Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Darin’

Four At Random

July 27, 2018

We’re going to let iTunes do the work today, pulling four tunes at random from the 3,900-some I keep in the program. (I only pull as many tunes into the program as it takes to fill my iPod Nano; I’m pondering increasing the memory in the iPod, but for now, the 3,900-odd tunes – ten days’ worth of music, says iTunes – do me fine.)

The tunes in the program run alphabetically from 1970’s “ABC” by the Jackson 5 to “Zou Bisou Bisou,” a French release by Gillian Hills from 1962. There are nearly forty tracks loaded into the program with titles that start with numerals, and iTunes sorts those tracks at the end of its listings, which seems odd. Those tracks start with three different versions of “007,” the James Bond action theme that John Barry wrote for the 1962 Bond film From Russia With Love, and end with “99 Red Balloons,” the English language version of Nena’s 1984 hit.

Traced in history, the 3,900-some tracks in iTunes span 229 years. They start with the First Movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor (K. 550), which the intemperate genius (if one is inclined to believe Peter Shaffer’s play and the ensuing film Amadeus) composed in 1788, and end with “The Observatory,” a track from Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, a 2017 album from the White Buffalo.

In terms of length, the tracks run from two seconds – Roy Scheider’s utterance, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” from the 1975 movie Jaws – to the thirty-three-plus minutes the Allman Brothers Band invested in “Mountain Jam” during a concert at the Fillmore East in March of 1971.

So here are four from iTunes (excluding tunes we’ve written about during, oh, the last year):

During the first month or so of this blog’s existence – in February 2007 – I described the music of Jimmie Spheeris as having a “California post-hippie singer-songwriter vibe.” Nothing I’ve heard from the late singer-songwriter – he was killed in a 1984 traffic accident – has changed that view. On all four albums he released during his lifetime, and on the tracks I’ve heard from the posthumous Spheeris (recorded in 1984 and released in 2000), we get wandering, mellow tracks, leavened by the occasional tune that’s (a little) more up-tempo.

This morning, we hear “Long Way From China” from Jimmie’s 1973 album The Original Tap Dancing Kid. And, as always happens, Spheeris’ music reminds me at least a little of some of Shawn Phillips’ stuff. Spheeris, as I wrote in 2007, offers “odd misty melodies topped with poetic and sometimes cryptic lyrics adding up to a lush romanticism that one almost never hears anymore.” It’s a fine way to start the day.

“Starin’ at the sun. Been stoned since half-past none,” sings Bob Darin to start out our second track. The tune is “Jive” from Darin’s 1969 album Commitment.

How many versions were there of the man we know most often as Bobby Darin? There was the novelty singer who took “Splish Splash” to No. 3 in 1958, and the Rat Pack-ish singer who topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks in 1959 with “Mack the Knife.” There was the folkie whose version of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” went to No. 8 in 1966.

And this morning’s Darin calls himself “Bob,” as if to say, “Serious artist at work here, folks,” or perhaps to distance himself from his other work and fit into the ethos of 1969. And “Jive” certainly fits into those hippie-ish times in both its attitude and its vagueness:

I got a cloudy-day woman to make my bed and cook for me
When I’m gone a year too long she knows not to look for me
Coz I’ll be back when evenin’ comes
Sleepin’ through them crashin’ drums
Jive’s alive from nine to five my main man.

My favorite Darin track is “Mack the Knife,” but I do truly love “Jive” and the other stuff on Commitment.

