Posts Tagged ‘Bette Midler’

Just Some Stuff

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 21, 2009

Some this and that for a Friday morning:

After I wrote about Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut album and its song “Wooden Ships” the other day, frequent commenter Robert noted that I hadn’t answered my own question of how well the album held together as a unit these days.

Well, I did say that the album “still ranks pretty high on my all-time list,” but maybe I should have said more than that. It holds together well, with a laid-back vibe that was echoed, I think, by a lot of the work being done by the musicians who were part of the Lauren Canyon scene in the last years of the 1960s. (That vibe, in my view, laid down a framework for at least one generation of California rock that may have found its most clear expression, if not its peak, with the mid-1970s work of Fleetwood Mac.)

But beyond providing a template for future work, how does Crosby, Stills & Nash work today? I still think it’s one of the great albums, setting out a view of how life felt – at least for a portion of American youth – as the end of the 1960s was coming into view. Beyond the allegories of “Wooden Ships” and “Guinnevere” and the grief/hope duality of “Long Time Gone” (all three of which, interestingly enough, were written or co-written by David Crosby), the songs on Crosby, Stills & Nash are mostly concerned with the personal, not the political. The fences that need mending in “49 Bye-Byes” are on the singer’s own back porch. And, with one exception, the songs – including the three Crosby-penned songs mentioned above – work with each other and fit well against each other. My only quibble, forty years down the road, is the travelogue of “Marrakesh Express,” which doesn’t seem to match the quality or the themes of the other songs.

When one tries to listen with fresh ears, there’s always the chance that something that seemed excellent thirty or forty years ago will seem much less than that now. I’ve had that happen with other albums. But not with this one.

The Texas Gal pointed me to a fascinating website this week that has nothing to do with music. The operator of Forgotten Bookmarks explains:

“I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people everyday. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books.”

The bookmarks he or she finds – I can’t find a name on the blog and so have no idea of the gender of the blogger – are pieces of paper with notes on them, old photographs, tickets to events, postcards, actual bookmarks, even – in one case I saw – a letter ending a romance, and on and on. The blogger posts pictures of each bookmark and the book in which it was found, and transcribes any notes or writing from the bookmark. In some cases, the blogger provides some context, as in identifying more completely a politician whose campaign advertisement ended up in a book.

I found it a fascinating site, but then, I like to look at old photos in antique shops, wondering “Who are these people and what were their stories?” I get the same sense at Forgotten Bookmarks, a sense of random bits of life coming to the surface, the mundane becoming mysterious.

[Note from 2022: The website, though still on line, seems to have quit posting new material in September 2020. Note added May 15, 2022.]

I got a note from Blogger yesterday. There was a complaint about one of the songs I shared in my Vinyl Record Day post about my LP log, and the post was removed. I imagine anyone who wanted to read it has already done so, but just to get the post into the blog archives, I’m going to repost it Sunday, without linking to the twelve songs.

I thought about looking at the Billboard Hot 100 for this week in 1970 for today’s music, but I wanted to get the three items above into the blog, so I decided on something else instead. As happens to many folks, I’m certain, every so often I’ll realize that a song is running through my head for no apparent reason. I haven’t heard it on the radio, haven’t looked at the record jacket or the CD case, and haven’t read its title somewhere; it just popped up. When one of those stealth earworms – as I call them – popped up the other week, I jotted the title down, and I continue to do so as they show up. I haven’t caught them all over the past two weeks, but here’s a little bit of what I’ve been hearing in my head lately. (And no, there have been no voices telling me to do things.)

A Six-Pack Running Through My Head
“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 431 [1962]
“All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople from All the Young Dudes [1972]
“Hallelujah” by the Clique from The Clique [1969]
“It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” by Jim Croce from Life and Times [1973]
“Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” by Robin McNamara from Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me [1970]
“Buckets of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan from Songs For the New Depression [1976]

The version of “Smile” I heard in my head wasn’t necessarily Ferrante & Teicher’s version, but that’s the best one I happen to have available. The song was written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film, Modern Times. Ferrante and Teicher recorded it in December 1961; in early 1962, the single went to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart and to No. 91 on the pop chart.

“All the Young Dudes,” written and produced by David Bowie, gave the British glitter-rocking Mott the Hoople its only Top 40 hit. The single – which may have been different than the album version offered here – went to No. 37 in late 1972. In the U.K., the single went to No. 3.

The Clique had recorded and released a number of singles (“Sugar on Sunday” went to No. 22 in the autumn of 1969) before the time came to put an album together, but All-Music Guide notes that the only member of the group to actually be on the album was singer Randy Shaw; producer Gary Zekley brought in studio musicians for everything else. The most interesting track on the album to me is “Hallelujah,” which AMG reviewer Stewart Mason dismisses as a “blatant Blood, Sweat & Tears rip-off.” That’s an apt comparison, I guess, especially as concerns the lead vocal, but the song gets my attention as the source for Sweathog’s 1971 cover, which went to No. 33. (Another cover of the song, which I’ve also posted here in the past, came from Chi Coltrane in 1973.)

