News for November 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #89 – The Buckinghams: “Susan” b/w “Foreign Policy”– Columbia 4-44378

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #89 – The Buckinghams: “Susan” b/w “Foreign Policy”– Columbia 4-44378

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

Transistor radios…beaches…the warmth of the sun…crashing waves…Chicago? Yup!

The Buckinghams were the epitome of 1960s sunshine pop with their perfect blend of warm harmonies and sophisticated horn-drenched productions. Their sound was more akin to California than their native Chicago, and they were responsible for a string of perfect pop singles during the late sixties like the number one hit “Kind Of A Drag,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” the sublime “Don’t You Care,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song” and today’s jukebox classic, “Susan.”

Digging a little bit deeper than the singles also proves rewarding with some great would-have-been, should-have-been hits from their albums like “You Don’t Care,” “Back In Love Again,” “Where Did You Come From,” “It’s A Beautiful Day (For Lovin’)” and “Difference Of Opinion,” that all feature the group’s trademark baroque horn arrangements and layered harmonies.

The group formed in 1966 as The Pulsations with members Carl Giammarese on guitar, Nick Fortuna on bass, Dennis Miccolis on keyboards and John Poulos on drums. After winning a battle of the bands, they found themselves on WGN, a local Chicago TV station, as the house band for the All Time Hits TV show. It was then they adopted The Buckinghams name to fit in with the British Invasion groups who were all the rage on the charts at the time.

Shortly thereafter, they secured a contract with U.S.A. Records, a local Chicago label, where they recorded an album’s worth of material including covers of Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” James Brown’s “I Go Crazy” and The Beatles’ “I Call Your Name.” But it was their recording of “Kind Of A Drag,” written by a local Chicago songwriter, Jim Holvay that proved to be their ticket to stardom by topping the charts and selling a million copies. (Holvay also co-wrote the hits “Don’t You Care,” “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song),” and today’s Song Of the Day.)

A record contract with Columbia Records (the big time!) followed and a new producer, James William Guercio, who had been the bassist and road manager for Chad & Jeremy. (Fun fact: Guercio was also once a member of The Mothers Of Invention prior to the recording of their first album, Freak Out.) Around this time Miccolis left the band and was replaced by Marty Grebb.

Guercio’s brass-heavy arrangements kept The Buckinghams on the charts, and prepared him for his future success producing similar brass-rock groups Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Guercio was at the production helm for their 1967 hit singles “Don’t You Care,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song),” but the group had a falling out with him over today’s single, “Susan.”

“Susan” is a pure pop radio gem that suddenly takes a left turn and goes all “A Day In The Life” wonky in the center section, complete with a psychedelic orchestral build-up placed there to remind the public that The Buckinghams really were hip. The group was dead set against it, but Guercio prevailed, causing an irreversible rift between group and producer. The song originally appeared on their third album called Portraits.

The flip of today’s single is a far out Guercio original called “Foreign Policy” that is one of the group’s social statement recordings that features a sample of a JFK speech. It’s certainly of its time and was perfect album track fodder from their second album Time & Changes.

With Guercio out of the picture, the group was unable to repeat any of the chart success they previously had, and they finally called it a day in 1970. Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna revived the Buckinghams in 1982 and continue to tour on the oldies set to this day.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: November 30th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta #1 – “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Thanksgiving Trifecta #1 – “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Arlo’s classic 1967 shaggy dog story of a bunch of hippies doin’ their best to lend a hand to a friend by disposing some garbage on Thanksgiving. It’s a true story about a true Alice, in fact; my Aunt’s sister was good friends with the real Alice back in the day!

What starts off as a silly story about disposing garbage turns comically serious when it gets around to the draft. Enjoy and have a safe, happy and thankful Thanksgiving!

