Posts Tagged ‘Peter Nero’

Saturday Single No. 720

January 16, 2021

As it often does as I sit here on the seventh day of the week, the tune “Come Saturday Morning” popped into my head today.

Written for the 1969 film The Sterile Cuckoo, the song was first recorded by the film’s star, Liza Minelli, as the title track of an album released in February 1969, according to Second Hand Songs. The film came out in October 1969, and it was the Sandpipers’ cover of the song that was used on the film’s soundtrack and released as a single. The record went to No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 8 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Other covers followed, of course, and a few of them have ended up on the digital shelves here, by artists like Joe Reisman & His Orchestra & Chorus, the Fifty Guitars Of Tommy Garrett, the Mystic Moods Orchestra, and Mark Lindsay, one-time lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders.

Other familiar names show up on the list of covers at Second Hand Songs with Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Patti Page, Robert Goulet, Ray Conniff and Scott Walker found among the vocal list, and artists like Percy Faith, Andre Kostelanetz, Peter Nero, Roger Williams, and Jackie Gleason listed among the instrumental covers of the song. The most recent of all of those was Walker’s take on the song, which came in 1972, and more followed.

Only five of the thirty-eight versions of the song listed at SHS have been released later than 1974: Vocal versions by Charles Tichenor (1996) and a female vocalist called Rumer (2010), and instrumentals by the Keith McDonald Trio (1986), Jim Hudak (2000), and the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra (also 2000).

So there are lots of versions to sample and choose from. But I’m going to take the easy way out and find Peter Nero’s version of the tune because he’s one of the very few artists I’ve written about who has left a note here. (He responded a few years ago to a post about “The Summer Knows,” the theme from the movie Summer of ’42.) Nero’s version of “Come Saturday Morning” is from his 1970 album I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 577

February 10, 2018

I was messing around yesterday with a bundle of mp3s I gained access to, mostly easy listening stuff from the Sixties and Seventies (a sweet spot for me, as readers might know), and I started work tagging the mp3s from an album titled Peter Nero Plays Born Free and Other Movie Themes, slapped with a date of 1966, which was when the film Born Free was released.

It didn’t take long to determine that the CD from which the mp3s came had seen tracks added as bonuses, as among the tracks were “Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’,” which came out in 1971 and which I already had. It was Nero’s sole Top 40 hit, going to No. 21 in Billboard. (The record was once the subject here of a piece that spurred Nero to leave a comment, which – along with my love for easy listening – might easily be the reason I tend to collect his music.)

I compared the list of the original 1966 release that I found at Discogs – it then had the title Peter Nero Plays Born Free And Others – with the mp3s I was studying, and I found three others that didn’t belong, “Theme from ‘Love Story’,” ‘Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’,” and “Mack the Knife.” I dug a little further, and found that I already had “Mack the Knife” from a 1963 album titled Hail the Conquering Nero. “Love Story,” which was new to my collection, was released as a single in 1971 (and showed up on a couple of LPs as well).

Which left the track “Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’.” (Never mind that the original rock opera did not use the unnecessary comma.) I dug through the content listings of a few of Nero’s albums from around 1970, when the rock opera came out, preferring not to use the sometimes balky search function at Discogs. No joy, so I used the search and learned that “Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’” seems to have been issued on vinyl only as the B-side of “Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’.”

I wrote the other week of my renewed affection for the original release of Jesus Christ Superstar. Finding an unknown version of the rock opera’s main theme by one of my favorite easy listening performers is reason enough for a small celebration, so Peter Nero’s 1971 take on “Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me . . .’

March 25, 2014

A couple of years ago, while playing around with the CD burning software here in the EITW studios, I put together a CD of tunes that have touched me deeply over the years, most of them love songs of one form or another. A good number of the twenty or so tunes on the CD can be attached in my memory to one specific woman or girl; some of them can’t. (The last two tunes on the CD belong to the Texas Gal: “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House and “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. I’m not sure how I missed Darden Smith’s “Loving Arms.”)

One of the tunes on that CD that isn’t attached to a specific young lady is “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” by Diana Ross & The Supremes and the Temptations, a No. 2 hit in early 1969 (No. 2 on the R&B chart as well). I was still some months away from being a devoted Top 40 listener, but I know I heard “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” from radios around me often enough for the record to get inside me and certainly enough for me to wonder how it would feel to feel that way and to be so assured that the object of one’s affection could be won over.

