Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

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 – The Jukebox Series #50– Johnny Mathis: “Chances Are” b/w “The Twelfth Of Never” – Columbia 45 4-40993 (U5/V5)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #50– Johnny Mathis: “Chances Are” b/w “The Twelfth Of Never” – Columbia 45 4-40993 (U5/V5)

Fluff piece…or Pure Pop for Then People? Neither of the above…just another great jukebox classic.

Smooth and intimate. Those are adjectives you don’t hear that often to describe much of the music being made today. But there was a time when smooth and intimate was the basis for an entire genre of music. I’m talking about Pop Music…The Pop music of the pre-rock era…Pop music your mom and pop listened to. Real pop music…Mitch Miller Pop…Ray Conniff Pop…Pop music that came from unforgettable singers like Doris Day, Bobby Vinton, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett and, of course Johnny Mathis.

Sure, there were many more accomplished vocalists back then too, vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé and Carmen McRae, who worked with some of the finest jazz players and arrangers of the day. But, with the exception of Sinatra and Cole, they really didn’t rule the airwaves.

So, if Michael Jackson was the King of Pop of the ’80s and beyond, then Johnny Mathis was his predecessor, the king of late 1950s and early 1960s pop. (I guess that leaves Barry Manilow for the 1970s.)

“Chances Are” was written by the songwriting team of Robert Allen and Al Stillman. They were the same team that also wrote Mathis’ “It’s Not For Me To Say,” The Four Lads’ “Moments To Remember,” “No Not Much,” “Enchanted Island,” and the holiday classic “Home For The Holidays.”

It’s all pillow talk from Mathis. The first thing that gets you is the fabulous echo-laden sound that puts the listener smack dab in the middle of cloud nine, provided courtesy of producer Mitch Miller. Then there’s the piano, gently caressing and embellishing the melody. But it all wouldn’t mean a hill of beans if it wasn’t for the gossamer-smooth Mathis magic on the vocals. “Chances Are” is one of the iconic records of the late 1950s. It’s a heavenly slice of pop production and much more than just a great song, it’s a great record. It’s the culmination of songwriting craft, performance and production that creates the whole sonic picture, and makes this record one for the ages.

When released as a single back in 1957, “Chances Are” soared all the way to the number four spot on the charts, while its flip side, “The Twelfth Of Never” also became a big hit.

“The Twelfth Of Never” was written by Jerry Livingston and Paul Francis Webster and when it was released as the flip of “Chances Are” in 1957, it rose to the #9 position of the pop charts. The song’s melody (minus the bridge) was based on the old English folk song called “The Riddle Song” which is also known as “I Gave My Love A Cherry.”

The song was also brought to the charts by Cliff Richard who scored a #8 UK hit with it in 1964 and Donny Osmond who rode the song to the #8 position in the US, while topping the UK charts with the song in 1973. Others who have had their way with the song include Nina Simone, Cher, Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Johnny Nash, Roger Miller, The Chi-Lites, Tammy Wynette, Roger Whittaker, Olivia Newton-John, Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow and Jeff Buckley.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: July 12th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #49– Nilsson: “Everybody’s Talkin’” b/w “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” – RCA Gold Standard 45 447-0838 (S5/T5)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #49– Nilsson: “Everybody’s Talkin’” b/w “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” – RCA Gold Standard 45 447-0838 (S5/T5)

Harry Nilsson was a puzzlement. He was a brilliant songwriter who wrote some of the greatest pops songs of the 1960s. Songs like “One” (Three Dog Night), “Cuddly Toy” (The Monkees) and “Without Her” (Glen Campbell) came pouring from his pen providing many artists with some of their biggest hits. Yet the hits he scored on the charts were primarily written by others. Go figure…

Today’s jukebox classic is one of Nilsson’s biggest hits; some would say it is his signature song. And it is one that Nilsson (the songwriter) did not write. “Everybody’s Talkin’” was written and originally recorded by singer/songwriter Fred Neil. Neil was a big deal of the Greenwich Village folk music scene in New York City of the early 1960s.

Neil’s version was the last song written and recorded for his essential eponymously titled album which was released by Capitol Records in 1967. Neil was itching to get back to Florida and the ocean but needed one more song for his debut album. The song was hastily written as an afterthought at the urging of his producer, and recorded in one take. The album also included Neil’s song “The Dolphins” (covered most famously by Jefferson Airplane). In fact, several years after recording the song, Neil made good on the promise of the lyrics and gave up the music business entirely in favor of living in Florida near the ocean, working with dolphins until the end of his life in 2001.

Nilsson recorded the song at the behest of his producer Rick Jarrard for his second album Aerial Ballet in 1968. The Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor was a big fan of Nilsson’s 1967 debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show, and famously ordered a case load of the album and gave them out to all of his friends including The Beatles who also became huge fans and good friends with Nilsson.

Taylor suggested Nilsson to film director John Schlesinger who was actively looking for a theme song to his current movie Midnight Cowboy. Schlesinger had been using Nilsson’s recording of “Everybody’s Talkin’” as a place holder in the film until the right song came along. Nilsson suggested that he use “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City,” a song he wrote from his 1969 Harry album for use in the film. Schlesinger had grown so used to hearing the song matched with the corresponding scene that he decided to keep “Everybody’s Talkin’” in the film. At the same time, Bob Dylan also pitched a newly-penned song that he specifically composed for the film called “Lay Lady Lay,” however his submission came too late for its inclusion. Ultimately, Dylan’s recording of “Lay Lady Lay” became one of his biggest hits climbing all the way to #7 on the singles charts in 1969.

After its appearance in the movie, Nilsson’s version climbed to the #6 position of the singles charts in 1969 and sold over a million copies. It also won Nilsson a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male in 1970. After the song became a hit for Nilsson, Capitol Records rereleased Fred Neil’s self-titled 1967 album under the name Everybody’s Talkin’ and released his version as a single.

The song has been covered numerous times by artists including Tom Jones, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, Tony Bennett, Matthew Sweet, Neil diamond, Arlo Guthrie, Percy Faith, The Four Tops, Iggy Pop, Engelbert Humperdinck, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, The Kingston Trio, Liza Minnelli, Chet Atkins, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson, Bill Withers, Linda Eder, Dwight Yoakam and many others. Nilsson’s version of the song is also heard in the films Forrest Gump, Borat and The Hangover III.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: July 7th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #45 – Melanie: “Brand New Key” b/w “Ring The Living Bell” – MCA 45-N-2737 (I5/J5)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #45 – Melanie: “Brand New Key” b/w “Ring The Living Bell” – MCA 45-N-2737 (I5/J5)

Today’s jukebox classic came out in 1972 when roller skating and roller rinks were all the rage in my eleven year old age group, and the song “Brand New Key” certainly spoke our language.