Life and Times was Jim Croce’s second major label album, coming out on ABC in January 1973. “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” is the album’s closer, a December-themed song about wanting to give things another try. I’m not sure why the song popped into my head the other day; the earworm was more understandable in December 1974, shortly after I got the album, when I was headed to have a cup of coffee and conversation with a young woman I’d once known well. As it turned out, it did have to be that way, but I still like the song anyway.

The Robin McNamara track is the title track of what seems to be his only album. “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” was released as a single on Steed, the label owned by legendary songwriter and producer Jeff Barry, who co-wrote the song with McNamara and Jim Cretecos. The single went to No. 11 during the summer of 1970 and was the only hit for McNamara, who was a member of the original cast of the musical Hair. (His fellow cast members helped out, says AMG, evidently providing backing vocals.)

I imagine that the version of “Buckets of Rain” that ran through my head was based on the original, from Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. But I recently came across Midler’s version of the song, after looking for it sporadically for a few years – my thanks to Willard at Never Get Out Of The Boat – and its rarity seemed to make it a good choice for this slot. As is most often the case when Mr. Dylan shows up to sing along, it’s very apparent he’s in the room.

Saturday Single No. 620

December 15, 2018

We’ve been busy on both of the last two weekends. Two weeks ago, we hosted our first Circle Dinner of the church year for our UU Fellowship. (Because of schedules, it took longer than usual to get organized.) It was a pleasant evening with one other couple and a man whose wife was out of town joining us for King Ranch casserole, cornbread and other victuals.

Then last weekend, we hosted a get-together for our UU musicians, which ended – as one might expect – with homemade music in our music and sewing room downstairs. There were four on guitar with me on keys and two listening and frequently joining in on familiar songs. One of my favorite moments came when I wasn’t playing keys but rather when one of the guitarists, Ted, started in on a familiar riff.

It took a moment to place the riff, but I dug quickly into the pile of music books next to me and pulled out a thick book of songs by Bob Dylan and paged more than halfway into it. One of the other guitarists put down her instrument and stood near my bench as I held the book, and the two of us sang along to Ted’s guitar as he ran through “Buckets Of Rain,” one of my favorite Dylan songs.

So that’s where I’m heading this morning. The original version of the tune – from the 1975 album Blood On The Tracks – is (as expected) not available on YouTube. (Mr. Dylan’s gatekeepers are exceedingly vigilant.) But there are always some covers out there. And on another day, I might dig deeper into the ones I do not know, but it’s Saturday, we’re planning a day of very little, and the aroma of frying bacon is wafting to me from the kitchen.

So here is my favorite cover of “Buckets Of Rain,” a duet between Bette Midler and the Bard of Hibbing himself. I’ve posted it before, but it’s been a long while. The track comes from Midler’s 1976 album Songs For The New Depression, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Do You Want To Dance’

June 14, 2012

Last week, the Texas Gal and I were watching the reality show So You Think You Can Dance, which is – as I mentioned about a year-and-a-half ago – one of our favorite television shows. (For those unfamiliar with the show, as I said then, it’s basically American Idol for dancers.) The audition tour was underway, visiting Atlanta, and a young lady named Audrey Case took the stage.

The music started:  bongo drums (I think) and then a woman’s voice crooning, “Do you want to dance,” and the sorting mechanism in my brain kicked in. I thought of the recently departed Donna Summer. Nope. And then Bette Midler’s name popped up, and I had faint memories that she’d released “Do You Want To Dance” as a single. I kept nodding as the audition went on, and immediately after the judges handed the young Ms. Case an airline ticket to Las Vegas and the next stage of the competition, I headed into the study and pulled Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles from the shelf.

And I saw that Bette Midler had indeed released “Do You Want To Dance” as a single in late 1972. Early in 1973, it went to No. 17.

The song has been around for a while. It was one of those that popped up occasionally as an oldie during my prime Top 40 years, and it probably got a bit more attention in the early 1970s when George Lucas selected the original version of the tune as one of the vintage records for the soundtrack of his 1973 movie, American Graffiti. That original version – far more sprightly than Midler’s 1972 cover version – came from Bobby Freeman, who also wrote the song and then saw his recording of it go to No. 5 in 1958.

There have been other covers besides Midler’s, of course. Whitburn lists five more that have hit the charts: Del Shannon (No. 43 in 1964), the Beach Boys (No. 12, 1965), the Mamas & the Papas (No. 76, 1968), the Love Society (No. 108, 1968) and the Ramones (No. 110, 1978). The website Second Hand Songs list a total of thirty-seven covers of the song, and that list includes more familiar names – Johnny Rivers, Kim Carnes, Cliff Richard, Dave Edmunds and others – and some names that are not so familiar, like Susan Wong, the Raimundos and most recently (in 2008), Energy. (I noted the presence on the list of a few Danish artists, like Jørgen Krabbenhøft and the Brødrene Olsen. I may have to do some digging, just because.)

One of the familiar names on the list – with a version that ranks a close second behind Midler’s as I sort out my favorite version of the song – is John Lennon, who added an island sound to the song when he recorded it for his 1975 album Rock ’N’ Roll. And that’s a good place to stop this morning.