Friday Photo Flashback

For this week’s edition of the Friday Photo Flashback, we go back to Spring Break of 1989. I had graduated high school, was working at my first radio job, and my high school band was heading to Florida to perform at Disney World. My brother was still in band at the time and my parents and I tagged along on the trip as chaperones.

My grandmother and aunt had moved to Florida. At some point on the trip, my grandmother met up with us. If my memory serves me correctly, my friend Steve also came on this trip, and we were hanging out together. I wish I had spent a little more time with my grandma on this trip, but you know how 19 year old kids are …

I love this picture of my mom and my grandma. They both would be diagnosed with breast cancer and their lives would be cut short by it. In this picture, they are both healthy. This is the way I will always remember my grandma. She always seemed to wear her hair that way. It was the late 80’s, so both her and mom have those big round lenses on their glasses. I can see the watch that she always wore, too.

My mom is wearing a T-Shirt with the Kiss-FM logo. That was my first radio job, and I am sure I was still working there when this was taken. What I wouldn’t give to have one of those shirts today! Blonde was not my mother’s natural hair color, but I always loved when she wore it that color. Her hair seems to be a bit short in this picture, too.

The more I look at this photo, the more I think that this was taken just before we all loaded up the busses to head back home, or maybe before my grandma was heading home. Mom is holding shopping bags, so we had probably all just come back from one last trek to buy souvenirs. It is hard to say.

I don’t think this was the same trip (mom’s hair looks longer), but it could be.

When I found out my grandma had cancer, I avoided seeing her. I regret this. A lot. It is one of those things that comes up a lot in my mind. If I could turn back the clock, I would. I didn’t want to see her sick. I remember someone had taken some pictures of her after she had gone through some chemotherapy or radiation and she was a shell of her former self.

Those pictures sort of assured me that I was doing the right thing by not seeing her. Well, at least I thought so. I know now it was not. I should have seen her. I should have called her. I should have held her hand and said I love you. I should have had the chance to say goodbye. In Sinatra’s “My Way,” he says, “Regrets. I’ve had a few…” This is one of my biggest regrets. The only good thing about my not seeing her sick is that when I think of her, she is just as she was in these photos.

I think of these two brave women every October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I miss them both very much.

September Songs

Welcome September! As the new month rings in, the realization that we have entered the final days of summer and the beginning of autumn approaches. As I wrote the date yesterday, I began to sing September Song. It is a song that has been recorded by many people, but I was first introduced to it by Willie Nelson. It was on his Stardust album, which we played many times while we were up north. My grandpa said that it was his favorite song on that album.

So that made me think that a good way to welcome the month is with songs about September. Here are some of my favorites:

September Song – Willie Nelson

September Morn – Neil Diamond

This was one I remember well from when my dad was playing guitar in a wedding band called Foxfire. Whenever he had band practice, he’d bring my brother and me along. There were plenty of nights we loathed going to those practices, but every now and then, they played a song I really liked. This song was one that my mother often sang along with as she was driving.

See You In September – The Happenings

This is one that reminds me of my days at WHND, Honey Radio. The music director was very good about making sure summer songs played during the summer and songs like this played at the end of the school year and at the beginning of September. I won’t say it is a “favorite” but it does bring back some of my favorite radio memories.

September When I First Met You – Barry White

My buddy Jeff Goodrich used to say “There’s nothing like 6 minutes and 42 seconds of Barry saying cool things!” It’s a smooth groove ….

Maybe September – Tony Bennett

The legendary Tony Bennett croons through this Song from The Oscar. The parenthetical title is actually Maybe September. Sinatra called Tony one of the greatest singers of all time. His smooth delivery blends so well with this very pretty arrangement …

September Skies – The Brian Setzer Orchestra

This is one of my favorite cuts from the BSO’s first album. It is not one that many have heard before, but I can hear the likes of Michael Buble’ doing this one, too. Tell me what you think …

September – Earth, Wind and Fire

Come on! You can’t have a list of September songs without this one! This came out in 1978 and it is STILL requested at weddings and parties! People love to dance to this one. Crank it up!

September in the Rain – Annie Lennox

Sinatra did this. So did Dinah Washington. I picked up Annie Lennox’s Nostalgia album and was blown away by her version. She’s got such a great voice and the arrangement is beautiful.

Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day

Every October someone will post on Facebook, “Time to wake up the guy from Green Day.” This is one of a few songs I like from them. I love the simple guitar at the beginning and how the song builds into the “Green Day” sound.

September of My Years – Frank Sinatra

A Sinatra classic, and the perfect song to wrap with. I guess at 52 years old, I am probably entering or in the September of my own years. Time flies. We see that each and every year. It seems like we just started summer, but alas, fall fast approaches.

Sing it, Mr. Sinatra ….

I’m sure I may have forgotten a few – which September song is your favorite??

Turntable Talk – Cover Me

This blog is part of the next installment of Dave from A Sound Day’s Turntable Talk. This time around, the subject is “cover songs.” Per our instructions:

This time around, wanting to get your thoughts on Cover Songs…what makes a really good one, maybe what your favorite bold one is. Do you like ones really faithful to the original, or ones that spin it in an altogether direction? Or conversely, what one is atrocious to you & why.

