News for December 2011
New Year’s Eve Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “In The Year 2525″ by Zager and Evans
Denny Zager and Rick Evans met in college in Nebraska in the early 1960s and began playing music together. They recorded this song in 1968 and it reached the top of the charts during the summer of ’69 in time for man’s first steps on the moon. It stayed atop the charts while man continued to make history at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. While the duo was never able to follow this hit up with anything substantial on the charts, they still remain involved in music to this day. Zager makes custom guitars and Evans continues to perform solo.
Edited: December 31st, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “A Case Of You” by Prince
Prince has got balls! Here he attempts to bring his own special flavor to a cover of a Joni Mitchell classic that originally appeared on the album “Blue.” His version is interesting and certainly carries his own soulful stamp on the proceedings. The recording was part of the “A Tribute To Joni Mitchell” album that came out almost five years ago featuring Elvis Costello, Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, k.d. lang, Emmylou Harris and others taking a chance on a Joni song. While the collection is eclectic and entertaining, one thing is for certain…nobody sings Joni Mitchell like the artist herself…and anybody who thinks they can do better is sadly mistaken.
Edited: December 29th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “The Other Shoe” by Fucked Up
The only thing Fucked Up about this record is that I only heard it for the first time last week and as a result it did not make my Top Albums List Of 2011…and it is certainly good enough to be on the list. This Canadian Punk band has been around since 2001 releasing a slew of singles and 12 inchers, but had its big breakthrough this year with their third full length album “David Comes To Life.” The record is said to be a rock opera set in Thatcher’s Britain. The group announced in November that they would be going on hiatus so lead singer Damian Abraham could raise his family.
Edited: December 28th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Jean Genie” by David Bowie
Here’s the long lost Top Of the Pops live clip recorded on January 3, 1973 featuring Bowie and the Spiders From Mars. The clip was said to be lost and recently rediscovered. It received its first broadcast in England since it originally aired back in 1973 on December 21, 2011. Glam rock never sounded so bluesy with Bowie on the harp. I love it when he starts to blow some Beatles’ “Love Me Do” at the end!
Edited: December 27th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Groove’s Groove” by Richard “Groove” Holmes
Like fellow Jazz organ giants Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff, Holmes released countless organ-drenched Soul Jazz sides during the 1960s paving the way for Acid Jazz and Hip-Hop. Here is the edited 7″ version of this song which was the flip side to one of Holmes’ biggest singles, “Misty.” It was originally from his 1965 album called “Soul Message.” After he died, The Beastie Boys’ released a tribute to the groovemeister called “Groove Holmes” from their album “Check Your Head.”
Edited: December 27th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Trees” by Isham Jones & His Orchestra
I first came into contact with this song in a rendition by Alfalfa on “The Little Rascals.” This version hails from 1930 by the Chicago sweet band led by Isham Jones. Jones was a cold taskmaster of a bandleader which is kind of at odds with the sweet music he made with his group. At one time or another, Jones’ orchestra featured such greats as Woody Herman and Benny Goodman. The vocalist and banjo player on this track is Van Fleming.
For more listening pleasure, here is Alfalfa’s version of the song:
Edited: December 25th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Swingin’ Dem Jingle Bells” by Fats Waller
What more could you ask for on Christmas than this rambunctious reading of “Jingle Bells” from 1936 by the larger than life pianist extraordinaire Fats Waller. Meld that with a fine holiday Betty Boop video and you’ve got some musical spiked eggnog that guarantees a Joyeux Noel. I’m posting this one a little earlier than normal since I will be working at the homeless shelter tonight through tomorrow morning…for the past eight years, that’s what Christmas means to me. Merry Happy for sure!
Edited: December 24th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Unrequited Love” by Lykke Li
It’s a little bit 1950s Doo Wop ballad…a little bit early ’60s girl group…and a whole lot up-to-the-minute 2011 indie pop. Lykke Li hails from Sweden where she was born Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson in 1986. She released her debut album in 2008 but it wasn’t until this year and the stunning “Wounded Rhymes” album that she had her major breakthrough making many of the year’s top album lists including mine. The album was produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John.
