Posts Tagged ‘Roger Williams’

More ‘More’ Than You’ve Ever Heard Before

June 28, 2013

Originally posted May 26, 2009

The movie, an Italian flick, was supposed to be dark, depraved and disturbing. It might have been so in 1962. Now, forty-seven years later, it’s mostly slow and dull.

The title? Mondo Cane, which translates from the Italian as something like A Dog’s World.

Supposedly a documentary that detailed the oddities, cruelties and perversities of life, Mondo Cane was intended to be controversial, and some of its contents likely were shocking in 1962. I spent a couple hours looking at it over the holiday weekend, and it’s not very shocking at all from the vantage point of 2009.

The movie spent a lot of time in the Pacific, examining what might best be called non-industrial island cultures. While the film purported to be a true reflection of life in those societies, the winking narration – as when a cluster of bare-breasted island girls chase one young man around the island and into the sea, and in a few other instances – left me wondering about the truth of the visuals as well as the truth of the narration.

The broad-brush contrasts the film points out between so-called primitive cultures and Western culture were so ham-handed that I chuckled. Yeah, I know that in some areas of the world snakes and dogs are dinner; and in 1962, one could go to a restaurant in New York City and spend $20 for plate of fried ants, bug larvae and butterfly eggs. The film shows those young island women chasing men into the sea, and a little later shows a cadre of young Australian women running into the sea and pulling men back onto the sand (during lifeguard practice). After seeing footage of dogs in Asia waiting in cages to become dinner, the film takes us to a pet cemetery in southern California, showing the gravestones of pets owned by celebrities of the time, including Vivan Vance (Lucille Ball’s sidekick), Jack Warner, Jr., of Warner Brothers and Julie London.

I think I knew about Mondo Cane when it came out. I would have been nine, and – as I’ve noted before – was even then aware of current events and news that troubled adults. It’s quite likely, I realized this weekend, that my awareness of the film was helped along by parodies of its approach in MAD magazine, which was one of my favorites at the time. It’s not a significant film in any way, but it is interesting. There are, by current standards, several troubling images involving cruelty to animals, but beyond that, little is truly surprising. As a historical document of what Western culture found depraved in 1962, however, it’s an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.

The movie did, however, provide one long-lasting piece of popular culture: Its theme, better known these days as “More (Theme to Mondo Cane).” The song, written by Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero, was used in the movie as an instrumental under the title “Ti Guarderò Nel Cuore.” Italian lyrics were added by Marcello Ciorciolini, and later, the English lyrics were written by Norman Newell, giving us the song “More (Theme From Mondo Cane)” as we know it.

I would guess that “More” is one of the most covered songs of all time. All-Music Guide lists 1,325 CDs on which there is a recording of a song titled “More.” Some of those would be other compositions, but I’m certain that the vast majority of those recordings are of the song by Ortolani and Oliviero. So let’s take a walk though the garden of “More.”

First, here’s the original:

“Theme from Mondo Cane” by Riz Ortolani & Nino Oliviero [1962]

One version of the song made the Top 40 in the U.S., an instrumental version by a Kai Winding, a composer and bandleader who was born in Denmark but grew up in the U.S. His version of “More” went to No. 8 in the summer of 1963.

“More” by Kai Winding, Verve 10295 [1963]

And then came the flood (though not all covers were titled exactly the same):

“More” by Ferrante & Teicher from Concert for Lovers [1963]

“Theme from Mondo Cane (More)” by Jack Nitschze from The Lonely Surfer [1963]

“More” by John Gary from Catch A Rising Star [1963]

“More” by Vic Dana from More [1963]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Frank Sinatra & Count Basie from It Might As Well Be Swing [1964]

“More” by Billy Vaughn from Blue Velvet [1964]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Liberace from Golden Themes From Hollywood [1964]

“More” by Mantovani from The Incomparable Mantovani and his Orchestra [1964]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Nat King Cole from L-O-V-E [1965]

“More” by Julie London from Our Fair Lady [1965]

“More” by Steve Lawrence, Columbia 42795 [1963]

“More” by Roger Williams from I’ll Remember You [1967]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by the Ray Conniff Singers from Ray Conniff’s World Of Hits [1967]

“More” by Jerry Vale from The Impossible Dream [1967]

“More” by Andy Williams from The Academy Award Winning “Call Me Irresponsible” [1970]

“More” by Jackie Gleason from Today’s Romantic Hits – For Lovers Only [1963]

“More” by Harry Connick, Jr., from Only You [2004]

(I’ve pulled these from various sources; some are mine, some I found elsewhere. Of those I found elsewhere, I’m reasonably sure that the performers are identified correctly. And after spending several hours digging, I’m also reasonably sure that the original release album titles and dates are correct. I have a suspicion that the version by the Ray Conniff singers might have been released on an earlier album, but I can’t verify that.)