By ‘bold’ I mean covers of songs that were already known, and hits. I won’t set any minimum guidelines but as examples, most people never heard The Arrows version of ‘I Love Rock n Roll’ or The Clique’s ‘Superman’ so it was easy for Joan Jett & REM respectively make them their own.  But to do a Beatles song, like Joe Cocker did only a couple of years after the original was released… that took …something. 

So what cover songs work great for you?

Cover Songs

If you do a Google search on “cover songs,” there are plenty of links to articles containing lists of “the best” ones. There are also links to video’s that feature countdowns and lists of “best and worst” cover songs. Those lists, no doubt, will include: Twist and Shout by the Beatles, Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner, Hurt by Johnny Cash, Last Kiss by Pearl Jam, Mony Mony by Billy Idol, All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, and many many more!

Many people are unaware that some of their favorite songs are actually cover songs. A lot of the early Rolling Stones and Beatles songs were actually covers of songs they loved by other artists. In a way, a cover song is the ultimate “hat tip” to a band’s early influence.

Personally, I tend to love cover songs. If you were to grab my iPod, that becomes very clear! I recall a time when I was married to my ex-wife and her iPod was dead. She wanted to go walk and asked if she could take mine instead. Upon returning home, she said to me, “How many different versions of a song do you need?!”

Cover Song Example

Dave asked “what makes a good” cover song? He also asked, “Do you like ones really faithful to the original, or ones that spin it in an altogether direction?

It is difficult for me to say what exactly makes a good cover song because I think it can be one that is faithful to the original, spun in a different direction, or a mixture of both of those elements. Take for example, the Rodgers and Hart song – Blue Moon.

The song was written in 1934. There were recordings made as early as 1935. One of the best known versions is the Doo Wop hit from 1961 by the Marcels. Dean Martin did a stripped down version with piano and drums that was performed as a slow ballad. Frank Sinatra’s version was more “swingy”. Sam Cooke’s “bounced” and in 1997 a swing band called the Jive Aces covered it as a bouncy boogie woogie sounding cover. Every single version I mentioned, I like for different reasons.

Some of My Favorite Covers

If I were to make a list of all the cover songs I have on my iPod and feature one a day on my blog, I would have enough songs to write about for about 6 months! Instead, I grabbed a piece of paper and off the top of my head started jotting down the cover songs that came to mind. I gave myself 5 minutes to do this and came up with about 18 songs. The reality is that I know that I will complete this blog and after it posts say, “Oh, man! I forgot (insert cover song here)!” That’s ok.

While it may be hard for me to tell you exactly what I love about cover songs, maybe by giving some examples of some of my favorites, the music will answer the question for both of us.

The first three I came up with are all from movie soundtracks. There is no shortage of cover songs in the movies. These covers will often give new life to old songs – examples include Sweet Child of Mine by Sheryl Crow from Big Daddy, Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright from Shrek, Hazy Shade of Winter by the Bangels from Less Than Zero, Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon by Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction, and, of course, I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston in The Bodygaurd.

Johnny B. Goode – Marty McFly and the Starlighters

From Back to the Future, this is the song Marty McFly plays at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. In the movie, He goes off on a Eddie Van Halen type solo and the entire crowd looks at him stunned. On the soundtrack, however, there is a full version with an additional verse not in the movie. What I love about this version is the stripped down instrumentation, the saxophone and piano, and the whole feel of it. It really sounds like an “early” version of the song. It’s actually quite good.

https://youtu.be/RelL4BS2lEQ

All Shook Up – Billy Joel

From the soundtrack of Honeymoon in Vegas, which contains some very good Elvis covers. This one is my favorite. It has the feel of the Elvis version, with a little “boogie woogie” piano feel to it. Simple background vocals enhance the Billy Joel version. One addition I love is the bass drum hit after he sings, “I’m in love ….”

https://youtu.be/IsktHpH5QGk

I’m Ready – Taj Mahal

I stumbled on this by accident. This cut was used in the movie Little Big League. I’ve always been a fan of Fats Domino, but this version is just so much better. It has “meat” to it. The driving bass line keeps it moving, the piano is still there, and those saxes in the background – LOVE them. Add the electric guitar and Taj Mahal’s vocal to the mix and it is just perfect! This is one that I find myself listening to at work when I need a “pick up”

https://youtu.be/KZkRSP2oe8c

Sea of Love – The Honey Drippers

Phil Phillips did the original of this, but how can you NOT love this version?! First and foremost, you have Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page as well as Jeff Beck in the group! Add a beautiful string arrangement and background singers to compliment them and you have a top 5 record!

https://youtu.be/2BoUzzFXuVU

Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Not many people are aware that this is actually a cover song. It was originally done in 1964 by Gloria Jones. The song was written by Ed Cobb, who was in the Four Preps, and was actually the B-side of a song called My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home. The original had a “Motown” feel to it, while Soft Cell certainly has more of an 80’s feel to it.