And here comes some mid-Seventies sadness, courtesy of Dorothy Moore and her 1976 hit “Misty Blue.” The record went to No. 3 for four weeks on the Hot 100, No. 2 for two weeks on the magazine’s R&B chart and to No. 14 on the Easy Listening chart. (I honestly thought it would be much higher on that last chart.) But chart performance isn’t why “Misty Blue” matters around here. I mean, we’ve all been where Moore is here:

Ooh baby, I should forget you
Heaven knows I tried

Baby, when I say that I’m glad we’re through
Deep in my heart I know I’ve lied I’ve lied, I’ve lied

From the opening piano cascades and Moore’s first “Ooooooooh” through the last “My whole world turns misty blue” three-and-a-half minutes later, this record reminds anyone who hears it exactly how it was, at least once, maybe twice, maybe three times in a lifetime. Anyone who’s truly lived has been in that misty blue world. And it’s a good thing to be reminded of that once in a while.

Our last stop today kicks off with a buoyant banjo riff, joined after a moment by bass and percussion, and then by the vocals:

Well, I’m on my way
To the city lights,
To the pretty face
That shines her light on the city nights
And I gotta catch a noon train, I gotta be there on time.
Oh, it feels so good to know she waits at the end of the line.

The record is, of course, “Sweet City Woman” by the Stampeders, and for three-and-a-half minutes, we’re just fine, hearing the tale of a man whose woman can “make a man feel shiny and new” as she feeds him “love and tenderness and macaroons.”

The Stampeders were from Calgary, Alberta, and their 1971 hit went to No. 8 on the Hot 100 and to No. 5 on the Easy Listening chart. And even after forty-seven years, it’s a record that can still make me smile.

A Friday Walk Through The Junkyard

June 18, 2011

Originally posted March 14, 2008

My to-do list has gotten longer as the week has progressed. Tomorrow is the annual tabletop hockey competition here, and I have much left to accomplish. I do have some interesting albums to rip: I’ve gotten five fairly rare albums in the mail in recent weeks, with another – the Blue Rose album I mentioned Wednesday – on the way.

But time is short today, so instead of trying to rush one of those albums along and botching it, I thought I’d take one of my regular random walks through the junkyard and see what we find from the years 1951-2000.

“Fridgidaire Woman” by Son Seals from Living In The Danger Zone, 1991

“Screamer for Phlyses” by Shawn Phillips from Contribution, 1970

“Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, Atco single 6147, 1959

“Sad, Sad Day” by Muddy Waters from King Bee, 1981

“Corrina” by King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar from Official Music, 1970

“Wild Horses” by Leon Russell from Stop All That Jazz, 1974

“Little Girl” by Redbone from Redbone, 1970

“Pleasure” by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy from The Great Conspiracy, 1968

“Make Love To You” by the Stills-Young Band from Long May You Run, 1976

“The Working Man” by Creedence Clearwater Revival from Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1968

“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” by the Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin, RCA single 14214, 1985

“Let Your Lovelight Shine” by the Buddy Miles Express from Expressway To Your Skull, 1968

“Don’t Make Promises” by the Beau Brummels, Warner Bros. single 7014, 1967

“Heavy Church” by Three Dog Night from Naturally, 1970

“Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione from Feels So Good, 1977

A few notes:

Every three years or so from 1973 through 2000, blues fans could count on a release from Son Seals, an Arkansas-born blues guitarist discovered in a Chicago nightspot by Alligator Records owner Bruce Iglauer. “Frigidaire Woman” comes from Living In The Danger Zone, which, in terms of quality, falls right in the middle of Seals’ nine-album series of works. Seals – who died in 2003 – never made a bad album; his best was most likely Midnight Son from 1976.

I heard “Mack the Knife” the other day as I pulled into the supermarket a parking lot. I waited to leave the car until the song ended, thinking, “I need to get that song into the blog,” and now, the universe has done that for me. The song originated in The Threepenny Opera, a 1928 piece of musical theater by writer Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill. The story of Macheath and his murderous ways was eventually translated to film in the 1950s and continues to be presented on occasion as live theater. Darin’s swinging version of the show’s opening number contrasts greatly with the staid and stiff version I heard when I listened to a recording of the opera. Louis Armstrong recorded a similar version of the tune, but it was Darin’s version that was the hit, going to No. 1 for nine weeks in the autumn of 1959. (Darin’s version – as did Armstrong’s before it – name-checks “Miss Lotte Lenya” during the final verses. In the mid- to late Sixties, when I heard the song, I was confused, as I knew Lotte Lenya only as the haggard and unappealing actress who’d played Soviet agent Rosa Klebb in the James Bond film, From Russia With Love. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that Lotte Lenya had been Kurt Weill’s wife, had acted in various stagings of The Threepenny Opera and had earned a Tony award for one of them, in the mid-1950s.)