Edited: December 23rd, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry
All that is great about Rock ‘n’ Roll can be found right here! Driving guitar riff…superb lyrics way ahead of their time for 1958…duck walking guitar solo…clarinet solo…an original song by perhaps the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roller we’ve ever had. Here is Chuck Berry in a rare live performance from 1958. What is lacking in the sound quality is more than made up for in the video. Just watched the Stones do this from their 1978 tour on the “Some Girls Live” DVD…couldn’t argue with their performance, now here’s the real deal…
Edited: December 23rd, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Broadway” by The Clash
This song was originally released on their sprawling triple album, “Sandinista.” At the time of its release, it was hailed as a major statement by the band and it received almost unanimous positive reviews. In reality, the record would have made a solid double album with some judicious editing. However, it did meld the group’s British sensibility with the feel of the streets of New York City circa the early 1980s, culminating in their landmark run of NYC shows at Bonds. I was fortunate enough to see them in action five times in the early ’80s. It was nine years ago today (12/22) that we lost Joe Strummer…
Edited: December 21st, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman - “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker Suite” by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky”
The story was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the King Of Mice” and was presented to Tchaikovsky by Marius Petipa who was maître de ballet of the Imperial Theater from Dumas. Tchaikovsky was unmoved by the prospect of writing a ballet for the story and was practically strong-armed into doing so. He was also writing an opera called “Yolanta” at the same time. Work on the ballet was put on hold when Tchaikovsky took a trip to America for the opening of Carnegie Hall. It was there he was introduced to the musical instrument the celeste. This inspired him to write “Sugar Plum Fairy” and finish the piece upon his return so he could introduce the instrument to Russia. Upon its debut, “The Nutcracker” was panned and the opera “Yolanta” was hailed as a great success…
Edited: December 21st, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Ballet For A girl In Buchannon” by Chicago
In 1970, Chicago Transit Authority shortened their name to Chicago and released their second album, which like the first one was a double album. The better part of side two featured this suite comprising the songs “Make Me Smile,” “So Much To Say, So Much To Give,” “Anxiety’s Moment,” “West Virginia Fantasies,” “Colour My World,” “To Be Free” and “Now More Than Ever.” The musicianship was high, the song craft inventive and the melding of horns to rock was never heard better…and, of course, their secret weapon Terry Kath on guitar was in full effect throughout.
Edited: December 20th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Be Sweet” by Afghan Whigs
One of the great underrated bands of the 1990s with one of the most enigmatic lead singers in all of Rock. Greg Dulli has a soul-drenched voice and writes dark lyrics about his liquor-fueled obsessions. As much as I hate to say it, he musically came off like a latter-day Jim Morrison…minus the silly trite lyrics and woe is me melodrama. The Whigs were the first group to sign to Sub Pop Records that weren’t from the Pacific Northwest before ending up on Elektra Records where they recorded their magnum opus “Gentlemen” where this song originally hails. They split in 2001 and Dulli went on to portray himself as a sleazy lounge lizard with his group The Twilight Singers and to perform with Mark Lanegan as The Gutter Twins. The Whigs will reunite in May at this year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties. I hope they make it long enough to come to Chicago!
Edited: December 19th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Forest from “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” by Rick Wakeman
OK…this is a little embarrassing now, but back in 1974 when this record came out, I spent a lot of time spinning this one. Between this, David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs,” Lou Reed’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” Elton John’s “Caribou,” Todd Rundgren’s “Utopia,” Frank Zappa’s “Apostrophe” and Yes’ “Relayer” I thought I had it made…and I did. Most of the aforementioned albums hold up pretty well today…unfortunately, Wakeman’s didn’t…
Edited: December 18th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Tell Mama” by Etta James
Back in 1967, a very pregnant Etta James made her way to F.A.M.E. Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama much like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Arthur Alexander had done before her. What resulted was some of the most soul-drenched music James had ever laid down onto wax. “Tell Mama” was written and recorded by Clarence Carter as “Tell Daddy” before Etta made it her own. The song would go on to be covered by another one-of-a-kind soul belter named Janis Joplin. At the time of this posting, news has broken that Etta James is terminally ill…
Edited: December 17th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Ja Funmi” by King Sunny Ade and his African Beats
Ade was born into a Nigerian royal family so, yes; he actually is a real King. He started performing his native Yoruba Nigerian Juju Music in the late 1960s becoming a star on his home turf. America finally woke up to the magic of Juju Music in the early 1980s with the release of his album called “Juju Music.” I was fortunate enough to see him and his 20-plus piece band perform in 1982 at the Pier in New York City. The translation of the song’s tile is fight for me.