Here is Soft Cell: https://youtu.be/22mYcScS_88

Here is the original: https://youtu.be/NSehtaY6k1U

Hard to Handle – Black Crowes

This one was written and recorded by the legendary Otis Redding. Otis’ version is already great, but I love this one equally. It certainly has a great feel to it. It doesn’t sound dated at all. It’s funky and a great jam!

https://youtu.be/BRcs_OzQb14

You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr

The original was done by Johnny Burnette, who was known for rockabilly, in 1960. It’s not that I dislike the original, I just think Ringo’s version is … more fun. For years I thought Paul McCartney was playing Kazoo in this, however, one article says, “Michael Verity has quoted the song’s producer Richard Perry as revealing that it wasn’t actually a kazoo: “In fact, the solo on ‘You’re Sixteen,’ which sounds like a kazoo or something, was Paul singing very spontaneously as we played that track back, so he’s singing the solo on that.” Ringo’s version remains one of the few No. 1 singles to feature a ‘kazoo-sound’ solo. (It sure sounds like a kazoo to me!) I also love the driving piano bassline in his version.

https://youtu.be/vkR7u_sOtHI

I’m Down – Aerosmith

Originally done by the Beatles, this is almost a carbon copy of the Beatles version. I like it because I think Steven Tyler’s vocal perfectly fits the song.

https://youtu.be/oYGmtGnhdks

Look at Little Sister – Stevie Ray Vaughn

I picked this song in the recent song draft and you can read about it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2021/08/10/song-draft-2021-round-3-look-at-little-sister-hank-ballard-stevie-ray-vaughn/

Steamroller Blues – Elvis

Elvis did his share of covers, and this is one that comes from his Aloha From Hawaii concert special. I have always preferred this version to the James Taylor version. To me, it is more “bluesy.” I love everything about this cut!!

https://youtu.be/4vAuXP4hIoo

Baby, I Love You – Andy Kim

This one was originally done by the Ronettes in 1963 and featured Phil Spector’s “wall of sound.” Andy Kim recorded his version in 1969 and had a top 10 hit with it. It mimics the “wall of sound” but if you listen in headphones, there is a lot of little stuff going on in the background – jingle bells, glockenspiel, castanets, and more. I remember hearing it a lot as a kid.

https://youtu.be/kdrpRKiVwi8

Since I Met You Baby – Dean Martin

This remake I stumbled on by watching MTV!! The original was done by Ivory Joe Hunter in 1956. I remember seeing the Title and Artist show up on the bottom left side of the screen when the video started and couldn’t believe that Dean Martin was on MTV. He recorded it for his The Nashville Sessions Album and I love that it stays true to the original, yet is purely Dean.

https://youtu.be/9Ls6X0-rgd4

Think – Joan Osborne

It better be good if you are covering the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and this one is! Aretha did the original in 1968 and then covered herself for a version in the Blues Brothers. I don’t remember how I stumbled on Joan Osborne’s version, but it is different enough that I love it. It has such a cocky attitude to it. Dig it –

https://youtu.be/RNskLOOwvvI

Mustang Sally – Buddy Guy

Originally done by Wilson Pickett, this is one of greatest soul songs of all time! I heard this on the Blues channel on Sirius XM and fell in love with it. I’ve always dug Buddy Guy and while this stays pretty true to the original, it has a sound of its own!

https://youtu.be/eAyFynJXe4g

Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis

Carl Perkins seemed to have all of his songs covered and many times, his songs became associated with the other artist rather than him. That’s the case with Blue Suede Shoes – it is Elvis. Elvis’ version is so much better than Carl’s in my opinion.

https://youtu.be/HeXnFx7aPOE

Your Cheating Heart – Crystal Shawanda

Originally done in 1952 by the late Hank Williams Sr. this takes a whiney and twangy song and cranks it up about 10 notches. We had Crystal in for a show when I worked at the country station and she was fantastic. This was on her debut album. I’m not sure she isn’t a huge star. Her voice is amazing and she is very talented.

https://youtu.be/GLVYxAKT12g

Dirty Laundry – Lisa Marie Presley

Written by and a hit for Don Henley, I have always loved this song. The content of the song is about mass media and how they exploit just about everything. Henley had a top 5 hit with it. I didn’t even know that Lisa Marie Presley had done this song until I heard it on some Pandora playlist. Her vocal is sultry and sells the content lyrically. A great cut!

https://youtu.be/u9_Bf1pVWOk

As a bonus – here is a live and unplugged version:

https://youtu.be/8jUBEj_8x5s

Please, Please, Please – Delbert McClinton

A cover of James Brown’s classic! James has a hit with this in 1956 and it went top 10 on the R&B charts. I think Delbert McClinton is someone who just doesn’t get enough praise for all he does. He’s a singer songwriter who can play many instruments and has released many albums. This version comes from his Honky Tonk and Blues album, which is a personal favorite.

https://youtu.be/HCs8m27CiCM

Call Me Irresponsible – Michael Buble’