King Bee, produced by Johnny Winter, was – from what I can tell – the last album in the long career of Muddy Waters. For the most part, the album is new versions of Waters’ work on the Chess label (including “Sad, Sad Day”), but the album is still a pretty good way to spend some time.

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was a Los Angeles-based psychedelic band, and The Great Conspiracy was the group’s second album. Some of the songs on the record stretch out a little into some trippy mid-Sixties noodling and jamming. “Pleasure” isn’t one of those; it’s a fairly concise song that’s typical of second-level psychedelic pop rock. Good for what it is.

Pretty much right from the start, Creedence Clearwater Revival was a great band. The misfortune that John Fogerty and his bandmates had to face was that, at the time, bands that recorded long, trippy songs full of obscure allusions sold lots of records and were taken seriously, while bands that recorded good three-minute singles were relegated to a less-serious room, kind of like eating at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving. But listening to CCR’s records today, even the stuff that wasn’t released as singles has aged an awful lot better than the work of a lot of those groups that were taken so seriously four decades ago. (Yeah, CCR stretched out sometimes, as on its version of “Suzy Q.” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” But those are the group’s less successful efforts, I think; the group’s strength was the three-minute single, and CCR did that about as well as anyone ever has. My favorite happens to be “Green River.”)

I think the 1985 collaboration between the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin tends to get lost in the memory of the Eighties as a decade of synths, drum machines and big hair (and the Eighties were all that). But “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” truly cooks. And it’s probably Aretha’s last great record.

I mentioned the other day the breadth of writers from which Three Dog Night got its material. “Heavy Church,” a record I’ve always liked a lot, ever since I got Naturally as a Christmas gift in 1971, was written by Alan O’Day, with whom I had a brief correspondence about “Rock & Roll Heaven” a while back. O’Day’s own version showed up on his 1973 album, Caress Me Pretty Music.

Chuck Mangione had a No. 4 hit in early 1978 with a single edit of “Feels So Good.” This is the nine-minute album version.

Chart Digging: December 28, 1968

December 28, 2010

As 1968 approached its ending forty-two years ago today, I don’t think I was doing anything remarkable. I know that, six days earlier, I’d watched the Minnesota Vikings in their first playoff game ever (a 24-14 loss to the Baltimore Colts). And I imagine that, as we were all out of school for the week, Rick, Rob and I spent some time playing tabletop hockey in our basement.

We also probably spent an evening or two that week over at St. Cloud State’s Halenbeck Hall watching college basketball. In the late 1960s (and into the early 1970s, I think), St. Cloud State hosted a holiday tournament, the Granite City Classic. (The tournament name lives on, but for many years, it’s been an event for high school teams, not college.) One of the draws for the 1967 and 1968 tournaments, if my memory serves, was the play of a team from Hiram Scott College, a small and short-lived (1965-70) school based in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The Scotts, if I recall correctly, ran and pressed; I do remember that they played with an athleticism rarely seen on the floor of Halenbeck Hall and I think they won the two tournaments they played in St. Cloud. And I recall Rick, Rob and I marveling at the Scotts’ style of play.

But beyond those admittedly vague memories of watching college ball and an assumption of playing hockey in the basement, nothing pops out of my memory of the last days of 1968.