Edited: November 26th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #88 – Mason Williams: “Classical Gas” b/w “Baroque- A-Nova”– Warner Bros. 7-7127

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #88 – Mason Williams: “Classical Gas” b/w “Baroque- A-Nova”– Warner Bros. 7-7127

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

It’s from an album that starts with an Overture. No, it’s not an Original Cast album or film soundtrack to a musical; however, it is an album with lofty levels of conceit and pretension that could only have been recorded in the late ‘60s by Mason Williams. And for The Mason Williams Phonograph Album, it all makes sense since Williams is an artist of high conceit and pretension with a supreme talent level to match. Fortunately (for him and his fans), he was coddled by the most artist friendly record label of the 1960s, Warner Bros. Records, for otherwise, a record like The Mason Williams Phonograph Album would have never been possible.

While he is best known for “Classical Gas,” which topped the charts in 1968, won three Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Composition, Best Instrumental Performance, and Best Instrumental Orchestra Arrangement (for arranger, Mike Post), Mason Williams is also an Emmy-winning comedy writer, a standup comedian, an author and a poet.

During the early 1960s, Williams was a member of several folk groups including The Wayfarers and The Hootenaires who played shows at the Troubadour and many other west coast folk clubs. The Kingston Trio cut his song “More Poems” for their Nick, Bob & John album, and Glenn Yarbrough (of The Limeliters) cut several of his songs on his Honey And Wine album. It was also during the great folk era that he released several albums of instrumental banjo and six-string guitar music that paved the way for today’s Song Of The Day.

As a stand-up comedian, Williams’ format included reciting poems and telling stories in verse while accompanying himself on guitar. Some of his early stand-up can be heard on the album Them Poems which was released by Vee-Jay Records released in 1964. The record and his book The Mason Williams Reading Matter, were reissued in 1969 to capitalize on the success of “Classical Gas.”

Williams wrote comedy for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, as well as for other name brand television personalities including Andy Williams, Dinah Shore, Roger Miller and Petula Clark. With his musical background and cutting edge wit, he was the perfect choice to write for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he introduced the Pat Paulsen For President gags that ran on the show during the 1968 election year. (Paulsen was cast on the show as an editorialist whose deadpan delivery during the faux election campaign made him famous with the counterculture.) Mason Williams won an Emmy for his writing on the show, and he also gave Steve Martin his start as a comedy writer.

Williams premiered and performed today’s jukebox classic several times on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour including an indelible clip of him playing it using a clear Plexiglas guitar filled with water and a few goldfish. He also created an early form of music video when he synched the song to a film by Dan MacLaughlin titled 3000 Years of Art in 3 Minutes and aired it on the show.

The hit single version of “Classical Gas” was arranged by Mike Post who would go on to greater fame for writing the themes to the TV shows Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The Rockford Files, L.A. Law, Quantum Leap, Magnum, P.I. and Hill Street Blues. Williams recorded and released “Classical Gas” several other times, including a solo guitar version on his 1970 Handmade album, and in 1987 with Mannheim Steamroller.

He was also one of the flagship counterculture artists at Warner Bros. Records during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s where he released five albums including the best-selling Mason Williams Phonograph Record, The Mason Williams Ear Show, Music, Handmade and Sharpickers.

The Mason Williams Phonograph Record also garnered acclaim for its album cover featuring a Greyhound bus. The original image is an 11′ x 37′ poster that is on permanent display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The album is chock full of great ‘60s orchestral band arrangements with backup expertly supplied by members of The Wrecking Crew. There are a few throwaway “link” tracks that are only seconds long and act to bridge between songs and ideas. Along with the hit single, the album includes “One More Time” which sounds like it could have come off of a Glen Campbell album, “Sunflower” that provided the soundtrack to a film project Williams worked on of a skywriting airplane painting the sky with a huge flower. The B-side to my jukebox copy of the “Classical Gas” single is “Baroque-a-Nova” which was arranged by the album’s other arranger, Al Capp. The single is a double A-sided reissue.

“Baroque-A-Nova” is a typical late ‘60s instrumental which has a great arrangement featuring wordless vocals and harpsichord, creating a “hip” orchestral vibe.

Williams also wrote the 1968 UK chart-topper “Cinderella Rockefella” with Nancy Ames for Esther and Abi Ofarim, and in 1980, he briefly served as head writer for NBC’s Saturday Night Live, but left after clashing with producer Jean Doumanian.