Jimmy Van Heusen composed this song in 1962 with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. According to Mel Torme’, the song was written for Judy Garland to sing on her TV show. It was written as a parody to her well-known problems. Many people have done versions on the song – Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Eddie Fisher, Julie London, and more. Michael Buble’ used this as the title track for his 2007 album. It get’s me right from the opening “walking” bass lick. Buble’ has made a career out of covering so many songs from the Great American Songbook, as well as many originals. He has a great band backing him and he sings this effortlessly.

https://youtu.be/oj_eUUaWBu0

Ok – Just One That I HATE

Lean on Me – Club Nouveau

I love Bill Withers. he wrote and recorded this for his 1972 Still Bill album. It was a smash and was a number 1 song. I never cared for the cover version. Yes, it stayed very close to the original, but I just never cared for the arrangement at all. It’s almost annoying to me. It is actually playing in my headphones as I am typing this. To me, the whole 80’s synth sounds just sound out of place. Not to mention the whole “We be jammin” part – URGH!! One good thing about this was that it won a Grammy for Bill Withers as the writer for Best R&B song.

I reluctantly post the link to the video here ….

https://youtu.be/kbyjaUJWWmk

Final Thoughts

So what can we say about cover songs? Are they done as a tribute to the original artist? Are they done because it’s a favorite to perform? Are they done to “improve” on the original? Are they done because an artist feels it should be presented in a different way? Who knows, really!? One could easily ask the same questions about all the crappy movie remakes that have come about.

Some of my favorite concert memories are hearing the singer do a song that is totally unexpected. My favorite memory of the Billy Joel concert I attended wasn’t Piano Man. It was when he talked about loving the Motor City and breaking into his own version of I Heard it Through The Grapevine! Magical!! Aaron Tippin played a county fair for us and one point he threw on a fedora and sang Fly Me To the Moon, which blew my mind! Very cool songs – never released – but covers, nonetheless.

In the end, a good song is a good song. I love listening to a great song done by many other singers. It says something about the song melodically and lyrically. I don’t always love the cover, but that’s ok. It’s fun to hear the artist’s take on it.

I want to thank Dave for allowing me to ramble on and on about this month’s topic. I’ve wanted to feature cover songs on my site, but just couldn’t figure out how to present it. I guess I better stop typing because the more I think about it … the more songs are coming to my head!

Thanks for reading!

TV Show Draft – Round 4 – Columbo

Welcome to my fourth round pick in the Hanspostcard TV Draft. Last round I chose Perry Mason, which was the ultimate court room “whodunit!” You never knew who committed the crime until the end of the episode. I thought it appropriate to choose Columbo for this round, because it is almost the exact opposite of Perry Mason, in that you know who the killer is right from the get go. It was called a murder mystery where the murder was no mystery.

The show pioneered the “inverted mystery” technique/format. Almost every show begins with a crime and the audience knows who the culprit is. Then enter the LAPD’s Lieutenant Columbo who spends the remainder of the show looking for clues, pestering the criminal, and eventually solving the case. The show was not a “whodunit” like Perry Mason, but rather it has been described as a “how’s he gonna catch him?”

The first season of Columbo began in September of 1971. I know that most of the shows being picked by others in the draft ran on a weekly basis. Columbo did not. Most episodes were featured as part of the NBC Mystery Movie rotation. It ran for 35 years with a total of 69 episodes.

The show was created by schoolmates Richard Levinson and William Link. The character first appeared in 1960 on The Chevy Mystery Show in an episode called “Enough Rope.” That episode was then adapted for a stage play entitled Prescription: Murder, which was then adapted for television in 1968. Columbo was played by Bert Freed in Enough Rope and by Thomas Mitchell in the stage version in 1962.

The writers of the show had originally wanted Lee J. Cobb to play Columbo, but he was unavailable. They next approached Bing Crosby, who turned down the role because it would take away from his time on the golf course. Peter Falk came across the script for Prescription: Murder and contacted Levinson and Link and said, “I’d kill to play that cop!”

Peter Falk and Gene Berry

They weren’t really sure about Peter Falk, who was only 39 at the time. They envisioned the character as being older. He won the role, and he plays him as a much straighter, cleaner, and firmer Columbo in the first episode. It was a huge hit! The Columbo quirks and mannerisms that fans came to know and love would develop as he continued to play the role.

Peter Falk really threw himself into the role. He wore his own clothes. The suit was one that he had dyed brown, because he felt that looked better. He wore his own shoes. The world famous raincoat was one that he purchased in New York City while caught in a rainstorm. It cost him a mere $15. One difference between Peter and Columbo – Columbo preferred cigars, while Falk enjoyed cigarettes.

I am currently reading a fantastic book on the show written by David Koenig.

Columbo is like no other cop. Koenig says, “There was nobody or nothing like Columbo at all before him. All the detectives were these hardboiled, emotionless, tough guys. And he was the opposite of that in every way. He hated guns and violence.” He describes the show this way, “Columbo wasn’t really a cop show. It was a drawing-room mystery done backwards with a cop as the lead. It was an anti-cop show.”