Edited: December 16th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Delicious” by Jim Backus & Friend
From the zany song parodies of Allan Sherman to today’s own Weird Al, novelty records have been a staple of the pop charts for many years. Back in 1959, Jim Backus and Friend released this delectable novelty and took it to the top 40 of the charts. The “friend” on this record was the voice of actress Hermione Gingold, and most of us remember Jim Backus from his role on TV’s “Gilligan’s Island” and, more importantly, as the voice of Mr. Magoo.
Edited: December 15th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Claudine” by The Rolling Stones
An outtake from the “Some Girls” sessions that has finally seen the light of day on the recent deluxe reissue of the album. At the age of 19 Claudine Longet met Andy Williams and married him, although she was 14 years younger. She had three children with Williams, and in the mid-sixties pursued an acting and singing career. She met Olympic skier Vladimir “Spider” Sabich while at a celebrity ski tournament in Bear Valley in 1972. By 1975 she and her children had moved into Sabich’s chalet in the Starwood section of Aspen, Colorado. Things went well between the two for nearly a year until the relationship started to deteriorate and Sabich asked that she leave the premises by April 1, 1976. On March 21, 1976 Sabich was shot dead on his bathroom floor with a .22 caliber pistol. Longet was responsible for what her lawyers described as an “accident”. She said that Sabich had been showing her how to use the gun when it went off. Ballistics experts at the trial testified that the safety catch was defective on the gun. He was killed by a single bullet (the only inaccuracy in the song is the reference to three shots) to the abdomen and bled to death on the way to the hospital. He was 31 years old. On January 14, 1977 she was convicted of negligent homicide and spent 30 days in the Pitkin County Jail. Claudine was granted family rights during the week which meant that she only served time on the weekends. She went on to marry her defense attorney and continues to live in Aspen.
Edited: December 14th, 2011
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Dawned On Me” by Wilco
While their last album left much to be desired, the latest Wilco record, “The Whole Love,” is up there with their best work. They are back in Chicago this week for a run of shows dubbed “The Incredible Shrinking Tour” playing five nights in a row with each one at a smaller venue. I will be seeing them tonight at the Riviera which is a large club. This performance is from a mini concert they performed on David Letterman this past September.
Edited: December 13th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Gold On The Ceiling” by The Black Keys
On record this song sounds like a long lost T. Rex outtake…and that’s not a bad thing. The brand new “El Camino” album certainly has its moments due in large part to the Glam-leaning production of Danger Mouse. As you can see from this David Letterman live clip, they still sound like classic, grunged out Black Keys when they’re in front of an audience. They’ll be out there filling arenas this spring…a far cry from the sweaty clubs of just a few years ago.
Edited: December 12th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli
This 1967 solo hit by Valli was written like most of the Four Seasons hits by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. This song was a big hit for Valli (#7) and has spawned over 200 cover versions by such artists as The Lettermen, Gloria Gaynor, Jay and The Americans, Pet Shop Boys and Lauryn Hill. This one is by far the best version. Just watched the movie “The Deer Hunter” tonight for the first time since it came out in 1978, and this song is used to great effect by the gang before they go off to Viet Nam.
Edited: December 11th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion) by Grateful Dead
One of the many joys of listening to the “Complete Europe ’72″ box set by Grateful Dead has been the many versions of this Pigpen tune. Pig is at his soulful best on this tune…and for a guy who was ailing and on his last tour with the band, his performances of this song and the many others are nothing short of top notch. Why this Ron McKernan classic never made it to a proper Grateful Dead album is way beyond me…
Edited: December 9th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Little Honda” by The Hondells
Yup! Gary Usher again…we’ll close out Gary Usher week with the classic Hondells hit “Little Honda.” The song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love and was on the Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” album. As with other Usher recordings, this song features Wrecking Crew stalwarts Glen Campbell and Hal Blaine on the backing track. Once this track began its ascent to the number 9 position on the charts, the Beach Boys released their own version as a single. This clip was from “Shindig” in 1965.