I had already been exposed to Melanie’s music since 1970 through my older sister who became so enamored by her, that she scrambled to not only get her latest Candles In the Rain album, but also her first one called Born To Be. She used to blast “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” with The Edwin Hawkins Singers frequently around the house much to the chagrin of my parents. Needless to say, our house was filled with Melanie’s histrionic vocals and songs about peace, beautiful people, leftover wine and Winnie the Pooh, and as a result of her fascination with Melanie Safka, I paid close attention. For it was Melanie’s covers of James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind” and The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” that introduced my young ears to the original versions.

Melanie not only interpreted the popular songs of the day, but she also had quite a few first-rate original songs that were favorites including “What Have They Done To My Song Ma,” “Ring The Living Bell,” “The Nickel Song” and “Beautiful People.” More Melanie albums followed in my sister’s collection including Leftover Wine from 1970, The Good Book from 1971 and Gather Me from 1972, before she left for college and outgrew her muse.

Melanie formed her own Neighborhood record label in 1972 and released today’s single which topped the charts and sold over three million copies. To my sister and her age group, the song was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused them to pretty much decide that she’d become yesterday’s news.

But to my age group, Melanie’s star was on the rise. Forget the apparent double entendre going on in the lyrics to “Brand New Key,” with locks and keys, and “going pretty far,” that was all lost on me and my cohort the first time around.

To be honest, I really didn’t like the song much when it was a hit. I saw it for what it was…a novelty that was capitalizing on a craze. However, millions found the song to their liking by sending it up to the top of the charts. Today, the song is a guilty pleasure, but the fact that I have the single in my jukebox says that it is still a nostalgic pleasure.

The flip of today’s jukebox classic was the follow-up single to “Brand New Key,” which was also from Melanie’s 1971 Gather Me album. “Ring The Living Bell” is an anthem that was written by Melanie with a swelling chorus that reached the #31 position on the pop charts.

When Neighborhood Records released the single, Buddah Records (her previous record company) dug up one of Melanie’s older recordings, “The Nickel Song” and released it as a single to compete on the charts. Meanwhile, “Brand New Key” was still on the charts. As a result Melanie became the first artist to have three top forty hits on the charts at the same time.

As the 1970s came to an end, so did Melanie’s hit making days. Today, she occasionally performs concerts and releases albums. I never got to see Melanie perform back in the day, but I’d bet it would be a hoot to see her now.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: June 28th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #39 – Glen Campbell: “Wichita Lineman” b/w “Galveston” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 6093 (S4/T4)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #39 – Glen Campbell: “Wichita Lineman” b/w “Galveston” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 6093 (S4/T4)

Glen Campbell’s long, storied career is Forrest Gump-like in its nature. He was a member of The Champs, who sent the hit “Tequila” up the charts (before he joined them). He was part of The Wrecking Crew, the West Coast studio elite session musicians who played on literally hundreds of hits during the 1960s by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, The Monkees, The 5th Dimension, Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys and Elvis Presley, to name but a few. He was also a touring member of The Beach Boys replacing Brian Wilson on the road in 1964-1965, and playing on the group’s masterpiece Pet Sounds.

He’s a recording artist in his own rite that has sold millions of records and won countless Grammy, Country Music Association and Academy Of Country Music Awards. He’s also a member of the Country Hall Of Fame and was a popular TV host of his own Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour variety show whose connections in the music industry allowed him to feature top-shelf musical guests including The Beatles (on film), The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and dozens of others. He was also a movie star who shared the screen with John Wayne in the film True Grit.

Today’s jukebox classic is a double-shot of Jimmy Webb-penned classics performed by Glen Campbell. The A-side of today’s jukebox single (if you can actually delegate A & B sides to two songs this strong) is “Wichita Lineman,” a million-selling #3 hit from 1968. The song was written by Jimmy Webb who also wrote classic sixties hits like “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Up-Up And Away” and “MacArthur Park.”

Webb’s inspiration for the song came from a drive he took through the telephone pole-lined roads of Washita County, Oklahoma. As he passed through an endless stream of telephone poles, he noticed a single county lineman in the distance working atop one of the poles. He saw the man as a picture of loneliness, which got him reflecting back on a failed relationship he had with a woman who also served as the inspiration for his song “MacArthur Park.” Webb placed himself on top of the pole speaking into the telephone receiver for the song.

Webb: “I’ve never worked with high-tension wires or anything like that. My characters were all ordinary guys. They were all blue-collar guys who did ordinary jobs…They came from places like Galveston and Wichita and places like that…I (had) a very specific image of a guy I saw working up on the wires out in the Oklahoma panhandle one time with a telephone in his hand talking to somebody. And this exquisite aesthetic balance of all these telephone poles just decreasing in size as they got further and further away from the viewer – that being me – and as I passed him, he began to diminish in size. The country is so flat, it was like this one quick snapshot of this guy rigged up on a pole with this telephone in his hand. And this song came about, really, from wondering what that was like, what it would be like to be working up on a telephone pole and what would you be talking about? Was he talking to his girlfriend? Probably just doing one of those checks where they called up and said, ‘Mile marker 46,’ you know. ‘Everything’s working so far.’” (SongFacts.com)

The song’s orchestral swells were created by Al DeLory to reflect the shimmering sound of the wind “singing through the wires” atop the poles. The musicians playing on the track were all Wrecking Crew stalwarts including Campbell, Al Casey and James Burton on guitar, Carol Kaye on bass, Jim Gordon on drums and Al DeLory on piano. It has been covered by the likes of Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Robert Goulet, Andy Williams, Bobby Goldsboro, Engelbert Humperdink, Jose Feliciano, Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, James Taylor and R.E.M.

On the flip is Campbell’s take on an anti-war song that Jimmy Webb wrote while hanging out on the beaches of Galveston, Texas. It came to Campbell’s attention via Hawaiian singer Don Ho, who recorded a version of the song that was released as the flip side of his “Has Anybody Lost A Love” single in 1968. When Ho appeared on Campbell’s Goodtime Hour TV show in 1969, he gave him a copy of his recording of the song and suggested that he give it a whirl in the studio.

When Campbell recorded the song, he changed the lyrics, replacing the line “Wonder if she could forget me, I’d go home if they would let me, put down this gun and go to Galveston” with “I still hear your sea waves crashing/as I watch the cannons flashing/ I clean my gun/And dream of Galveston.”

Campbell’s version climbed to #4 on the Billboard Pop Charts, and topped the Country and Easy Listening charts in 1969. It also sold over a million copies. “Galveston” was the title track of his 1969 album of the same name which topped the Country Charts and charted at #2 pop. Like his previous album, the musicians included such Wrecking Crew stalwarts as Campbell and Al Casey on guitar, Hal Blaine and Bob Felts on drums, Jo Osborne on bass and Dennis McCarthy on piano.