During the first few seasons of Columbo, it really set the standard for what some refer to as “event television.” There were some fabulous guest stars who played the murderer. Those stars included Gene Berry, Jack Cassidy, William Shatner, Dick Van Dyke, Ruth Gordon, Robert Vaughn, Anne Baxter, Janet Leigh, Robert Culp, Donald Pleasence, Eddie Albert, Leonard Nimoy, Johnny Cash, and Patrick McGoohan – just to name a few!!

After the murder, when Columbo finally shows up, his genius is hidden by his often confused look. It is also hidden by the way he is dressed and by his friendly demeanor. He is looked upon as a stupid fool. The killer has no idea what a brilliant man Columbo is and they are lured into a false sense of security. The killer becomes even more arrogant and dismisses Columbo as a dope, only to be caught in the end.

One of the things that certainly added to the character was his little idiosyncrasies like fumbling through his pockets for a piece of evidence, asking to borrow a pencil, or being distracted by something in the room in the middle of a conversation. Falk adlibbed those moments on camera while film was rolling as a way to keep the other actors off-balance. He felt that it really helped to make their confused and impatient reactions to Columbo more genuine. It really truly worked.

On the show, the murderer is often some famous person, or someone who is cultured or from high society. Either that, or some sort of successful professional (surgeon, psychologist, etc…). Paired up against Columbo, it is gold! The interactions between the two become such a marvelous part of the show and brings out Columbo’s character and cunning genius!

In those conversations Columbo is often confused. He doesn’t know anything about classical music, chess, fine wines, photography or pieces of art. One article on the show stated that his “ignorance” will often “allow him to draw in the murderer with a cunning humility that belies his understanding of human behavior and the criminal mind.”

The last episode of Columbo aired in 2003 and was entitled “Columbo Likes the Nightlife.” Falk had planned for one final episode. It was to be called “Columbo’s Last Case” which was to begin at his retirement party. There was a lack of network interest and with his age and failing health, the episode was never to be.

Columbo remains as popular as ever. It was one of the most watched shows on streaming platforms during the pandemic. Author David Koenig says about the show, “It has stood the test of time for 50-plus years now. That character is still vibrant and alive, appealing to people. People love that central character, that basic format, the fact that it’s not political, it’s not violent, it’s not all the things television shows are today, it’s something different. And that is charm. That’s what people love about it.”

Columbo Facts:

  • Steven Spielberg directed the first episode of Season 1 – Murder by the Book.
  • Peter Falk won 4 Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Columbo (1972, 1975, 1976, and 1990)
  • He also won a Golden Globe Award for the role.
  • Patrick McGoohan played a murderer more times than any other actor – 4 times. Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp each had 3 times, William Shatner and George Hamilton each played a killer twice.
  • Columbo’s name is never revealed – although a close up of his badge in the first season says it is ‘Frank.’ The creators of the show have stated that his first name was never known, so take that however you want to.
  • Columbo drives a 1960 Peugeot 403 convertible.
  • Columbo’s favorite food is chili and black coffee is his drink of choice.
  • In the 1972 episode entitled, “Etude in Black,” Columbo rescued a basset hound from the dog pound. The dog could be seen in many other episodes, and was as close to a sidekick/partner as Columbo ever got.
  • In 1997, the episode Murder by the Book was ranked #16 in TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list.
  • In 1999, Lieutenant Columbo was ranked #7 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time.”
  • There is a bronze statue of Columbo (and his dog) in Budapest, Hungary. It was unveiled in 2017. Peter Falk is rumored to be a distant relative of the well-known Hungarian politician Miksa Falk (1828-1908).
Columbo Statue in Budapest, Hungary

I thought I would close with little treat for you. In one of the Dean Celebrity Roasts, Frank Sinatra was the Man of the Hour. Now, these roasts were often edited down to make sure all the best stuff was shown on TV. In Lee Hale’s book, he stated that there was only one performance that was shown in its entirety – Peter Falk’s appearance during the Sinatra roast.

Falk appears from the audience – as Lt. Columbo. The entire 11 minute bit is just priceless. It is a must see. Enjoy:

Spaghetti? I Was Just Dreaming About That …

Today is National Spaghetti Day here in the United States. I didn’t know that until a friend of mine posted it on Facebook earlier today. I also didn’t know it was National Trivia Day in the United States. The same friend posted that, too. So before I tell my story … how about a tidbit of spaghetti trivia?

Did you know that the word spaghetti is plural for the Italian word spaghetto, which is a diminutive of spago, meaning “thin  string” or “twine?” You do now!

Dean Martin eating spaghetti

It is probably a total coincidence that I had a dream about spaghetti last night. Usually when I have a dream that I am trying to figure out, I wake up and email myself what I remember. Nine times out of ten, it is a bunch of misspelled words that I have to wonder just what I was trying to type.