Throughout the 1970s, Williams performed his Concert For Bluegrass Band And Orchestra with the Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Eugene and Denver symphonies. In 1987, Williams teamed up with Mannheim Steamroller to release a new album titled Classical Gas on the American Gramaphone label. The album featured a re-recorded version of the title track backed by Mannheim Steamroller and Fresh Aire, and sold more than a million copies. He also went on to record several other memorable albums including A Gift Of Song which was an acoustic Christmas album from 1992.

He also wrote comedy for The Smothers Brothers many TV shows and appearances throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Today, he still releases music and performs in front of audiences around the world.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: November 18th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Take Me to the Pilot” by Elton John

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Take Me to the Pilot” by Elton John

Happy 44th birthday to this performance!

I play Elton John’s 11/17/70 album every year on this day as it certainly captures him at his near best…especially on “Take Me to the Pilot,” today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman.

The album was recorded live for a radio broadcast at the A&R Studios in New York City back on this date in 1970. A six song album from the broadcast was released in 1971 to offset bootleg recordings that almost immediately began to circulate after the performance.

Six more songs were performed that day and are still not released to this day. Those songs include early Elton classics like “I Need You To Turn To,” “Country Comfort,” “Border Song,” “Indian Sunset,” “My Father’s Gun” and, of course, “Your Song.” An additional song from the broadcast, “Amoreena,” was issued as a bonus track to the CD reissue in 1997.

The band on this performance includes Elton John on piano, Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums. They give new meaning to the term “power trio” since nary a lead guitar is heard on the recording. That’s New York radio DJ Dave Herman introducing the show on the album and he later went on to say that Elton must have cut his hand sometime during the 80-minute performance because when it was over his piano keyboard was covered in blood.

This year would have been perfect for a deluxe expanded reissue of the complete broadcast since forty-four years later is still is powerful!

Edited: November 17th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #87 – Paul Mauriat: “Love Is Blue (L’Amour est Bleu)” b/w “Sunny”– Philips 40495

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #87 – Paul Mauriat: “Love Is Blue (L’Amour est Bleu)” b/w “Sunny”– Philips 40495

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

We’ve all heard about the British Invasion in rock music that took place in the early 1960s, but what about the late ‘60s French Invasion?

Never heard of it? That’s because it consisted of only one record by one artist. OK, technically you could argue that Petula Clark was also part of the French Invasion, but her single “Downtown” is widely recognized as part of the British Invasion. But let’s not split hairs over facts…

The French Invasion took place in 1968 with an instrumental record called “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat, which until recently with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was the only number-one hit by a French artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 in America.

But “Love Is Blue” was not Mauriat’s first American success. In the early 1960s, he co-wrote a hit song under the pseudonym Del Roma called “Chariot,” which became a big hit for the aforementioned Petula Clark. The record was successful all over the world, except in America. In America, the song was given English lyrics by Arthur Altman and Norman Gimbel and became “I Will Follow Him,” a 1963 number one single by Little Peggy March.

During the 1950s, Paul Mauriat was the music director for French singers Charles Aznavour and Maurice Chevalier and toured the world with both of them. In 1965, Mauriat established Le Grand Orchestre de Paul Mauriat and began to release what would add up to hundreds of recording for the Philips record label over the next 28 years. He also arranged 130 recordings for Aznavour between 1967 and 1972.

“L’amour est bleu (Love is Blue)” was written by French composer, André Popp and was originally sung by Greek singer Vicky (aka Vicky Leandros) where it won fourth place in the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg in 1967.

Mauriat’s recording of the song featured a sweeping orchestral arrangement combining harpsichord with a hint of rock guitars and drums thrown in for good measure. The song was released on the Blooming Hits album in 1967 which topped the charts for five weeks, knocking The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour out of the top slot. The album cover featured an attractive naked woman with a butterfly tattoo on her face. But let’s face it; nobody was really looking at that butterfly anyway…

The album was typical easy listening fare for the late ‘60s, featuring covers of current rock hits like The Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Somethin’ Stupid,” Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet On A String,” Petula Clark’s “This Is My Song,” Sonny Bono’s “Mama” and Herman’s Hermits “(There’s A) Kind Of Hush.”