Edited slightly and Jackie Gleason release and date verified June 28, 2013. Steve Lawrence release and date verified March 5, 2014.

A Roundabout Appreciation Of Roger Williams

October 11, 2011

When I graduated from high school in 1971, my sister gave me an Alvarez acoustic guitar to replace the old second-hand instrument I’d been messing around with. And not long after that, I bought a songbook called 50 Sensational Songs for Guitar. I don’t know if the songs were truly sensational, but the book – for which I paid $2.50; this was 1971 – had a good collection of songs from many styles.

There was some traditional pop (“Misty” and “Sentimental Journey”), some Top 40 pop (“Dizzy” and “Sugar, Sugar”), some Broadway (“Applause” and “Hello, Dolly”), some Jimmy Webb tunes (“Wichita Lineman,” “Didn’t We” and more), some Burt Bacharach/Hal David stuff (“Do You Know The Way To San Jose” and more) and a lot of other stuff including four Beatles’ tunes, two of which now seem to be very odd choices: “Old Brown Shoe” and “Octopus’s Garden.”

(As I look at the book now, I realize that three of the Beatles’ tunes in the book were written by George Harrison and “Octopus’s Garden” was, of course, written by Ringo Starr. No tunes by Lennon and McCartney. I’d never noticed that before.)

I don’t know that I ever played any of the tunes in the songbook on guitar. I did play my guitar a lot in those days, sitting on the little bank on the north side of our house in the spring and summer evenings, practicing my own songs as I let my hands learn what they needed to do. But I found a use for the songbook anyway.

During my first two years of college, I took five quarters of music theory, every class St. Cloud State offered in the subject. And through those courses, I realized that I could use 50 Sensational Songs for Guitar, which offered melody lines and guitar chord charts, as a fakebook, making up my own arrangements of those songs. Among the songs that I learned to play that way was a tune that had originally been titled “Les Feuillies Mortes.”

I knew the song as “Autumn Leaves,” although I can’t specifically say how I knew it. I was just aware that I’d heard the song many times as a pop standard. I certainly didn’t recall the song from 1955, when it was a No. 1 hit for pianist Roger Williams.

“Autumn Leaves” was the first of thirty chart hits or near-hits hit for Williams, who passed on last week at the age of eighty-seven. (And I should note that my version of “Autumn Leaves” hews to the melody: I have never attempted those fantastic runs Williams plays, nor will I ever do so.) I see this morning in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles that Kapp Records re-released Williams’ version of “Autumn Leaves” in 1965, which is when I might have heard the tune; if that’s the case, I was one of the few, as the record peaked at No. 92. Many of Williams’ other single releases did better, but quite a few parked themselves in the lower portions of the chart. Nevertheless, Williams had singles in or near the Billboard Hot 100 every year but one (1964) from 1955 through 1969, with one more coming in 1972.

Williams’ second-biggest hit came when his cover of John Barry’s movie theme “Born Free” went to No. 7 (No. 5 on the chart now called Adult Contemporary) in December 1966. That’s probably the Williams record I recall the most, and I know I would have heard it – and liked it – on any of the radio stations I happened to hear at the time.

Even though he was on or near the charts during the 1960s, Williams’ better years had been the late 1950s, when he placed several records in the Top 40: “Wanting You” went to No. 38 in 1955; “La Mer (Beyond the Sea)” went to No. 37 in 1956; “Almost Paradise” went to No. 15 and “Till” went to No. 22 in 1957; and “Near You” went to No. 10 in 1958. After that, beyond “Born Free,” the closest Williams got to the Top 40 was in early 1962, when his cover of “Maria” from West Side Story went to No. 48.

My favorite Roger Williams piece, however, comes from 1980, when he teamed up with John Barry to record Barry’s “Theme from Somewhere In Time,” which closes the soundtrack album (and, I think, plays under the closing credits) of one of my favorite films. The track also showed up on Williams’ 1986 album, also titled Somewhere In Time. The record isn’t listed in Top Pop Singles; if it made any chart, it would’ve been the Adult Contemporary.

