B.J. Thomas recording of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” was a huge hit. The music fits the film magnificently, as in the montage scene where Butch, Sundance and Etta travel to Bolivia and this song is heard.
Baby It’s You
Bacharach and Mack David wrote “Baby Its You” with Luther Dixon, who was the producer who established the Shirelles’ sound (he’s credited as Barney Williams on the single). It came out in the middle of their string of successful tunes for Scepter Records in the early sixties. The song was also a hit for the Beatles, and later an even bigger hit for Smith in 1968, which featured a full-throated delivery by singer Gayle McCormick.
Trains and Boats and Planes
Originally titled Hit Maker!, the first album Bacharach issued under his own name didn’t feature his own voice. Instead listeners found lush, mostly instrumental arrangements of songs he and David had written for Warwick and others. A largely anonymous chorus sings some of the songs, including “Planes and Boats and Trains,” which was had minor success as a single in England.
Also among the anonymous contributors were Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, session musicians in their pre-Zeppelin days.
The album has been reissued many times over the years, most often as Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits.
Walk on By
“Walk On By” was one of the many hits Bacharach and David wrote for Dionne Warwick in the sixties. The song’s woe-is-me narrative draws out a unique quality from nearly everyone who interprets it.
Isaac Hayes turned it into a bombastic, epic jam on his 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul, and about ten years later the Stranglers recorded an equally over-long version driven by a plodding bass line and an extended organ solo. Shortly after that the Average White Band recorded a great, funky version on their album Feel No Fret. Its a song which has inspired many interpretation and many imitations, and is surely one of the most beloved Bacharach songs.
My Little Red Book
The lyrics of Hal David were often melodramatic and self-depreciating, which fit well with Bacharach’s style. We read an interview once where he described how the music should tell a story, just as the lyrics do.
Whether “My Little Red Book” was intended to reference the ubiquitous and famous Quotes from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, published the same year as the song, is as debatable as theories The Blob was an allegory for Soviet communism. The song was one of the first Bacharach and David wrote for a British pop band, probably connected to their continued chart success across the pond beginning with the cover of Marty Robbins’ “The Story of My Life.”
When Love recorded the song for their first album, guitarist Arthur Lee completely re-invented the chord changes, to the chagrin of Bacharach. Still, the song was a hit and has become a favorite of garage rock fans and guys who like to hang around record stores and talk about where punk rock was invented.
I Say A Little Prayer
Several of the hits Bacharach and David wrote for Dionne Warwick became jazz standards, although his use of unusual chord progressions probably made it more complicated for performers. Stan Getz recorded an entire album of Bacharach/David songs in the seventies (What the World Needs Now Is Love), and Ahmad Jamal opened his 1968 album Tranquility (one of our favorites of his) with two of their songs: “I Say a Little Prayer” and “The Look of Love.”
Elton John may have declared Saturday the night for fightin’ and Link Wray may have been ready to “Rumble,” but sure as red, white and blue the soundtrack to a bar fight is honky tonk country. And like all good country music, there’s a story in all the best bar fight songs.
Honky tonks have been a primary setting for country music since Hank Williams crooned “Honky Tonkin'” in 1948, and ground zero in the battle of the sexes ever since Kitty Wells’ responded to a Hank Thompson tune with “It Wasn’t God Who Made the Honky Tonk Angels” four years later.
Other country standards carry an implicit rowdy brawl — there’s no doubt, for instance, that Garth Brooks got his ass kicked after taking the groom’s glass and toasting his “friends in low places,” or that any of several Loretta Lynn hits (“Sweet Thang,”“Fist City,” etc) ended in anything short of a cat fight. Through all those years we were warned rap music would corrupt the youth of America country singers have been treating the tavern like a playground. You’re already familiar with the setting, so let’s introduce you to the redneck mother who’s going to kick your ass…
Oklahoma native Ray Wylie Hubbard wrote “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother,” and chose the tune to open his second album — but it what made it a country standard was a rendition on Jerry Jeff Walker’s live album, A Man Must Carry On. Hubbard’s own explanation of the song’s origin, at a birthday celebration for Walker, is just as funny:
Johnny Paycheck ran into the redneck mother in “Colorado Kool-Aid,” a tune from his hit album Take This Job and Shove It. It was on the flip side of the title track’s hit single, reaching #50 on Billboard’s country singles chart all by itself in 1977. Nearly a decade later, Paycheck walked into the North High Lodge in Hillsboro, Ohio and got into a similar disagreement. This very real bar fight ended with the country singer shooting a .22 at a fan, grazing his head. Paycheck, who was quoted as saying “Do you see me as some kind of country hick?” before firing the gun, eventually served a small portion of his nine-year sentence before being pardoned.