So my dream, I admit, doesn’t make much sense at all. Although it was almost like there should have been a message in it or something. So, here is (to my best recollection) the dream:

There is a mixture of humans and cartoon characters in it. I don’t really understand it, but that is like most dreams I suppose. The family from Bluey is in it (probably because my daughter and I were watching it before bed).

The Heelers from Bluey

At first I think I am at some sort of spaghetti dinner, like a fund raiser or something. Then I realize that this event is some sort of celebration or ceremony. It has something to do with the children – and the number of meatballs on the child’s plate. It was sort of like a karate/kung fu belt ceremony.

Each child walks through the line with a plate of spaghetti and when the reach the appropriate server, he plops a certain number of meatballs on the plate and explains what it means. No meatballs meant they were newcomers, one meatball was a novice, two meatballs meant they were intermediate, three meatballs signified above average, and four meatballs was a pro/master.

Anyone who got four meatballs got a huge round of applause from the crowd. It was almost like some sort of Jewish Bar Mitzvah or something, “Congratulations! Four meatballs! You are now a man!” I stood there puzzled by the whole thing and then I realized that I am in line, holding a plate of spaghetti. The server drops three meatballs on my plate and tells me to move on.

I am stumped. I am confused. Why do I not have four? What exactly are you a pro at if you DO get four meatballs? I don’t even know!

I walk away staring at these three meatballs and Bluey’s dad, Bandit, comes up to me and says, “Only three, huh? That’s they way it goes sometimes, Mate.”

Then I wake up.

Weird. Weird. Weird.

Oh, and the guy dishing out the meatballs? Frank Sinatra!

Christmas Memories – Frank Sinatra

On my way home yesterday I happened to catch this holiday song by Frank Sinatra. I’ve probably heard it 50 times over the last 5 years. I have the Sinatra Christmas album it is on, but never really seemed to play this song as a “favorite.” Yesterday, however, the lyrics hit me like I was hearing it for the first time.

I’m not sure whether it is because of the way I’m feeling this year, or that I’ve reached the age where it hits home a little more. I just now that as I listened to it, I came to appreciate it more than I ever have.

The song was written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Don Costa. Costa was a conductor and producer who worked with Frank on a many of his hit albums, including My Way. Frank recorded this song in October of 1975 for his label, Reprise Records.

The song begins with a beautiful string arrangement. As Frank begins to sing, you can hear he is older. His voice is tender, but a bit weaker than his older hits. To me, this makes the song even more enjoyable. Here is an older man, looking back on the memories of Christmas and experiencing all the nostalgic feelings that come with them.

As the singers sing the bridge of the song, I picture Frank sitting in a chair, lost in thought and smiling at the various memories that fill his head. Maybe they bring tears or maybe a smile. As Frank begins to sing again, he elaborates on what I am already picturing. He closes his eyes and he is flooded with the memories of every Christmas he has lived through.

The song is short, coming in at just over 2 minutes. There are four simple verses. Yet so many emotions are conveyed by the wonderful arrangement and Sinatra’s perfect vocal interpretation.

It is not a song that you will hear on your local “Christmas station,” and that is a shame. It is certainly one of my favorites and will remain that way for a very long time. I just know that it will mean more with each passing year.

Christmas Memories – Frank Sinatra

Singing carols, stringing popcorn
Making footprints in the snow
Memories, Christmas memories
They’re the sweetest ones I know

Cookies baking in the kitchen
Cards and ribbons everywhere
Frosty, Christmas memories
Float like snowflakes in the air

And, oh, the joy of waking Christmas mornings
The family round the tree
We had a way of making Christmas morning
As merry as can be

I close my eyes and see shiny faces
Of all the children who now have children of their own
Funny, but comes December
And I remember every Christmas I’ve known

Song Draft 2021 – Round 10 – Final Pick – Superstition – Stevie Wonder

We have reached the final round of the 2021 Song Draft hosted by Hanspostcard. I want to thank Hans for allowing me to be a part of it, and also thank the other participants who welcomed me into the draft. I have truly enjoyed being a part of this!

Prior to the draft, I made a list of possible song choices. As the draft continued, each round I would look at my list (and at the songs picked by the others) and decide which one would be my next choice. Some of the picks were easy, while others were more difficult. A few of them were spur of the moment picks that weren’t on the original list.

As I looked at that list in preparation for my last pick, I see many artists that I’d love to have featured: Aretha Franklin, The Honeydrippers, Big Joe Turner, Bob Seger, The Go-Go’s, Bill Withers, Johnny Lang, Queen, Buster Brown, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Guy, Neil Diamond, Mel Torme’ and so many more! I stared at my list for a long time and thought about it. Since I began the draft with a Michigan artist, I should wrap up with a Michigan artist. So my final pick for the draft is – Superstition by Stevie Wonder.

Stevie was born a little over 100 miles north of Detroit in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950. He would forever be associated with Detroit and Motown records. In a 1990 Detroit appearance at Tiger Stadium, Nelson Mandella said, “It is motor town that gave the world a great singer – Steve Wonder!”