Currently Campbell is battling Alzheimer’s disease. After completing his final album, he took to the road several years ago. The exceptional documentary I’ll Be Me follows him on his last tour before retiring for good.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: June 7th, 2015

The Jukebox Series #34 – Dusty Springfield: “The Look Of Love”

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #34 – Dusty Springfield: “The Look Of Love” b/w “All I See Is You” – 45 RPM Single 45 (I4/J4)

Her voice was smooth, and her delivery was as sultry as it comes. While she was a much bigger star in her native England, Dusty Springfield sent numerous singles up the charts on these shores as well, including “I Only Want To Be With You” (#12/1963), “Wishin’ And Hopin’” (#6/1963), “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” (#3/1964 UK), “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (#4/1966), “Son Of A Preacher Man (#10/1969), “The Windmills Of Your Mind” (#31/1969) and “What Have I Done To Deserve This” with The Pet Shop Boys (#2/1987).

She was also credited with introducing the Motown Sound to English music fans by helming a special edition of the British music TV show Ready Steady Go!, that featured the first UK TV appearances by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Temptations, The Supremes, the Miracles and Stevie Wonder. She also covered her share of Motown hits for consumption by the UK market and some of her versions were more popular than the originals.

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien (aka Dusty Springfield) got her start as a member of the “sister” act The Lana Sisters performing on TV and as part of shows on military bases around the UK. From there, she joined the family folk group called The Springfields with her brothers Tom and Tim who were best known by their recording of “Silver Threads And Golden Needles.”

Today’s jukebox classic is one of Dusty Springfield’s signature hits, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the James Bond film parody Casino Royale. The song was originally intended to be an instrumental until David wrote lyrics to the song. It was nominated for Best Song in the 1968 Grammy Awards. Springfield recorded the song twice. Her first recording was released on Colgems Records on the soundtrack to the film Casino Royale.

Burt Bacharach: “When I’m scoring a picture, whether it’s Butch Cassidy or Casino Royale or What’s New Pussycat?, all those melodies that turned into what became hit songs came from what I saw on the screen when I was scoring and what I heard. The first thing is you service the motion picture. If you’re lucky enough and you have a theme that turns into a hit whether it was Dusty (Springfield) singing ‘The Look Of Love’ in Casino Royale, what was most important there was the sexuality of Ursula Andress wearing very little clothes and making very sexy theme with the saxophone playing the melody of ‘The Look Of Love.’ Then we put Dusty on. First and foremost is it’s written for the picture, you don’t force it in.” (Record Collector via Songfacts)

Springfield then rerecorded the song for the Philips label in 1967, where it was relegated to the B-side of her “Give Me Time” single. It also appeared on The Look Of Love album, which was her last U.S. album for Philips Records in 1967 before signing with Atlantic and releasing the landmark Dusty In Memphis record. (Tracks for her last Philips album entitled Dusty Definitely in England were not released in America until the 1990s, and then they were released under the title Dusty In London.)

The song has been covered by a myriad of artists including Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (whose version charted at #4 on the pop charts), Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Isaac Hayes, Ahmad Jamal, Claudine Longet, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Dionne Warwick, Andy Williams, The Delfonics, Tony Joe White, The Meters, The Vanilla Fudge, The Zombies, Diana Krall (whose recording made it into the top ten of the Canadian charts), Anita Baker and literally dozens more.

The flip is Springfield’s 1966 single “All I See Is You”, written by Ben Weisman & Carl Westlake, which also reached the US Top 20.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: May 26th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #26 – Dionne Warwick: “Knowing When To Leave” b/w “Make It Easy On Yourself” – Scepter 45 RPM Single SCE-12294 (L3/M3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #26 – Dionne Warwick: “Knowing When To Leave” b/w “Make It Easy On Yourself” – Scepter 45 RPM Single SCE-12294 (L3/M3)

The great thing about having a jukebox is that you get to decide what the A-side of the single will be by the way you place the single into its slot. Case in point is today’s jukebox classic. I bought the single specifically for “Knowing When To Leave” which is technically the B-side. The real A-side is a live version of “Make It Easy On Yourself,” but not in my jukebox.

“Walk On By,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” “Message To Michael,” “Alfie,” “”Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer” — the list goes on and on, making an argument for the notion that the songwriting partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David was one of the most important in the history of pop music on par with Lennon and McCartney. Add the sophisticated stylings of Dionne Warwick into the mix and you got recordings that resulted in pure pop perfection.

It was a marriage made in heaven, but soon after this recording, the marriage would dissolve into lawsuits and acrimony.

But for now, things were good. Bacharach and David were coming off of their 1968 hit Broadway musical Promises, Promises which was based on Neil Simon’s film The Apartment. The musical ran for 1,281 performances and featured several hit songs (all recorded by Warwick) including the title hit, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “Wanting Things” and today’s Song of the Day, “Knowing When To Leave.”

After recording her 1968 album, also titled Promises, Promises, with Bacharach and David, Warwick went to Memphis where she recorded an album of soul covers called Soulful with Chips Moman. So the time was ripe for Warwick to return to her winning partnership with Bacharach and David, which they did for the 1970 album, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

The reunion of Warwick with Bacharach and David resulted in their last great album together, it would also be one of the last albums Warwick would record for Scepter Records where she spent the entirety of her career up to that point. The album featured a clutch of some of the writing team’s greatest songs including “Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets,” “The Wine Is Young,” “Paper Mache,” “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and today’s song. Added to the album’s tune stack was Warwick’s own version of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” plus covers of George Harrison’s “Something,” Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” and Paul Anka’s “My Way.”

The album’s title song was originally a last minute addition to the musical Promises, Promises. “’I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ was written quicker than any song that I ever wrote with Hal. I had just gotten out of the hospital. I’d been on the road and gotten pneumonia. We were on the road with Promises, Promises and we’d try to get this song written and into the show the next night or two nights later. That’s where Hal’s line came from, ‘what do you do when you kiss a girl, you get enough germs to catch pneumonia, after you do she’ll never phone ya.’ So having been in the hospital for five days with pneumonia, I got out and struggled to write that song feeling not too great.” – Burt Bacharach (Record Collector)

After the release of this album, Warwick signed a lucrative contract with Warner Bros. Records. Her new contract specified that subsequent recording would be made with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s involvement. Their first album for the label, titled Dionne was a minor hit, only landing at #57 on the album charts.

At the time, Bacharach and David had just wrapped their first film musical Lost Horizon which when released was a colossal flop resulting in the bitter dissolution of the two writers’ songwriting partnership. This left Warwick in a precarious position with Warner Bros. facing the prospect of a breach of contract law suit. As a result, she was forced to sue Burt Bacharach and Hal David for breach of contract, ending their partnership as well.