The original B-side to today’s single was called “Alone in the World (Seuls Au Monde)” which was replaced in January of 1968 for Mauriat’s cover of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” which appeared on the More Mauriat album.

Mauriat would only reach the singles charts two more times after “Love Is Blue,” with his recordings of “Love in Every Room” and the title theme from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Mauriat died on November 3, 2006 at the age of 81.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: November 16th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #86 – Blue Swede: “Hooked On A Feeling” b/w “Gotta Have Your Love”– Capitol 3627

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #86 – Blue Swede: “Hooked On A Feeling” b/w “Gotta Have Your Love”– Capitol 3627

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“Ooga chaka ooga ooga, ooga chaka ooga ooga” – It makes no sense at all, but if you’re a certain age, just reading the words instantly brings to mind the intro of today’s jukebox classic single!

While most people know “Hooked on a Feeling” by its signature “ooga chaka” intro as performed by Swedish group Blue Swede, the song actually had already been a big hit in 1968 when it hit the #5 spot on the charts as recorded by B.J. Thomas. The song was written by Mark James who also wrote Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.” There was nary an “ooga chaka” to be heard in Thomas’ version of the song, instead, his version featured electric sitar which made it stand out alongside the other records on the charts.

So, just where did the famed “ooga chaka” intro come from?

In 1971, Jonathan King, who is vaguely remembered in the U.S. by his top twenty hit “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon,” recorded the song and added the “ooga chaka” intro to his version which was based on the Indian chants heard in Johnny Preston’s 1959 chart topper “Running Bear.” King’s cover reached the #23 position on the UK singles charts in 1972.

King’s version of the song was heard by Bengt Palmers who was the head of A&R for EMI Records in Sweden who was working with a group called Bjorn Skiffs and Blablus (loosely translated to Blue Denim). Blaubus began performing the song as part of their shows in Sweden for several months before recording it and changing their name to Blue Swede for the US market.

Blue Swede formed in Sweden in 1973 by Bjorn Skiffs with members Bosse Liljedahl on bass, Anders Berglund on keyboards, Hinke Ekestubbe on saxophone, Jan Guldback on drums, Michael Areklew on guitar and Tommy Berglund on trumpet. When they came to record the song, they jungled up the “ooga chaka” intro, giving it the hook that took it to the top of the U.S. charts in 1974. They were the first Swedish act to top the U.S. singles charts before ABBA.

Blue Swede’s version soundtracked one of the first viral videos (before there was such a thing); the super annoying “Dancing Baby” video that was originally shown on the super annoying Ally McBeal TV show. The song also appeared in Quentin Tarentino’s film Reservoir Dogs, and it was covered by the likes of David Hasselhoff, Vonda Shepard and punk group The Offspring, who sampled the “ooga chaka” refrain for their song “Special Delivery.”

Most of Blue Swede’s hits were somewhat laughable covers of other artist’s songs. Their debut album of the same name featured covers of Lee Dorsey’s “Working In The Coal Mine,” Dionne Warwick’s “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” Jose Feliciano’s “Destiny,” Kenny Rogers & The First Edition’s “Something’s Burning” and a version of The Association’s “Never My Love” which reached #7 on the U.S. charts in August of 1974. The album also featured another chart hit in “Silly Milly” which reached #81 in February of 1975. They also covered a medley of Deep Purple’s “Hush” and Tommy James & The Shondells’ “I’m Alive” (#61/1974) and Cher’s “Half Breed,” to name a few more.

The flip of today’s single, “Gotta Have Your Love” was also from their debut album. It is a passable soul pastiche featuring lead vocals by Bjorn Skiffs that would not have been out of place on R&B stations during the 1970s.

After Blue Swede broke up, Skiffs partook in the cast recording of Tim Rice’s musical Chess along with Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: November 3rd, 2015