Perhaps the Billboard Top Ten from December 28, 1968 – forty-two years ago today – will help:

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
“For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder
“Love Child” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
“Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell
“Stormy” by the Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost
“Abraham, Martin and John” by Dion
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”
by Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations
“Who’s Making Love” by Johnnie Taylor
“I Love How You Love Me” by Bobby Vinton
“Cloud Nine” by the Temptations

With the exception of the Vinton tune, that’s one hell of a Top Ten. There’s lots of Motown and a dash of Southern R&B; a couple of ballads, one written by Jimmy Webb; and the peak of Dion’s amazing career. This would be a great hour of radio.

And, as I looked at this Top Ten last evening, I realized that it holds the second third record that I’ll file under Jukebox Regrets. I have no idea how I managed to put together more than two hundred favorite records and not include “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” As I’ve noted before, I wasn’t actively listening to radio a lot in those days, but the Supremes and Temptations, like a number of other groups and performers, were inescapable. A soundtrack kid knew their tunes simply by breathing the same air as did his contemporaries. And “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” spoke to the budding romantic in me. I think I even attached the song’s pledge to a specific young lady, even though I had as much chance of keeping that pledge as I did of playing basketball for Hiram Scott College.

In any event, the record, which had leaped from No. 17 to No. 7 in the past week and was on its way to No. 2, probably should have been in the Ultimate Jukebox I put together this past year:

And, as always, there were some interesting sounds further on down in the Hot 100.

At No. 29, we find the Magic Lanterns and “Shame, Shame.”  The Lanterns were from Warrrington, England, and “Shame, Shame,” which would go no higher than No. 29, was their only Top 40 hit. Three other records by the group made the Billboard Hot 100, including “One Night Stand,” which went to No. 74 in 1971 (and which I believe I wrote about a few years ago).

From No. 29, we drop quite a ways further in the Hot 100, coming to rest at No. 67, where we find the last Hot 100 hit during the 1960s for Eric Burdon & The Animals. “White Houses” might not have been a great record, but it carried among its virtues, of course, Burdon’s amazing voice. The record went no higher than No. 67 and was the last of nineteen Hot 100 hits for the band in its original run; a 1983 reunion of the group – billed simply as the Animals – resulted in “The Night,” which went to No. 48.

From No. 67, we’ll drop deeper yet and spend the last half of today’s exploration in the nether regions of the Billboard chart. At No. 97, we find a trio from Memphis called the Goodees with their teenage romance drama, “Condition Red.” The single owes a great deal to the Shangri-Las’ 1964 epic “Leader of the Pack,” but whatever the Goodees – or more likely, their production team – got from listening to the Shangri-Las, the wittiness didn’t come along with it. The record, the trio’s only hit, peaked at No. 46.

During his nearly fifteen-year career, until his death at age thirty-seven in 1973, Bobby Darin put forty-eight singles into the Hot 100 and charted as well with a couple of EPs. And given the stylistic changes in Darin’s music during the last six or so of those years, one wonders if record companies – his singles in the last seven years of his life were on Atlantic, Direction and Motown – had any idea what to do with him. As All-Music Guide says: “There’s been considerable discussion about whether Bobby Darin should be classified as a rock & roll singer, a Vegas hipster cat, an interpreter of popular standards, or even a folk-rocker. He was all of these and none of these.” In 1968, Darin released Born Walden Robert Cassotto, a rock album laced, says AMG, with psychedelic touches. It didn’t do well. But a single from the album, “Long Line Rider,” got some attention, making it to No. 79. Forty-two years ago today, “Long Line Rider” was in the second week of its climb, sitting at No. 110 in the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under section. I couldn’t find a video of the single, but I found a clip of Darin performing the tune on the February 20, 1969, episode of The Dean Martin Show.

Finally, near the very bottom of the Billboard chart for December 28, 1968, we find The Fun and Games, which Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles describes as a bubblegum pop band from Houston, Texas. The group’s lone hit, “The Grooviest Girl In The World,” was bubbling under at No. 119, up eight places from the week before and on its way to No. 78.