It would be many years before Warwick would work again with Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

The true A-side to today’s jukebox classic is Dionne Warwick’s live recording of “Make It Easy On Yourself.” The Bacharach-David song was originally a hit for Jerry Butler in 1962. The song made it into the pop top twenty and reached #18 on the R&B charts. Butler originally heard the song from a demo featuring Warwick’s vocal. Warwick was under the impression that the song would be her debut single, but Scepter Records honcho Florence Greenberg rejected that idea and gave the song to Butler.

A very disappointed Warwick balked at Bacharach and David’s assurance that they would give her a song to record every bit as good as “Make It Easy On Yourself” by telling them “Don’t make me over, man.” Bacharach took her rebuke and wrote the song “Don’t Make Me Over” which ultimately became Warwick’s debut single. Warwick’s demo recording of “Make It Easy On Yourself” became an album track on her 1963 debut album called Presenting Dionne Warwick.

Warwick would later return to the song with a live single version in 1970 recorded at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. The concert version of the song peaked at #2 on the easy listening charts while climbing to #37 on the pop charts.

The Walker Brothers topped the UK charts with their version of the song in 1965, although it only climbed to #16 on the U.S. pop charts. The song was also covered by The Carpenters (as part of a Bacharach medley), Johnny Mathis, Cilla Black, Tony Bennett, Glen Campbell, The Four Seasons, Sarah Vaughan, Long John Baldry and Rick Astley.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: May 10th, 2015

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass: Whipped Cream & Other Delights

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #24 – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass: 6 Track Jukebox EP: Whipped Cream & Other Delights “A Taste Of Honey,” “Green Peppers,” “Whipped Cream” b/w “Bittersweet Samba,” “Lollipops And Roses,” “El Garbanzo” – A&M 33 1/3 RPM Jukebox EP SP 410 (G3/H3)

Jukebox EPs (or extended plays, or tiny albums) were made for the jukebox market during the 1950s through the mid-1970s. They were small-holed 7” records that played at 33 1/3 RPM and cost 25-50 cents per play. They typically included four to six tracks from an album and afforded the listener at a diner or bar an extended taste of a record by their favorite artist.

Today’s jukebox EP is culled from a record with the most iconic album cover of all time, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’ classic Whipped Cream & Other Delights featuring half of the album’s twelve tracks.

Before forming the Tijuana Brass and a record company (A&M) that still lives today, Herb Alpert was best known for co-writing Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” and producing tracks for Jan & Dean. All that changed in 1962 when he recorded the single “The Lonely Bull” in his garage and gave birth to one of the biggest recording acts of the 1960s, rivaling The Beatles.

The first few Tijuana Brass albums were recorded with a cadre of Los Angeles studio musicians. For the group’s fourth album, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, Alpert recruited future Tijuana Brass members John Pisano (guitar) and Bob Edmondson (trombone) and augmented them with Wrecking Crew members Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Chuck Berghofer, and Russell Bridges (aka Leon Russell). Once the album took off, Alpert solidified the TJB lineup by adding Nick Ceroli (drums), Pat Senatore (bass), Tonni Kalash (trumpet), Lou Pagani (piano), and Julius Wechter who played marimba and vibes only on studio recordings.

The food-themed Whipped Cream album, featuring such tasty tunes as “Tangerine,” “Butterball,” “Peanuts” and “Love Potion No. 9,” topped the charts and sold over 6 million copies in the United States. It also won five Grammy Awards, three for the single, “A Taste of Honey” which is the lead track on today’s EP. Sol Lake, who contributed numerous original songs to the TJB repertoire, wrote “Green Peppers,’ “Bittersweet Samba” and “El Garbanzo” for the album. The other track on this EP is “Lollipops And Roses.”

“Whipped Cream,” the album’s title track, is an Allen Toussaint-penned creation (under the pseudonym Naomi Neville) that was heard regularly on the TV game show, The Dating Game, as bachelorettes were being introduced to the audience. Three other songs from the album, “Lollipops And Roses,” “Lemon Tree” and “Ladyfingers” were also used on the show as musical cues, as well as “Spanish Flea” from the TJB’s follow-up album, Going Places!.

“A Taste Of Honey” was written by Bobby Scott and Rick Marlow for the 1960 Broadway musical of the same name. The song was originally recorded as an instrumental by Bobby Scott. The lyrics were specifically written by Marlow so Tony Bennett could record it. Lenny Welch recorded a vocal version of the song in 1962 that was heard by The Beatles who adapted it for their own recording on the Please Please Me album in 1963. The song was also a part of The Beatles’ live repertoire, and can be heard on 1962 recordings from The Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany.

The oft-covered song was also committed to vinyl by Barbra Streisand, Julie London, Tony Bennett, Chet Baker, Trini Lopez, Martin Denny, Acker Bilk, Chat Atkins, Bobby Darin, The Hollies, Tom Jones, Allan Sherman (as “A Waste Of Money”), Andy Williams, Lionel Hampton, The Ventures, Peggy Lee, The Temptations and The Rascals, to name but a few of the hundreds of versions of the song that exist.

And then there’s the album and EP cover…the most iconic in all of recorded music…the cover that launched millions of young adolescent boys sex lives!

The model on the cover, Dolores Erickson, was three months pregnant when the photo was taken! It was parodied by such artists as Pat Cooper (Spaghetti Sauce & Other Delights), Soul Asylum (Clam Dip & Other Delights), Cherry Capri and the Martini Kings (Creamy Cocktails & Other Delights), The Frivolous Five (Sour Cream & Other Delights), plus on Herb Alpert tribute albums by Peter Nero and Dave Lewis.

Thanks to my buddy Kent Rayhill (of Ohana Films), I am the proud owner of not one…not two…but 151 copies of this record…can you really ever get enough Whipped Cream & Other Delights?

Several years ago, I went to see Herb Alpert perform with his wife Lani Hall (of Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66) perform at a club. These days, Alpert covers his entire Tijuana Brass era by performing a cursory medley of their hits. The format of the show included questions and answers from the audience between songs. At the show I attended, I remarked from the audience that I have 151 copies of Whipped Cream on vinyl. Herb was somewhat taken aback by this random fact and went on to tell the story of the album cover image.

After the show, I met Alpert backstage and had him sign a sealed copy of the album for me. He asked me why I had so many copies of the album and if they were worth anything. I told him that musically, they were priceless, but since he sold millions of copies of the album back in the 1960s, they are plentiful and sell for about 25 cents each. He took it all in stride.