In 1963, when he was known as “Little” Stevie Wonder, he had his first #1 song with a cut called Fingertips Part 2. Personally, I could never stand that song. It was in a heavy rotation at the first radio station I worked at, and I found it annoying. It would be 10 years before he received his next #1 song – Superstition.

The song was released on his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book.

Guitarist Jeff Beck was a fan of Stevie’s music and Stevie heard about this just before recording the Talking Book sessions. Though at this point he was playing virtually all of the instruments on his songs by himself, Stevie preferred to let other guitarists play on his records, and he liked the idea of a collaboration with Beck. An agreement was quickly made for Beck to become involved in the sessions that became the Talking Book album, in return for Wonder writing him a song.

According to legend, between the album sessions, Beck came up with the opening drum beat. Stevie told Jeff to keep playing while he improvised over the top of it. He improvised most of the song, including the funky riff. They wound up creating a rough demo of the song that day.

After finishing the song, Wonder decided that he would allow Beck to record “Superstition” as part of their agreement. Originally, the plan was for Beck to release his version of the song first, with his newly formed power trio Beck, Bogert, and Appice. Their album’s release, however, was delayed.

From Songfacts.com: When Stevie turned 21, he was no longer obligated to Motown Records, and used his clout to sign a deal with the label giving him unprecedented control of his music. He got a large share of royalties and publishing rights, and Motown was not allowed to alter the albums once they were delivered. One thing Motown did control, however, were what songs they released as singles. Knowing Jeff Beck was about to record his version, Motown head Berry Gordy made sure this was the first single and released it before Beck could get his out.

This was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, which is where Jimi Hendrix recorded. The studios stayed active after Hendrix’ death, with artists like Miles Davis and Deep Purple also recording there.

At the time, Wonder would keep the studio booked so he could record when inspiration hit. Stevie’s bass player at the time, Scott Edwards, told Songfacts this was not always convenient for his band. “Because he does not have sight, he’s not controlled by daylight,” said Edwards. “So he may begin his night at midnight. Which is bad, because if they want you to come do an overdub or something, he may call you at 4 a.m. and say, ‘Come on in.'”

I always loved the funky feel of this song, and I always played it when I was DJing Halloween parties.

Aside of Jeff Beck’s version, many others have covered this song. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version still gets radio airplay today on many Classic Rock stations.

In 1974, the song earned Stevie his first Grammy Award.

Superstition – Lyrics

Very superstitious,
Writing’s on the wall,
Very superstitious,
Ladders bout’ to fall,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way

Hey

Very superstitious,
Wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem,
Do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream,
Keep me goin’ strong,
You don’t wanna save me,
Sad is the soul

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
Yeh, yeh

Very superstitious,
Nothin’ more to say,
Very superstitious,
The devil’s on his way,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass,
Seven years of bad luck,
Good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
No, no, no

As a bonus – here is the official video of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s cover….watch for a cool cameo at the end ….

My “Go to” Karaoke Song(s)

It has been some time since a “Daily Writing Prompt” moved me enough to use it as a blog idea. Today’s though, was definitely one I could use. The Prompt? “What is your ‘go to’ karaoke song?”

I have to admit, I have sung a lot of karaoke. I did this mainly when I was in my mid 20’s to early 30’s. My friends and I had a couple places that we’d go and sing at. Looking back at it, I have to laugh because they were all dive bars.

I started singing karaoke with my old morning show partner, who actually COULD sing. He had a great voice and often sang ballads from the Great American Song Book. It was always funny because you’d have these people up there singing Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Queen, and Prince. Then he would get up and sing something from Robert Goulet!

At one point, between radio jobs, I actually hosted karaoke, which I thought would be fun, but it really wasn’t. It was then that I realized there were plenty of people who “thought” they could sing, but couldn’t. They come up to you with requests like, “Put some reverb on my voice” or “Pitch the song up or down” or “Give me more volume on my microphone” … It was crazy! These people are up there thinking their Shania Twain or John Lennon or something.

I have never claimed to be a good singer. I have a handful of songs that I can sing and sing them well. I know which songs my voice will never be able to handle. I stick with the ones I know I can do without embarrassing myself. In my repertoire were songs like: The Wonder of You (the Elvis version), Bad Bad Leroy Brown, Bad Case of Loving You (Robert Palmer), The Lady is a Tramp (Sinatra) , Mack The Knife (Bobby Darin), And I Love You So (lol – yes! The Perry Como song!), and That’s Amore (Gotta do some Dean Martin!).

If I had to pick the 3 karaoke songs that people would associate with me, they would be:

#3 – Tutti Fruiti by Little Richard

The reason for this is that back in the day, I used to change the lyrics to this. The lyrics were … well, not clean. People always laughed when I did this, however, today, I couldn’t do that any more. It’s just not who I am. I actually kind of cringe when I think of some of the lyrics I sang.

#2 Delilah – Tom Jones

I’m not going to lie, this was always a hard song to sing. Tom has such a great and powerful voice. The end of this song is tough. The night is fairly high – and you have to hold it for some time. That high and long note was nothing for my old morning show partner. He used to do this song a lot. I am not sure how or why I started singing it, but it became one I was always asked to sing.