And that’s it for today. Odd, Pop and I will be back here Thursday, and I think we’ll take a look at some of our favorite listens from the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Bobby Darin video changed July 27, 2018.

‘You Never Give Me Your Money’

June 22, 2010

In April, after I wrote about being a Beatles fan during the confusing year of 1970, regular reader and commenter porky recommended a book: He told me that You Never Give Me Your Money, Peter Doggett’s examination of the Beatles during and after their break-up, would be released here in the U.S. in June. (He got his own copy, he said in his note here, during a December vacation in England, lucky man.)

My copy arrived last week, and I’ve found it hard to set aside. The tales of bitterness and anger among the four men who’d created some of the world’s best pop-rock are – even forty years after the fact – saddening and frustrating. Beyond the personal hurts of what was, in effect, a four-person divorce, Doggett also chronicles the details of the tangled hodge-podge of Beatles’ business interest, which made sorting those things out daunting as well.

The book seems impeccably researched, calling on a wide range of interviews and reviews of documents and publications; what impresses me most is that not only am I being reminded of what happened (I’m up to about late 1972), but Doggett fills the gaps other chroniclers seem to have left over the years in letting us know not only what happened (and in some cases of urban legend, what didn’t happen), but how the four ex-Beatles and those around them felt about the things that took place.

As I said, it can make for sad reading. As I go through the tales of bitterness and anger and the thousands of rumors of Beatle reunions, I also reflect on something I read long ago in the first volume I ever owned of the Rolling Stone Record Guide. John Swenson, one of the editors of the guide, wrote:

“In retrospect, the group’s much-lamented decision to call it quits as the Seventies began was entirely appropriate; the collected work does not leave you with the impression that there were unfinished statements. There is a perfectly resolute and logical progression of ideas from Meet the Beatles to Abbey Road. They did it all, they did it right, and then they went their separate ways.”

Swenson wrote that in 1976 or so, when a reunion of the four – however unlikely – was possible, implying, as I read it, that a reunion was unnecessary and would probably be ill-advised. All these years later, with a reunion having been impossible for almost thirty years, Swenson’s main point remains valid: The music stands on its own as a complete story.

As sad and as frustrating as You Never Give Me Your Money can be, it’s also compelling, and I’ll make quick work of it. Leavening the sadness and frustration as I read is the knowledge that the music is still there. For many years, the Beatles were my favorite group, and their body of work keeps them very close to the top of my list still today. And two of their recordings made it through my winnowing and are included in my Ultimate Jukebox.

The first is a track from Revolver that I wrote about last December, detailing the high school courtship that found me leaving the song’s lyrics in the locker of my romantic interest. I’ve seen comments from Paul McCartney and John Lennon that “Got To Get You Into My Life” – McCartney’s creation entirely – was influenced, especially in its use of horns, by the Motown sound. That makes sense. I’ve also seen vague references to an interview with McCartney – one I’ve never read, I don’t think – in which he said the song was written about his need for marijuana. That’s possible, I suppose, but I got the impression somewhere – I must have read it, but it would have been long ago soon after I discovered the Beatles – that McCartney wrote the song soon after meeting Jane Asher, who for a few years was his girlfriend.

Whatever the source, “Got To Get You Into My Life” from the 1966 album Revolver is still a great record:

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 22
“Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, Atco 6147 [1959]
“Got To Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles from Revolver [1966]
“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel, Columbia 44785 [1969]
“Let It Rain” by Eric Clapton from Eric Clapton [1970]
“Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” by the Dramatics, Volt 4058 [1971]
“Arms of Mary” by Chilliwack from Light From the Valley [1978]