The following night, he performed another show in the Chicago area of which a few of my friends were in attendance. When an audience member inquired about the Whipped Cream album, he remarked that he met a guy the previous night that owns 151 copies of the album. I guess I made an impression on him (however nutty an impression that may have been).

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: April 29th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #21 – Peggy Lee: “Is That All There Is” b/w “Me And My Shadow” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 2602 (A3/B3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #21 – Peggy Lee: “Is That All There Is” b/w “Me And My Shadow” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 2602 (A3/B3)

Records seldom get any darker than today’s jukebox classic by Peggy Lee. “Is That All There Is” was written by songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, the team who gave us such classic hits as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Searchin’,” “Young Blood,” “Charlie Brown,” “Poison Ivy,” “Kansas City,” “Stand By Me,” “Love Potion No. 9,” “Spanish Harlem” and many others, too numerous to mention here.

The impetus for the song came to Jerry Lieber from his wife Gaby Rodgers, who introduced him to the 1896 short story Disillusionment by Nobel Prize winning author Thomas Mann. Many of the song’s lyrics including its title were picked up directly from the text of the story. Lieber picked two specific incidents in the story, the house fire and the breakup of a romance for the verses, and then he added his own verse about the circus to complete the record. When Mike Stoller read Lieber’s lyrics he said that the story “ached with the bittersweet irony of the German cabaret.” As a result, Stoller based the music on that of Threepenny Opera composers Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. (songfacts.com)

The song was originally recorded by Georgia Brown, Tony Bennett, Guy Lombardo, Marlene Dietrich and Leslie Uggams before making its way to Peggy Lee. Lieber and Stoller also offered it to Barbra Streisand’s management who turned it down for their charge. When Streisand finally heard the song, she complained that she got passed over for a crack at recording it.

By the time that Lee got around to recording this song in 1969, the big band era from which she got her start as a vocalist with Benny Goodman was long over, as well as the many hit making years that followed during the 1950s. Her last top ten hit before today’s Song of the Day was “Fever” back in 1958.

The song’s orchestral arrangement was written by Randy Newman who also conducted the orchestra on the record. The track was included on Lee’s 1969 album of the same name in which she covers Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” George Harrison’s “Something,” Randy Newman’s “Love Story” and Lieber & Stoller’s “I’m A Woman.” She also revisited the song “Me And My Shadow” that she had recorded many years earlier for the album, making it the B-side to the single.

When Lee agreed to record the song, she was very specific as to how many times she would sing the song for them. Jerry Lieber picks up the story in the book Hound Dog: The Lieber And Stoller Autobiography: “I’ll do three takes, she said, and no more … The initial takes weren’t great. She had to ease her way into the mood and find that sweet spot. At take 10, she still didn’t have it. But being a trouper, Peggy kept going. At take 15, I suspect that she took a belt because her takes were improving. Take 30 was good, but take 36 was pure magic. I looked at Mike and Mike looked at me and we could do nothing but jump up and down with joy. This was one of the greatest performances ever. Peggy had done it. We had done it. The enormous potential of this little song had been realized.” (via songfacts.com)

Continues Lieber: “Let’s hear it back, I told the engineer. We waited. Silence. We waited a little longer. More silence. What’s wrong?, asked Peggy. I’m dying to hear the last take. Then came the words that cut through me like a knife. I forgot to hit the record button, said the engineer. What do you mean you forgot to hit the record button?, I screamed at the top of my lungs. This has to be a f*ckin’ prank! No one forgets to hit the record button. This was the greatest take in the history of takes! Stop joking! Let’s hear it! Play the goddamn thing!”

“But there was nothing to play. Nothing to do. Nothing had been recorded. Killing this kid would have been too kind. Yet Peggy, bless her heart, was stoic. Guess I’ll have to sing it again, she said bravely. And she did. Take 37 was nothing short of marvelous. That’s the take the world knows today. She is melancholy, she’s sultry, she’s fatalistic, she is in tune, and she delivers the song with a wondrous sense of mystery. It is good — it is, in fact, very, very good — but it is not, nor will ever be, take 36.” The 37th take was thus used as the master, with various splices from the other takes. (via songfacts.com)

Lee’s recording climbed to the #11 position on the pop charts and topped the easy listening charts in 1969. The song also went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance the following year. Throughout the years, it has been covered by the likes of Chaka Khan, Sandra Bernhard, P.J. Harvey, Bette Midler and rock group Giant Sand.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: April 26th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #20 – Frank Sinatra: “Summer Wind” b/w “Strangers In The Night” – Reprise “Back-To-Back Hits” 45 RPM Single GRE-0710 (S2/T2)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #20 – Frank Sinatra: “Summer Wind” b/w “Strangers In The Night” – Reprise “Back-To-Back Hits” 45 RPM Single GRE-0710 (S2/T2)

There was something magical about easy listening music from the early and mid-1960s. It was a strange confluence of male vocalists, some more talented than others, like Andy Williams, Jack Jones, Steve Lawrence, Johnny Mathis, John Davidson, John Gary, Tony Bennett and of course, the “Chairman of the Board,” Frank Sinatra. They were smooth singers with worldly good looks. The ladies were just as compelling, from the likes of Eydie Gorme, Vikki Carr, Julie London, Shirley Bassey and Barbra Streisand. There was a sophistication level in their craft that hasn’t been matched since that particular era.

1966 was a very good year for pop vocal music in general, and especially for Frank Sinatra. He broke through again on the pop charts with a number one album called Strangers In The Night and the number one single of the same name that appealed to both young and old alike. The album would go on to win Album of the Year at the 1967 Grammy Awards and Record of the Year for the title track.

The album was Sinatra’s last one with Nelson Riddle providing arrangements, and Riddle went out with a bang on the swinging “All or Nothing At All” featuring a driving arrangement not unlike the one he did for “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” On top of that, there are masterful Sinatra versions of sixties easy listening staples like “Call Me,” “On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)” and “Downtown.”

“Doobey Doobey Doo.”

For a while back in the late ‘60s, that’s all that could be heard pouring out of the mono AM radio speakers in the car my dad drove. At the time, that music was much better than rest of his automotive musical fodder which consisted of the kind of instrumental music that the “Beautiful Music” stations would broadcast.

“Strangers’” evocative melody was written by Bert Kaempfert (who was famous for writing such easy listening fare as Wayne Newton’s “Donke Schoen,” Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” and “A Swingin’ Safari,” which was also known as “The Theme from The Match Game” TV game show. ) The melody was originally titled “Beddie Bye” and it was written for the film A Man Could Get Killed. The lyrics were written by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder, who both also wrote the lyrics to Al Martino’s immortal “Spanish Eyes.”