One of the very best outlaw country tunes of the seventies was Charlie Daniels’ “Uneasy Rider,” which tells the story of a ‘cosmic hippy’ as described by Hubbard getting into a fight with rednecks in a Jackson, Mississippi bar after his car breaks down.
Daniels himself drifted to the right so strongly that his 1988 remake of “Uneasy Rider” is just about the opposite of the original song: the counter-culture is then represented with the same disdain Daniel’s had reserved for the rednecks of the Dew Drop Inn in 1973.
Bobby Weir introduces a novelty number on the Grateful Dead’s Reckoning by saying, “From a song about tragedy impending we’re going to move swiftly to a song about tragedy narrowly averted,” and that’s a fine description for this next song. Lynyrd Skynyrd is, of course, more southern rock than country music, but there are shades of Nashville in all of our favorite of their songs, including “Every Mother’s Son,” “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” and of course “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“Gimme Three Steps” is a song about a bar fight we can presume doesn’t happen.
What better way to end a playlist of bar fight songs than with “The Winner” by Bobby Bare, a song written by prolific poet Shel Silverstein? Bare’s 1976 album The Winner and Other Losers is best remembered for producing one of the clumsiest country hits, “Dropkick Me Jesus,” but we think of “The Winner” as its best song. And to bring today’s post full-circle, the other side of the single was Bare’s version of “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.”
Folklore around the world attributes supernatural powers to the scion of an unbroken line of males: the seventh son of a seventh son. These are sometimes dark, demonic powers, as in Argentina, where if the seventh son of a seventh son is not baptized in seven churches he will become the lobizón, a werewolf. Other cultures bestow upon him powers of premonition, or Christ-like abilities to heal merely by touch.
In 1 Chronicles 2:15 we learn David, second sovereign of the Kingdom of Israel, was the seventh son of Jesse. Apostles Matthew and Luke later assure us the Messiah was descendent of David. The lesser prophet Gad, who in 2 Samuel 24:11-13 instructed David to return to Judah where he would ultimately rule, was the seventh son of Jacob. The Book of Gad the Seer is a lost text.
We have already written recently about Ralph Ellison’s 1952 masterpiece, The Invisible Man. The book comes up again in the form of Petey Wheatstraw, who Ellison’s narrator meets in Harlem, and who claims to be the seventh son of a seventh son. Wheatstraw is drawn from Peetie Wheatstraw, blues singer alternately billed on records as “The Devil’s Son in Law” and “The High Sheriff from Hell,” who may have been the source of the Robert Johnson/”Crossroads” mythology.
Willie Dixon wrote “Seventh Son” in 1955, playing bass on the original recording by Willie Mabon. He performed the song himself on a 1970 album which included other songs he’d written as a Chess sideman, including “Back Door Man” and “I Ain’t Superstitious,” both associated with Howlin’ Wolf. It has likewise been covered many times over the years — notably by Johnny Rivers on his album, Meanwhile Back at the Whiskey A Go Go, by pianist Mose Alison, the Climax Blues Band and George Thorogood. Unfortunately the song has also been recorded by Sting.
The Johnny Rivers album, his third of five ostensibly recorded the legendary Los Angeles club, sounds suspiciously to some like a studio recording with overdubbed crowd noise. Still, his “Seventh Son” peaked at, you guessed it, #7 on the singles chart.
Iron Maiden’s seventh album explored clairvoyance, madness and evil in what began as a concept album based on the seventh son of a seventh son mythology. If there is a story to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, we can’t follow it, although we’ve always considered “Can I Play with Madness?” a favorite track by the band. “Moonchild” is an entertaining entry into the hard rock obsession with occultist Aleister Crowley, and the title song places the eponymous soul at the crossroads:
Then they watch the progress he makes The Good and the evil which path will he take Both of them trying to manipulate The use of his powers before it’s too late
On the jacket the tragic Eddie retains his lobotomy scar from Piece of Mind, as well as his cybertronic parts from Somewhere in Time. In addition he is disemboweled, and proffers a fetus.
“Seventh Son” was one of the first songs Joe Zawinul contributed after joining the Cannonball Adderely band, then a sextet featuring Yusef Lateef. The Austrian pianist went on to contribute some of the bands’ best material for its Capitol Recordings in the mid-60s including the hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and later led Weather Report with Wayne Shorter.
“He’s always off on one trip or another,” says the band’s leader on The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Person.