Bobby Darin never seemed to know what kind of singer he wanted to be. Or it might be more fair to say that the record companies for whom he recorded had no clue what to do with him. From the silliness of “Splish Splash” in 1958 (silly or not, it went to No. 3 and was No. 1 for two weeks on the R&B chart) through his folk-rock period in the mid-1960s (with Top 40 singles in1966 and 1967), Darin wandered through changes of style after style. Among the things that didn’t change, however, were his great voice and his superb sense of timing. I’m not sure if it’s his best performance, but my favorite performance of Darin’s is “Mack the Knife,” a tune pulled from the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill production, The Threepenny Opera. Adding some Las Vegas/Rat Pack swing to the tune – which is crushingly staid in the versions of the opera I’ve seen – Darin swaggers his way through “Mack the Knife,” famously name-checking opera character Lucy Brown and Lotte Lenya, Weill’s wife and star of several stagings of the opera. Darin’s version of “Mack the Knife” was No. 1 for nine weeks in late 1959.

I suppose there’s little argument about which record was the best thing that Simon & Garfunkel ever did. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is an extraordinary song and record. But as much as I’ve loved it over the years, I found myself uneasy sliding it in among the other records in this mythical jukebox. As well as looking for good records, I guess I was also looking for flow, for a collection of songs that would make interesting combinations and patterns as the tunes played. And I decided as I considered the work of Simon & Garfunkel that “Bridge” just brings a little too much weight along with it, stopping the show. So I opted for “The Boxer,” which comes from the same album and was actually the first single released from Bridge Over Troubled Water. (It went to No. 7 in the spring of 1969.) And “The Boxer” was a better choice for my purposes. For the past few months, my pocket mp3 player has been loaded only with the tunes from the Ultimate Jukebox, and after hearing it pop up in several contexts, I’ve concluded that “The Boxer” is a better fit for what I was seeking than its towering neighbor. Beyond that, I like the story, seemingly told as it is from the shadows, and I love the long “lie-la-lie” ending.

Speaking of extended endings, Eric Clapton’s lengthy and compelling solo at the end of “Let It Rain” was one of my earliest exposures to Clapton as guitarist. I might have heard some of his work with the Yardbirds, and I know I heard some of Cream’s stuff, but those hearings would have come in the days before I paid much attention to who was actually doing the playing. When I finally got to that point – sometime between late 1971 and the summer of 1972 – Clapton was one of the first musicians I began to explore, along with his friends who helped record “Let It Rain” and the rest of his first solo album: Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett (she co-wrote “Let It Rain” with Clapton) and the group of friends that included Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Leon Russell and all the rest. “Let It Rain” wasn’t released as a single in 1970 when Eric Clapton came out, but when Polydor released the anthology Clapton At His Best in 1972, the label also released “Let It Rain” as a single (it may have been an edit of the album track; I don’t know). The record somehow missed the Top 40, peaking at No. 48.

It took nine years and a few personnel changes for the Dramatics to get from their formation in Detroit in 1962 to the recording of their first album, Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get in 1971. All the work seemed worth it, I imagine, when the record was a hit. The album went to No. 20 on the Billboard 200 and to No. 5 on the R&B album chart. At the same time, the album threw off three hit singles: “In The Rain” went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the R&B chart; “Get Up and Get Down” went to No. 78 on the Hot 100 and to No. 16 on the R&B chart; and “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” went to No. 9 on the Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the R&B chart. Of the three, the sweet and pretty “In The Rain” did a little better, but “Whatcha See” has a groove that can’t be refused. So I won’t try.

I have ten versions of the song “Arms of Mary” right now, and I’ll collect more as I find them. It’s one of those songs that grabs hold of me – it’s a song of memoir and memory, after all – and I knew one version of it would end up in this list. The original, by the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, off of 1975’s Reach For The Sky, is nice enough, and managed to get to No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100, but the spare folky accompaniment is somehow wanting. As a result, I prefer the slightly tougher version from the Canadian group Chilliwack. The track comes from the album Lights From The Valley, and the Mushroom label released the song as a single, as well. I imagine it might have done well in Canada, but all I know is that it didn’t make the Hot 100. Well, the other thing I’m sure of is that it should have been a hit.