Edited: December 9th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Hot Rod Hootenanny” by The Weirdos featuring Mr. Gasser
Gary Usher week continues! Mr. Gasser was the artist hot rod artist whose Rat Fink illustrations were all the rage in the early ’60s. The Weirdos were helmed by Gary Usher dynamic backing from The Wrecking Crew (Glen Campbell, Jerry Cole, Hal Blaine, etc.). This was the 1963 title track from the first of three albums by Gasser & The Weirdos. Original copies of these records will run you several Benjamins!
Edited: December 8th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Scrambler” by The Kickstands
You guessed it…more Gary Usher. This one from a 1964 album called “Black Boots And Bikes.” The musical subject matter of this record was motorcycle songs…or as they are referred to over and over again on this record, “the sickle.” The whole album was recorded in just four hours featuring Jerry Cole and Glen Cass on guitar, Earl Palmer on the drums and Steve Douglas on the saxophone. Many of the songs on this album were re-recorded six months later by Usher for the Hondells’ “Go Little Honda” album.
Edited: December 7th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Hot Rod High” by The Knights
Here’s a follow up to yesterday’s post by The Super Stocks. Once again, it’s Gary Usher and company from 1964 giving The Beach Boys a run for their money. The song was even co-written by Beach Boys collaborator Roger Christian. The expert backing was provided by The Wrecking Crew including Glen Campbell and Tommy Tedesco on guitars, Leon Russell on keyboards and Hal Blaine on drums whose work can be heard on hundreds of ’60s hits. This song was also recorded by The Hondells, The Super Stocks and The Surfaris…probably using the very same backing track.
Edited: December 6th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Draggin’ Deuce” by The Super Stocks
The Beach Boys weren’t the only game in town on Capitol Records in the early ’60s when it came to surf and hot rod tunes. There were numerous groups like The Kickstands, The Knights, The Hondells, The Superstocks and Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos…and they all had one member in common…Gary Usher. Usher was Brian Wilson’s first outside collaborator in the Beach Boys with writing credits on “In My Room,” “409″ and the “Lonely Sea.” He also produced tracks for The Byrds, Dick Dale, Chad & Jeremy, The Surfaris, Sagittarius and the Firesign Theater. Here are the official version and the demo for The Super Stocks’ “Draggin’ Deuce.”
Edited: December 5th, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Do The Evolution” by Pearl Jam
Just watched James Cameron’s excellent documentary “Pearl Jam Twenty” the other night. Whether it’s fighting Ticketmaster for lower ticket prices, giving “Ten” fan club members first dibs on concert tickets, the special 7″ 45rpm single featuring rarities fan club members receive each year, their epic length concerts or the band’s devotion to vinyl, PJ has always put their fans first. Oh, and they’ve released some killer music along the way including this tune from the 1998 album “Yield.”
Edited: December 3rd, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove
OK, I tried my best to ignore it. I even changed the channel a few times until my curiosity got the best of me. So here’s the latest earwig from Apple’s incessant iPad Touch commercials. Although they are all from America, Grouplove formed in Greece while the members were attending an art residency. They released their debut EP and then went on tour with Florence + The Machine. This is their latest single from their new album “Never Trust A Happy Song.” I’m sure I’ll be hating them and this song very soon…
Edited: December 3rd, 2011
Song Of The Day – “N.Y. Stars” by Lou Reed
A few weeks ago I featured a track from Lou Reed’s turgid new album with Metallica called “Lulu.” It is indeed a stinker of an album with Lou sounding totally irrelevant ranting over Metallica’s lumbering backing tracks. Fortunately, Lou’s got plenty of great back catalog for the uninitiated and this song from his underrated glammy 1974 album “Sally Can’t Dance” is a good place to start.
Edited: December 2nd, 2011
Song Of The Day – “Elephant Talk” and “Thela Hun Ginjeet” by King Crimson
Their lineup changes were numerous, but for my money this was the best and most musically consistent lineup King Crimson ever had with the mighty Adrian Belew on guitar and vocals, Tony Levin on stick and bass, Bill Bruford on percussives and, of course, Robert Fripp on guitar and devices. The lineup stayed together for three albums between 1980 and 1983 before laying it all to rest. Here are two songs from their 1980 “Discipline” album.
Edited: December 1st, 2011