The song was written in 1966 by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and Jerry Ross, one of those things that Gamble and Huff came up with, as my pal jb says in a recent post at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, “before they were Gamble and Huff.” The first to record the song, according to SecondHandSongs, was Dee Dee Warwick. Her version, released in late 1966, went to No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 13 on the R&B chart.

Versions from 1967 by Jerry Butler and Madeline Bell also pre-dated the Supremes/Temptations version. Butler’s version did not chart; I don’t know that I’ve heard it although I may have it on one or more of the two hundred or so anthology LPs that have never been indexed. Bell’s version went to No. 26 on the pop chart and to No. 32 on the R&B chart. I like it better than Warwick’s but not nearly as well as I do the Supremes/Temptations’ cover, which is not surprising; it seems that the first version of a song we hear frequently is the version that stays with us.

SecondHandSongs lists twenty additional versions since the Supremes and the Temptations recorded their cover of the song; there are additional versions listed (and available) at Amazon and other emporia, I’m sure. The list at SHS includes some expected names: Gladys Knight & The Pips, the Chi-Lites in 1969, Candi Staton (with Dave Crawford) in 1978, B.J. Thomas, the Lettermen, Michael McDonald and Nancy Wilson, to name a few. There are some unfamiliar names, too: Shane Richie, Lucy Hale and Mica Paris are three of them. (I imagine I should perhaps know those names, but there’s too much music out there for even one seriously addicted man to hear.)

The song also attracted some of the easy listening crowd. An indifferent cover by Paul Mauriat showed up quickly this morning on YouTube, and a few pages back, there was a 1969 cover of the tune by Peter Nero. That one I liked quite a lot:

A Note From Peter Nero

June 28, 2012

In one of those cool things that occasionally happen with a blog, Tuesday’s post elicited a response from one of the featured musicians. I wrote a little about Peter Nero’s version of Michel Legrand’s “Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’,” and I looked at a few other covers of that beautiful song.

And late Wednesday evening, a comment came in from Peter Nero himself, noting that he’s long thought the words to the song – written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman – were superfluous. Here’s some of what he said:

While I love the work of the Bergmans, I thought they missed the mark with their lyrics to Michel Legrand’s poignant melody, heard throughout the film.

There are certain melodies that speak for themselves and are meant to convey the feeling evoked by the score AND film and Michel’s theme is as good an example as there is. . . .

Maybe I’m way off base but that was my reaction the first time I heard the lyric. . . .

As a theme that has a life of its own and exudes the mood and aura of the motion picture, the theme from The Summer of ’42 needs to be left as is.

As I pondered those words overnight, I realized I agree with Nero’s assessment, and that’s likely why – without really thinking about it beforehand – all four of the versions of the “Theme from ‘The Summer of ’42’” that I featured were instrumentals (including the not-particularly-serious disco version by the Biddu Orchestra). Here, again, is a link to Nero’s version.

And, because I love saxophone, here’s Dave Koz and his take on “The Summer Knows (Theme from Summer of ’42)” from his 2007 album At the Movies.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at what actually was on the Billboard chart on that long-ago rainy day when I helped unpack filing cabinets.

‘The Summer Smiles . . .’

June 26, 2012

Whiling away an hour the other evening, the Texas Gal and I sat in the living room with the television playing one of the forty or so available music channels. We listen to maybe ten of them, including adult alternative, current country, classic country, blues and the Seventies. We’d chosen the latter on that recent evening, as the Texas Gal puttered on her laptop and I made my way through Catching Fire, the second volume of the Hunger Games trilogy.

Then from the speakers came the first strains of Peter Nero’s version of the “Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’,” and I looked up from my book and looked back at a summer day in 1971. I wrote here once – in a post that has not yet found its way into the archive site – that on a rainy day during that summer, my workmates and I were told to remove from boxes about two hundred new file cabinets intended for use in St. Cloud State’s new Education Building. That is true.

I also wrote that we had a radio playing as we tore open boxes and set up file cabinets, and that, too is true. But I wrote that we heard on the radio the Peter Nero version of “Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’.” And that was probably not true. Nero’s single first reached the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1971, eventually peaking at No. 21 in December. (It went to No. 6 on the Adult Contemporary chart.) So it’s extremely unlikely that we heard it that June day in the Education Building, where our radio was almost certainly tuned to the Twin Cities’ KDWB.