Jack Jones actually recorded the song before Sinatra got around to it, and Sinatra was said to hate the song calling it “a piece of shit” and “the worst fucking song that I have ever heard.” (Sinatra: The Life) However, he managed to warm up to its powers as it rose to the top of the charts, and it became a staple of his performances for the rest of his life.

On the flip of this double A-sided single is “Summer Wind,” which really is the essence of the classic summer single…light, warm and breezy, with a hint of the kind of ennui you can only feel as the summer comes to a close thrown in for good measure. The song’s intro sets the perfect mood with its mélange of Wurlitzer styled organ and sexy Nelson Riddle horn arrangements. “Summer Wind” sports lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Heinz Meier, and Wayne Newton had a #78 chart his with the song in 1965 before Sinatra got around to recording it also for the Strangers In The Night album.

The song has been used numerous times in advertisements, movies and in TV shows. One of the song’s greatest TV uses was in the summer-themed episode of The Simpsons called Bart Of Darkness which is based on the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window. In the episode the family gets a pool and the Simpson’s back yard attracts all of the neighborhood kids. Bart breaks his leg and spends his summer at his bedroom window looking at the festivities below until he thinks he’s witnessed a murder at the Flanders’ house.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: April 22nd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #17 – Nancy Sinatra: “These Boots Are Made For Walking” b/w “Sugar Town” – Rhino/Collectables 45 RPM Single 033 (M2/N2)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #17 – Nancy Sinatra: “These Boots Are Made For Walking” b/w “Sugar Town” – Rhino/Collectables 45 RPM Single 033 (M2/N2)

Talent doesn’t always run in the family, but back in the late 1960s a lesser talent was matched with the likes of producer, arranger and all-around Svengali Lee Hazlewood, and solid gold was minted. Case in point is today’s Jukebox classic, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” by Nancy Sinatra.

Let’s face it, Nancy Sinatra would have never received the breaks she got in the music business had it not been for her iconic father, Frank and his record label. That’s not to say that Nancy Sinatra is untalented. She possesses a passable voice, and during the 1960s she wasn’t too hard to look at either.

Today’s Song of the Day was written and produced by Lee Hazlewood who encouraged Sinatra to sing the song as if she were “a sixteen year old girl who fucks truck drivers.” Hazlewood had originally intended to record the song himself, but the song worked much better coming from the perspective of a woman. (Perhaps, not coming from a 16 year old girl, but certainly an empowered woman.) Sinatra: “The image created by ‘Boots’ isn’t the real me. ‘Boots’ was hard and I’m as soft as they come.” (songfacts.com) That said, the song established Nancy Sinatra as a no-nonsense, take no prisoners kind of artist, and it ultimately went on to sell over six million copies worldwide.

Nancy Sinatra was no fly-by-night artist and during her career, she managed to land 10 hits on the Billboard charts including “How Does That Grab You Darlin’,” “Friday’s Child,” the Lee Hazelwood duets “Summer Wine,” “Jackson,” “Oh, Lonesome Me” and “Some Velvet Morning,” “You Only Live Twice,” and her chart topping duet with her famous father “Somethin’ Stupid.” And even though she was signed to her father’s Reprise record label, she was still in danger of being dropped from her contract.

Lee Hazlewood: “When ‘Boots’ was #1 in half the countries in the world, Nancy came over to my house, and she was crying. She said, ‘They didn’t pick up on my option at Reprise and they said I owed them $12,000.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding, we’ve got the biggest record in the world.’ I rang my lawyer in New York and I rang Nancy the next day and said, ‘How would you like $1 million? I’ve got 3 labels that are offering that for you right now and I can get something pretty good for myself as well.’ She talked to her father and he said she could write her own contract with Reprise – after all she was selling more records than him at the time.” (1000 UK #1 Hits via songfacts.com)

Wrecking Crew stalwarts including Al Casey, Tommy Tedesco and Billy Strange (guitar), Carole Kaye (electric bass), Hal Blaine (drums), Don Randi (keyboards), Chuck Berghofer (string bass) and Ollie Mitchell, Roy Caton and Lew McCreary (horns) were all present and accounted for on the session that gave us this number one hit in February of 1966. A video was also shot for the song to be played on “Scopitone Video Jukeboxes,” and in 1966 and 1967, Sinatra traveled to Vietnam to perform the song for the troops, who adopted it as their unofficial anthem.

So what ever became of the boots that Sinatra wears on the cover of the Boots album? The now-famous boots were made into table lamps that sit on either side of Sinatra’s couch at home.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single, “Sugar Town” climbed to the #5 position on the pop charts in December of 1966, and also reached the top slot on the Easy Listening charts in January of 1967. The song appeared on the follow-up album to Boots called Sugar, and was also performed on Sinatra’s Movin’ With Nancy TV special in 1967.

As light and innocuous as it may seem, “Sugar Town” was actually written about taking LSD, Hazelwood: “I was in a folk club in LA which had two levels. I could see these kids lining up sugar cubes and they had an eye-dropper and were putting something on them. I wasn’t a doper so I didn’t know what it was but I asked them. It was LSD and one of the kids said, ‘You know, it’s kinda Sugar Town.’ Nancy knew what the song was about because I told her, but luckily Reprise didn’t.” (songfacts.com)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: April 19th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

I previously posted a brief piece on Marty Robbins’ recording of “El Paso” in conjunction with the last episode of Breaking Bad. It was great to see the song gain all kinds of new popularity on the heels of its use in the show. Today’s double A-sided Jukebox classic duplicates some of what I posted before, plus adds information about the equally big song on the flip of this single, “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation).”

Marty Robbins was a singer/songwriter who had dabbled in Rockabilly, Pop and Country recordings. Back in 1959, America was having a love affair with the Wild West with shows like Gunsmoke and The Riflemen lighting up millions of TV screens. It was against this backdrop that Robbins released the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs featuring today’s self-penned jukebox classic “El Paso.” It was by far one of the most compelling story songs of its time, buoyed by the great guitar work of Grady Martin with background vocals by The Glaser Brothers.

The record was easily twice as long as any other record to hit the radio airwaves, yet it managed to top both the Pop and Country charts. Later on, it was widely covered by rock groups like X, Meat Puppets and the Grateful Dead, who made it a staple of their concert sets from the early 1970s on.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single is “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation),” another Marty Robbins smash that reached number one on the country charts, yet only number two on the pop charts in 1958. The song was written by Robbins after seeing a group of high school students all dressed up for their prom dates. The track was produced by Ray Conniff, the purveyor of dozens of easy listening vocal albums from the ‘50s and ‘60s, who was charged with making sure the record would cross over to the pop charts. (Mission accomplished!) In 1973, Jimmy Buffett paid homage to Robbins and this song by titling one of his albums A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Crustacean).

