A while back we put together a goofy post of lesser-known dance crazes, and today we have another to add to the list: “The Bend”!
We first found it on this 45 by former I Dream of Jeanie star Barbara Eden, but the song was earlier a huge European hit for a group comically named Dave Dee, Doozy, Beaky, Mitch and Tich.
Their recording of “Bend It!” topped the German single chart. The song incorporated the bouzouki sound popularized by Zorba the Greek by using an amplified mandolin. It received little airplay in the United States because the lyrics were considered suggestive, so the band re-recorded it with different lyrics.
Barbara Eden made a few records in the sixties which are campy collector’s items today. Her version of “Bend It!” came with a picture sleeve that had instructions for “The Bend” on the back, so now you can dance along at home!
We can’t say anyone has ever come into the record shop specifically for an album of John Phillip Sousa’s marches, but he is undeniably a towering figure in the history of American music. Consider the hundreds of performances of “Stars and Stripes Forever” on Youtube. They range from amateurish to awesome, such as Chet Atkins’ incredible transcription of the song for guitar.
Sousa was born in Washington DC in 1854, and his life and career spanned some pretty incredible times in the history of American popular music. In 1906, Sousa published an essay titled “The Menace of Mechanical Music,” which began alarmingly enough:
Sweeping across the country with the speed of a transient fashion in slang or Panama hats, political war cries or popular novels, comes now the mechanical device to sing for us a song or play for us a piano, in substitute for human skill, intelligence, and soul.
The loathsome subject of Sousa’s alarm was the player piano, then a decade-old novelty which, briefly pre-dating the phonograph, provided the first widespread distribution of pre-produced music. Historian Craig Roell (in The Piano in America 1890-1940) describes the difference succinctly: “Music, like clothing, was ‘consumed,’ not ‘made.'”
Sousa warned the machines would result in a “marked deterioration in American music and musical taste,” but his essay (which coined the familiar phrase “canned music”) had its own underhand agenda. In Decomposition: A Music Manifesto, Andrew Durkin points out that Sousa was equally concerned with the fact that composers were not yet paid a royalty for such reproductions of their work, and already at this time he was a best-selling recording artist.
Durkin traces this particular strain of technophobia to mistrust of the piano itself, which one outspoken critic said threatened to reduce music “to a question of such dexterity as is shown by a first-class operator on Remington’s typewriter.”
The 1909 Copyright Act resolved many of the concerns composers had over the distribution of their music on piano rolls, and it remained in effect until it was superseded by a similar Copyright Act in 1976. This was, in effect, the beginning of the entertainment industry’s chronic panic attack over one technology or another: piano rolls, home taping, VCRs, Napster and a baby dancing to seconds of a Prince song on Youtube are all connected.
Also, this has got to be the best performance of “Stars and Stripes Forever” in the world.
The unseasonably warm weather has conspired to make sidewalks here in Minneapolis more slippery than usual. This morning while walking the dogs we though of this Paul Simon song.
“Slip Slidin’ Away” was an outtake from Still Crazy After All These Years, finally finding its way on a 1977 Greatest Hits collection.
In a recent post we explored those extra songs added to “Greatest Hits” record to entice collectors, but neglected to include this one. Sometimes those one-off songs are the most inspired. In an epic 2006 collection Tom Waits termed such songs “Orphans,” but there’s an additional weight on them when added to a collection of hits. The newly adopted song must hold its own alongside popular favorites — in the case of Greatest Hits, Etc. this includes classics like the enigmatic and endearing “Mother and Child Reunion.”
Although the single of “Slip Slidin’ Away” was a success, Greatest Hits, Etc. marked a low point for ol’ Paul, whose wellspring of rhymes waned so low that he didn’t have enough material for a new album when his contract with Columbia reached its conclusion. The album was eventually replaced with a more conventional and more expansive collection, Negotiations and Love Songs, buoyed by the success and renewed inspiration of Simon’s Graceland.
“Slip Slidin’ Away” is an equally apt tune elsewhere, even if the sidewalks aren’t icy. We all seem to be slip slidin’ away these days, a nation at sea without a rudder. Where we might hit shore is anyone’s guess, as each day’s news is more baffling than the last. Sentimental as it may be, we can’t help but identify with the man who wishes to explain to his son “all the reasons for the things he had done” but finds himself unable to say a word. We are at a loss for words ourselves, but thankfully the world does not turn to the neighborhood record store for answers. All we can do is “work our jobs, collect our pay,” and believe we’re gliding down the highway.
We’re saying farwell to the year of the monkey by sweeping all the bad luck out the door. While we can do little to make the world a better place by being a neighborhood record shop, we’re honored for the opportunity to continue doing our little part of it all.
And as a welcome to the year of the rooster, here is a timely song about a rooster and a courageous border-crosser who carries him. It is sung by the great cowboy poet Tom Russell.
Thanks for reading and we wish you a happy new year!
The late actress Mary Tyler Moore will surely always be associated with “Love is All Around,” as evident in The Star Tribune’s headline for her obituary in this morning’s paper. She will likewise always be associated with the City of Minneapolis even though she was neither from here nor ever lived here. We heard on the radio this morning that people have already been leaving flowers at sites seen in the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Moore’s acclaimed performance as a caring, optimistic and sometimes neurotic associate producer at the fictional WJM network coincided with Minneapolis’ ascendency as a major economic power. It was in the middle of the series’ seven years that Time magazine proclaimed “the Good Life in Minnesota” with a cover story featuring Governor Wendell Anderson, and most anyone would agree our city looks like a pretty great place to live in the opening credits of the show.
Curtis recorded an unpopular country remake of “Love is All Around” in 1980, three years after The Mary Tyler Moore Show signed off. Curtis, a high school bandmate of Buddy Holly, also recorded a song about his friend in response to The Buddy Holly Story around the same time. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, having written hits for a variety of artists and a few which became rock and roll standards, notably “I Fought the Law.”
Although she later hosted a pair of short-lived musical variety shows, Mary Tyler Moore never made an album, other than her appearance in the 1966 cast of Holly Golightly, an adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The show ran for four preview performances before it was canned. The album from the widely-panned production is pretty rare — we’ve never even seen a copy — and probably only worth the hunt for the most die-hard MTM fans. The casually curious can hear a two-minute clip on Youtube instead.
During her early career as the tiny Hotpoint elf in advertisements (this is a not a joke) Moore modeled for a number of budget-label “cheesecake” record covers.
That’s a pretty inauspicious debut considering how legendarily barrier-breaking her career was. Of course, in one of the series’ most famous episodes Mary Richards learned it was okay to laugh in the face of death. In the words of Chuckles the Clown: “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
Even though she wasn’t really from Minneapolis, we’re proud to claim Mary Tyler Moore as one of ours!