But something in my memory links that rainy day of unboxing file cabinets with the theme from The Summer of ’42. I’m still not certain after puzzling over this for a few days, but I think I’d seen the movie the evening before – I know I did see it that summer – and was still playing Michel Legrand’s elegant and melancholy main theme in my head.

I recall thinking as I left the theater that I should find the soundtrack to the film. I never did. I bought two records that summer: Stephen Stills and the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. And the soundtrack to The Summer of ’42 fell from my memory. I might have thought of it finding it when Nero’s version of the theme hit the charts in the latter portions of the year, but that’s doubtful. Although my fondness for mellow instrumentals and movie themes would never go away entirely, my eyes and ears in 1971 were mostly pointed at current and historical pop and rock. I wouldn’t buy an album that didn’t fit into those categories until late 1975, when I picked up a Duke Ellington anthology. And, as I said above, I never did buy Legrand’s soundtrack. (I did get Nero’s Summer of ’42 LP in 1992; I doubt it’s been on the turntable more than once.)

I went looking today, and learned – unsurprisingly – that the album is out of print. What did surprise me is that the price for a used copy of the CD can range from about $35 to more than $180. I also learned at Amazon that the album sold as the soundtrack to The Summer of ’42 isn’t really the soundtrack at all. Two customer reviews at Amazon point out that only two of the tracks on the album come from The Summer of ’42: The main theme in the video above and the end titles music. The commenters said that the remaining ten tracks on the CD come from Legrand’s soundtrack for a 1969 film, Picasso Summer. Given that and the price, I likely won’t bother with the CD.

Whether I have the CD or not, Legrand’s theme – also titled “The Summer Knows” after the lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman – remains a beautiful piece of music, and hearing Nero’s version the other day not only spurred me to look for the soundtrack, but it made me wonder about other covers. Most of the names that pop up are not too surprising: Frank Sinatra, Jessye Norman, Barbra Streisand, Nana Mouskouri, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Vicki Carr, Mantovani, Henry Mancini. Some are unknown to me: Yuri Sazonoff, Bengt Hallberg and Arne Domnérus, Ali Ryerson and more. And Legrand did his own cover version on what seems to be a solo piano album, Michel Legrand by Michel Legrand, which came out in 2002. The most recent covers seem to be those from 2011 by singer Melissa Errico and jazz duo Roger Davidson & David Finck.

A couple of the covers were more interesting than most. An Indian-British producer by the name of Biddu Appaiah – he produced Carl Douglas’ 1974 hit “Kung Fu Fighting” – discofied Legrand’s tune in 1975 and released it under the name of the Biddu Orchestra. The record went to No. 14 in the U.K. and to No. 57 on this side of the pond.

And Maynard Ferguson recorded a – for him – fairly subdued version of the theme for his 1972 album MF Horn, Vol. 2. The LP went to No. 6 on the Jazz Albums chart.

As to which cover I prefer, I should note that I’ve not heard many of them in full. As I did some wandering around this morning, I was prepared to like Frank Sinatra’s cover, but I found it kind of lifeless. Legrand’s 2002 cover is a bit too ornate for the simplicity of the melody, with flourishes and runs that remind me of the piano style of the late Roger Williams (who released his own cover of Legrand’s theme in 1971). None of the covers I heard this morning really knock me out. But I do like Ferguson’s take on the tune.

Farewell To Seven-Toed Henri

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 17, 2008

I was going to write about the autumn of 1971 today, a time that was unexceptional for the most part. It did mark my first quarter of college, and I guess that made it a time of major adjustments. But I’ll write about that some other day.

We lost another cat yesterday.

This summer, shortly after we had to let go of the Texas Gal’s beloved Smudge, one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers said a kitten had found its way to her mother’s place. The kitten ended up with the Texas Gal’s co-worker, who then learned that her husband and son were allergic to cats. For two days, the kitten was alone in their basement while they figured out what to do, and there was talk of letting it loose in a field to fend for itself.

Given that we were in the middle of the difficult (and expensive) process of moving, I was reluctant to bring in a kitten, but I’ll never let a little one be let loose in a field; I can’t imagine anything more terrifying – or more practically lethal – for a small animal. So one evening, the Texas Gal brought home our new little guy, black with some white trim . . . and seven toes on each front foot.