Robbins, a race car enthusiast, went on to place 47 records in the Top Ten of the Country charts and to record several more Gunfighter Ballad albums before his death in 1982 at the age of 57.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: April 5th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #10 – Jack Jones: “Wives And Lovers” b/w “Toys In The Attic” – Kapp 45 RPM Single K-551 (1963) (S1/T1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #10 – Jack Jones: “Wives And Lovers” b/w “Toys In The Attic” – Kapp 45 RPM Single K-551 (1963) (S1/T1)

I know I’ve featured this 1963 classic before, but it’s one of my very favorite Burt Bacharach-Hal David compositions. I just love the nonchalance of Hal David’s lyrics – “Hey! Little Girl Comb your hair, fix your makeup. Soon he will open the door. Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger. You needn’t try anymore.” It is so innocent and yet so chauvinistic in a “ring-a-ding-ding” early sixties kind of way at the same time.

Add to it the 1950s bobby sox/teen idol production sheen of the recording and Bacharach’s light-as-air musical accompaniment and you’ve got all of the makings of a classic pop record right up there with the likes of Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are,” Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” and Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away Little Girl.”

While it is widely assumed that “Wives And Lovers” was written as the title song to the 1963 film of the same name, it never actually appeared in the film. Hal David: “We were asked to write what would be called an “exploitation song.” It wasn’t going in the film, but it was meant to come out and every time it got played the name of the film would be performed. It was a song made to promote the film, but it was never in the film. It was never meant to be in the film. Exploitation songs were very common in those days.” (songfacts.com)

Jack Jones won his second Grammy award for “Wives” in the category of Best Pop Male Performance in 1964. He also won one in 1962 in the same category for his hit “Lollipops and Roses.” Along with the equally talented pop vocalist, Robert Goulet, he was also known for his recording of “The Impossible Dream” from the musical Man Of LaMancha. Jones also scored chart hits with “The Love Boat” from the TV show of the same name and “Lady.”

The flip of today’s Jukebox Classic was written by George Duning as the title song from the 1963 film Toys In The Attic, starring Dean Martin and Geraldine Page. (Not to be confused with the Aerosmith song of the same name.) As of several years ago, Jones was still performing and releasing new music.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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.

Edited: March 25th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #5 – Ben E. King – “Spanish Harlem” b/w “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” – Atlantic Oldies 45 OS-13068 (I1/J1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #5 – Ben E. King – “Spanish Harlem” b/w “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” – Atlantic Oldies 45 OS-13068 (I1/J1)

Today’s Song of the Day exposes me for who I really am…a sucker for a great pop song. Give me a lush hummable melody and a simple lyric that I can relate to, add to it some strings for sweetening, and I’m a happy boy. So it should come as no surprise that the music that emanated from The Brill Building in New York City (1619 Broadway on 49th Street) from the late 1950s through the mid-sixties is right up my alley.

I think that growing up in proximity to New York City gave me an added appreciation of the music that came from that building’s hallowed halls, as the rhythm of the streets, the vibe and sounds of the city are inherent in every recording, and “Spanish Harlem” is certainly no different.

Today’s jukebox classic is from a double A-sided single I purchased cheaply on line when I first got the juke. It is one of the original records I put in there, and it is also one that I can’t see myself ever taking out. I just never tire of Ben E. King’s classic “Spanish Harlem.”

The Spanish Harlem section of New York City was a crime-ridden Latino neighborhood, and the 1960 hit was written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector and released on the burgeoning Atco record label. Leiber’s partner Mike Stoller, did the arrangement on the track and came up with the song’s signature intro fill that runs throughout; however he does not receive a composer credit. Mike Stoller: “I presumed my contribution was seminal to the composition, but I also knew that Phil didn’t want to share credit with anyone but Jerry, so I kept quiet.” (Songfacts.com)

The song was King’s first hit after leaving The Drifters, climbing to the #15 position on the R&B charts and #10 Pop, and it also served as the title track of his debut solo album. Singing background vocals was a then-unknown Dionne Warwick (as a member of The Gospelaires). The day the track was cut was indeed very productive, as King also recorded his follow-up single “Stand By Me” during the same session.

“Spanish Harlem” was also covered by Aretha Franklin in 1971 who scored an even bigger hit with it climbing to the #1 position on the R&B charts and #2 on the Pop charts. Dr. John is also heard playing piano on her version. The song was also covered by the likes of Laura Nyro (on her essential 1971 album Gonna Take A Miracle), Jay And The Americans, The Mamas & The Papas, Leon Russell, Chet Atkins, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass and even Led Zeppelin, who used to incorporate the song’s melody into live performances of “Dazed And Confused.”

The flip of this double A-sided 45 is King’s 1962 version of “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” which was written by Atlantic Records head honcho Ahmet Ertegun and Betty Nelson (although my 45RPM copy is credited only to “Nugetre” which is Ertegun backwards). King’s version of the song climbed to the #2 position on the R&B charts and up to #11 on the Pop side. The song was also covered again by Aretha Franklin on her 1970 album Spirit in the Dark. Her version peaked at #1 on the R&B charts and went to #11 Pop.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 15th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Toledo” by Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Toledo” by Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach

THE SUMMIT…that’s the term Fran Sinatra coined to sum up the grouping of Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and himself many years ago. To me, THE SUMMIT equals two of my very favorite artists collaborating together for an album and a tour…and one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen!

Elvis Costello was always a fan of Burt Bacharach. He covered his song “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” right from the beginning of his career. The Bacharach-Costello collaboration began with the song “God Give Me Strength” which was written for the exceptional 1996 Allison Anders film Grace of My Heart” which was loosely based on the story of 1960s Brill Building pop songsmiths.

After the film, the two worked together by email and telephone and found they had a knack for writing great songs. They continued their long distance collaboration writing a batch of songs that became their sole album from 1998, Painted From Memory which today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman was culled.

Here fans got the best of both worlds…Bacharach’s singular and angular way with a melody matched with Costello’s knack for the turn of a phrase. The ensuing 1998 tour was, for my money, a meeting of two of the greatest songwriters of all time…right up there with Lennon and McCartney!

Edited: October 28th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore” by Dusty Springfield

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore” by Dusty Springfield

This record has a complete feel to it and the production values really make this Randy Newman-penned track come alive.

Great song and all the production in the world wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t that voice…smoky…sultry…Dusty!

Matching Dusty with the talents of Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, not to mention the Memphis mob, was genius. Today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman hails from one of the greatest pop albums of all time, Dusty In Memphis.

Edited: August 17th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cry Me A River” by Julie London

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cry Me A River” by Julie London

It would be hard to think of Julie London without all of the sexy cheesecake album covers, but behind all of the va-va-voom was the va-va-voice which was soft, supple and sexual.