#1 – Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers

By far, one of my favorite songs to sing, and hence, my “go to” karaoke song. It was always a favorite of mine growing up. The Johnny Rivers single was recorded live (I think at the Whiskey A Go Go). I probably heard my dad play this hundreds of times on his guitar. It has such a great intro and awesome solo. I remember one time I brought a fedora and a trench coat to the place we were singing so I could wear them when I sang this. Yeah, I was quite the dork in my 20’s!

While I loved singing karaoke, eventually it got old. I felt like I was going out and wasting money on alcohol, and being forced to sing the same things every time. There were plenty of other songs I would have loved to try, but the people I was with always made me sing the ones they wanted to hear (“It’s my birthday! You HAVE to sing Bad Case of Loving You!” etc…) The karaoke “scene” just wasn’t were I wanted to be anymore.

If there was karaoke at a work party or back yard BBQ, would I get up and sing today? Yeah, probably, but I would leave the fedora at home!

Happy 79th to Capitol Records

On this day in 1942, Johnny Mercer and Glenn Wallichs launched Capitol Records in the United States. Wallichs was the man who invented the art of record promotion by sending copies of new releases to disc jockeys. It wasn’t until 13 years later, in 1955, that the now famous Capitol Records building was built.

The first artist to record at Capitol was Martha Tilton in April of 1942. She recorded the song “Moon Dreams”

Capitol Records was home to some of the biggest musical artists in history! Here are just a few:

Nat King Cole –

(Mona Lisa, A Blossom Fell, Answer Me My Love, Unforgettable)

Louis Prima and Keely Smith –

(Just a Gigolo, Old Black Magic, Jump Jive & Wail, What is This Thing Called Love)

Peggy Lee –

(‘Deed I Do, Fever, Big Spender)

Dean Martin –

(That’s Amore, Return To Me, On An Evening in Roma)

Frank Sinatra –

(One For My Baby, I Get a Kick Out of You, Love & Marriage, All The Way, Young At Heart)

The Beach Boys –

(Help Me Rhonda, Fun Fun Fun, Surfin’ USA)

The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney –

(TOO many to list!)

Stan Freberg

St. George and the Dragonet, Yellow Rose of Texas, Heartbreak Hotel, The Great Pretender)

The Bee Gees, Garth Brooks, The Letterman, Jerry Lewis, Heart, Al Martino, Johnny Mercer, The Steve Miller Band, Katy Perry, Sammy Davis Jr., Tennessee Ernie Ford, Gene Vincent, Bob Seger …. The list goes on and on!

So many amazing singers and talents sang in the Capitol Records studios. Happy Birthday!!

Nice Lids!

I rarely post two blogs in one day, however, my last post made me think about something – hats. The reason for this is the first line of the song “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (Grab your coat and get your hat ….)

I guess I have always appreciated a good hat. I wish that people would dress up like they used to. It seems like there was a time when folks would wear a nice suit and tie and always had a good hat to complete the ensemble. My dad had some pretty cool hats growing up…

My dad and cousin Diane.
My dad and grandpa looking swell! Dig that hat!

When I watch an old movie I always am impressed by the way some of the actors dressed. In the Rat Pack film “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” there is a scene where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby sang a song called “Style.” Frank and Dean are singing about how Bing needs to dress better.

Anyway, there is a line in the song that says, “A hat’s not a hat till it’s tilted.” As I thought more on this, so many of the great actors wore hats and they always tilted them. I love that look! I always wanted to find a hat that I could wear titled and have it make me look good! The fedora seemed to be the choice of many stars ….

Cary Grant was always looking suave –

Cary Grant

Bogey and Cagney knew how to wear a hat!

James Cagney – Humphrey Bogart

Classic Gangster – Edward G. Robinson was almost always wearing a hat….

Edward G. Robinson

Al Pacino looked great in a fedora …

Al Pacino

Harrison Ford brought the fedora back to the screen as Indian Jones..

Even the great Curly Howard from the Three Stooges looks amazing in a hat!

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra often recorded songs with their hats on …

Speaking of Dean Martin, the first line of his song “Bummin’ Around” says, “Got an old slouch hat ….” I wasn’t aware what a slouch hat was. I looked it up online and it was a sort of military hat. Google said, A slouch hat is a wide-brimmed felt or cloth hat most commonly worn as part of a military uniform, often, although not always, with a chinstrap. This picture came up.

slouch hat

I thought it was just a floppy hat, like Curly wore in Stooges films.

Curly

…or like Cagney wore ….

Cagney

Come to find out, those hats are called “newsboy hats.” The newsboy cap or newsie cap is a casual-wear cap similar in style to the flat cap. This is the hat that I always wear in the winter. Most people call it my “old man hat.” LOL

My daughter LOVES my hat!!

Wearing Daddy’s hat!

Maybe it is just the nostalgia lover in me, but I wish that I could pull off a nice suit, tie and hat and look as good as so many of the actors from the movies ….