I’m not sure where the name came from, but after some hesitation, the Texas Gal named him Henri Matisse, after the artist. But we pronounced his name “Henry” instead of the French “Ehn-ree.” And we took him to Dr. Tess for his standard kitten care. He had worms, which we expected, and we treated him for that. A few months later, not long after we moved, we had him neutered and had his front claws removed.

Even after treatment for worms, Henri’s digestive problems continued. When we organized the empty boxes we’d thrown off to the side of the basement during the move, we discovered that he hadn’t been using his cat box regularly. We thought his continued digestive problems might be the reason, so we changed his diet, kept an eye on his trips to the basement and gave him a supplement for two weeks.

Nothing really helped his digestion, and once the two-week regimen of the supplement was over, he began to lose weight and he didn’t always seem comfortable. And one evening this week, we discovered that his cat box behavior in the basement hadn’t changed. In some ways, it’s no big deal. We’ve cleaned up worse messes over the years. But the vet said yesterday morning that it was unlikely Henri’s behavior would change, even if we could correct the problem with his digestion. And we knew we couldn’t continue.

Henri went peacefully. And we have another cat-shaped hole in the house. The Texas Gal and I both spent a little bit more time than usual last evening playing with Oscar and talking to Clarence, our two remaining catboys. That helped, at least a little.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 4
“Tell Me Why” by Matthews’ Southern Comfort, Decca 32874 (No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 16, 1971)

“Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’” by Peter Nero, Columbia 45399 (No. 91)

“Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers, Stax 0104 (No. 82)

“It’s a Cryin’ Shame” by Gayle McCormick, Dunhill 4288 (No. 60)

“Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4289 (No. 55)

“Women’s Love Rights” by Laura Lee, Hot Wax 7105 (No. 37)

“You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)” by 8th Day, Invictus 9098 (No. 36)

“One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse, Evolution 1048 (No. 32)

“Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” by Kris Kristofferson, Monument 8525 (No. 27)

“Stick-Up” by Honey Cone, Hot Wax 7106 (No. 19)

“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement, Decca 32818 (No. 15)

“So Far Away” by Carole King, Ode 66019 (No. 14)

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 12)

A few notes:

The Matthews’ Southern Comfort track is a cover of the Neil Young tune from After the Goldrush album, which came out in 1970. Southern Comfort was headed by Ian Matthews, who had been a founding member of Britain’s Fairport Convention. Matthews’ career is a fascinating series of stops, starts and sudden left turns, but his music has always been listenable and sometimes inspired.

One evening during the summer of 1971, after a day of unpacking file cabinets in the new Education Building at St. Cloud State, I wandered off to the theater and took in The Summer of ’42. The movie touched me, with its tale of a young man’s beginning to grow up, of his crush on the older woman played by the luminescent Jennifer O’Neill (looking impossibly young from where I sit now) and of the tragedy and confusion of wartime. I was also blown away by Michel Legrand’s Academy Award-winning score, which was sweet and sad and over-the-top – all of the things that we are at sixteen. I never looked for the soundtrack LP; I’m not sure why. But when Peter Nero had a hit with the main theme later in the year (the single went to No. 22), I was pleased to hear the song coming out of my radio.

Gayle McCormick was the lead singer for Smith, the group that had a No. 5 hit in the autumn of 1969 with a cover of “Baby It’s You.” “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” was a pretty good single from her first solo album – she recorded two others in the early 1970s, and after that, I lose track of her – but it didn’t do very well. Nor did her follow-ups. She never cracked the Top 40 as a solo artist.

This selection includes three more good singles (several showed up in previous Baker’s Dozen selections) from Hot Wax and Invictus, the labels launched by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland after they left Motown. The singles weren’t as successful on the pop chart as they were good. “Women’s Love Rights” peaked at No. 36, and “You’ve Got To Crawl” topped out at No. 28, but the Honey Cone single nearly got into the Top Ten, stalling at No. 11. (It spent two weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

This version of Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” originally linked with this post was from the album. Since then, I was able to find a video with the fairly rare single edit. Either way, once I saw the title in the Hot 100 for this week in 1971, I had to post the song, even in the wrong version. It’s just too good to ignore.

The Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a pretty grim and tough song, talking about the perfidy surrounding all of us, wherever we go. Some folks saw it as a political allegory, and the theme of betrayal makes that at least a little bit plausible, given the realities of 1971. Whatever the message, the record had a great groove.

Edited and rewritten slightly on August 6, 2013.