I know I’ve shared “Theme from Somewhere In Time” before, but it’s good enough to share again, and it provides an appropriate way to say farewell to Roger Williams.

John Barry, 1933-2011

January 31, 2011

I heard this morning the sad news that one of my favorite musicians – one who influenced my listening probably as much as anyone ever did – had passed on.

John Barry, composer of soundtracks for eleven of the James Bond movies and so many more films over the years, crossed over yesterday, January 30, in New York at the age of seventy-seven.

It was my fascination with James Bond in 1964 that led me to Barry’s work and then to my long-time interest in soundtracks. Those of my age or older will recall that Bondmania had about a three or four year run. It began, from what I recall, in the early 1960s with – among other things – the admission by then-President John F. Kennedy that he enjoyed Ian Fleming’s novels about James Bond, secret agent 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Add the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962, with Sean Connery as Bond and Ursula Andress rising from the sea as Honeychile Rider, the first of the Bond girls on the screen, and the secret agent – blessed with gorgeous women, superb driving skills, an increasingly elaborate set of weapons and gadgets, and just the right double entendre at the right time – became an American sensation.

Barry didn’t score Dr. No – Monty Norman did – but Barry picked up the series with the second film, From Russia With Love, and when the third Bond film, Goldfinger, came out in 1964, the increasing fascination around me pulled me in. I turned eleven in 1964 and was too young, my parents judged, to see the movies or read Fleming’s books. But I could listen to the music. So I got the soundtrack to Goldfinger from our record club, and I sat by the stereo in the living room, listening and trying to create images and storylines that would match the sounds I heard, kind of the reverse of what Barry was doing as he created music to match the images and story of the film.

Of all the tracks on that first soundtrack, the instrumental version of the main theme remains my favorite:

By the time the fourth Bond film, Thunderball, came out in 1965, my parents had granted me permission to read Fleming’s books, and I went to see the new movie with my pal and fellow 007 enthusiast Brad. We followed that up with a double-feature of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, re-released as the nation’s attention to 007 increased. Somewhere along the line, we also saw a re-release of Goldfinger, allowing me finally to match the music with the scenes in the movie. And, of course, I bought the soundtrack to Thunderball, which included a new version of the “007” theme, first written for From Russia With Love.

Bondmania faded for the nation and for me, and although I saw some of the ensuing movies, many of which Barry scored, I bought no more Bond soundtracks after that. I did pick up Barry’s work for the film Born Free, and for many years, I noted when his name was in the credits of films I saw. But rock music and its relatives began to take more and more of my attention and my cash, and I bought few soundtracks by anyone for a few years. My early interest in Barry’s work had, however, cultivated the habit of paying close attention to the soundtrack any time I went to the movies, and during the 1980s I began to collect soundtracks again.

Fast forward a few years: During my graduate school days, I saw the film Somewhere In Time and noted that Barry had written the lush, romantic soundtrack for it, with pianist Roger Williams joining in for a turn at the main theme. I bought the LP and have since found myself watching the movie anytime I run into it on the cable channels. I mean, time travel, the luminous Jane Seymour and John Barry’s music – what more could one want?

The list of Barry’s work at All-Music Guide is amazingly long, with the earliest dated score being his work for Beat Girl in 1960 and the most recent being his score for The Dove in 2009. He earned Grammy awards for his work on Midnight Cowboy, The Cotton Club, Out Of Africa and Dances With Wolves and won five Academy Awards, earning Oscars for his scores for Born Free, The Lion In Winter, Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves and for the song “Born Free.”

As I write and think, I come to the conclusion that Barry probably had as much influence on me and my music listening as did anyone. Since the advent of the Internet, I’ve found my way to more and more of his soundtracks, work I enjoy hearing that I did not always know about when the films came out. Combine that with the attention I still pay to soundtracks and scores as I watch movies, and the effect of Barry’s work on me is huge.

I dabbled with writing some movie-type music when I was in college, at about the same time I dabbled in writing some short films. Not much came of either, except first, an awareness of the power of precise language in a script, and second – and more to the point here – a greater awareness of the difficulty of matching the mood of a scene with music. John Barry was a master at that latter task, and he deserves the lasting gratitude of anyone who loves movies or music.