Today’s Song Of The Day was written by Arthur Hamilton specifically for Ella Fitzgerald to record. However, Ella didn’t get around to recording it until her 1961 album called Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie.

Julie London recorded the song in 1955 for her Julie Is Her Name album and sang it in the film 1956 The Girl Can’t Help It which propelled it up to the #9 position of the charts. Backing London on this recording was the great guitarist Barney Kessel and bassist Ray Leatherwood.

Barbra Streisand waxed the song for her 1963 debut album The Barbra Streisand Album, and it has also been covered by a who’s who of singing stars including Dinah Washington, Shirley Bassey, Ray Charles, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Nina Simone, Cher, Anne Murray, Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, Rick Astley, Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall, Susan Boyle, Michael Bublé, and somewhat improbably by Jeff Beck and Aerosmith.

To most people my age, “Cry Me A River” is probably best known by Joe Cocker’s indelible rockin’ version from 1970’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen album and tour. Cocker’s version is great, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the original.

Edited: July 22nd, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Chicken Fat” by Robert Preston

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Chicken Fat” by Robert Preston

I felt the need to repost this gem today because I saw today’s Song Of The Day hawking an exercise app from Apple.

It’s “Poultry in motion!” (Sadly, I didn’t write this line but it was too great to pass up.)

How many of you remember this gem from the early 1960s? Even though I was only one year old when this record was released to public schools across the nation, I distinctly remember exercising to this song in gym class when I was in grade school. “Go you Chicken Fat, Go Away!”

Childhood obesity is nothing new. Even though the problem has risen to epidemic proportions, it was an issue in America as early as the late 1950s.

Enter “Chicken Fat”to save the day!

In the late 1950s, an international study found that American children were far less fit than children from other countries. In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. During the 1960 Presidential election, John F. Kennedy made physical fitness an integral part of his campaign. While on the campaign trail, he wrote an article for Sports Illustrated called The Soft American which spelled out his proposed fitness program.

When Kennedy got into office, Physical Fitness for America’s youth was a very high priority: “We’re in a war with two great nations. Not a shooting war, but we’re at war with China and Russia. If we cannot do something to improve the physical fitness of Americans, then, as history has proven, in fifty years we will not be able to compete with these societies.” (John F. Kennedy) And as we know today, Kennedy was absolutely prescient on this topic. To that end, Kennedy chose Bud Wilson, the football coach from the University of Oklahoma to be the first Physical Fitness Consultant to the President.

Around this time, Meredith Wilson’s musical The Music Man was a smash Broadway hit starring Robert Preston as Professor Henry Hill. The musical included such Meredith-penned standards as “76 Trombones,” “Goodnight My Someone” and “Till There Was You” (which would go on to be covered by The Beatles on their U.S. debut album).

Upon hearing about Kennedy’s program, Meredith Wilson offered to write an exercise song completely free of charge to help, and Robert Preston agreed to sing it. Wilson consulted with Physical Fitness Council director Ted Forbes, to ensure that the song would provide a good workout and came up with today’s Song Of The Day, “Chicken Fat.

Since Capitol Records was riding high on the charts with the Original Cast Recording of The Music Man, they agreed to provide their musicians, chorus and recording studios to record the song. Crucially, they also provided their distribution network, shipping over three million copies of the record to public schools across the country, completely free of charge.

There were two versions of the song recorded for the 7-inch, 33 1/3 RPM small-holed single. One version ran over six and a half minutes and featured eleven different exercises, including push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, toe touches and marching in place. The flip side was a two-minute “Disk Jockey” version, that was edited for radio and television use.

After being out of print for close to 40 years, an updated version was released in 2000 by Bernie Knee who was a part-time cantor and commercial jingle singer. That recording is still a popular favorite in schools today, and now Apple has borrowed the tune to hawk an exercise app proving that physical fitness (and this song) never goes out of style.

Edited: July 13th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Easy Come Easy Go” by Cass Elliot

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Easy Come Easy Go” by Cass Elliot

Only in the 1960s could someone as robust as Cass Elliot become an equally big star. Sure, she had talent to burn and a set of unrivalled pipes, but in this day of the thinner than thin in showbiz, she just would not have stood a chance…and a shame it would have been indeed.

The former Ellen Cohen was born in Maryland and got her start as part of the folk trio, The Big Three along with James Hendricks, whom she was married to for a time in an effort for him to avoid the draft, and Tim Rose. When Rose left the group in 1964, future Lovin’ Spoonful member Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty joined their ranks and they became The Mugwumps.

Shortly thereafter, Yanovsky joined forces with John Sebastian while Doherty joined The New Journeymen who counted John Phillips and his wife Michelle amongst their ranks. After Cass joined the fold, the group would soon become The Mamas And The Papas. Of course you can listen to their track,“Creeque Alley” to have the blanks filled in for you.

It would only be a matter of time before Cass, the ultimate hippy chick would record on her own, and with the help of extensive television work, she began to have her own hits. Her records were pure pop affairs cut at Western Recorders in LA in the late 60s and early 70s featuring a who’s who of Wrecking Crew favorites including on this track Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne, Larry Knechtel, Steve Barri and Phil Kaye.

Today’s song of the day is better known for Bobby Sherman’s version than Cass’, but I think the 1971 production values and arrangements on this version make it much better. It is originally from her album Bubble Gum, Lemonade &…Something For Mama whose cover image was framed in chewed bubble gum. Elliot died in London in 1974 of a heart attack (and not from choking on a ham sandwich) in the same flat that Keith Moon would die, at the same age four years later.

Edited: June 24th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Waters Of March” by Art Garfunkel

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Waters Of March” by Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel certainly missed his calling during his post Simon & Garfunkel solo career. If ever an artist was better suited to cut a Bossa Nova album, it was Art Garfunkel who possesses a gentle, smooth voice and impressive octave range to match. Proof positive is his recording of the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic “Waters Of March” from his second solo record, 1975’s Breakaway.

“Waters Of March” was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim in both English and Portuguese (“Águas de Março”) and appeared on his 1973 album called Jobim. Although, the Bossa Nova craze was in the early 1960s, the song has since become a standard part of the repertoire, covered numerous times by the likes of Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’77, David Byrne and Marisa Monte, Al Jarreau, John Pizzarelli, Rosemary Clooney, and dozens more.

Breakaway was a high water mark for Garfunkel that generated three top 40 singles: “I Only Have Eyes For You” (US #18, UK #1), “Breakaway” (US #39) and the Simon And Garfunkel reunion duet, “My Little Town,” which peaked at #9. Further driving the popularity of the record was the Simon And Garfunkel reunion that took place on TV’s Saturday Night Live, which at the time was the hip epicenter of the media world.

The Richard Perry produced album was an all-star affair featuring a who’s who of backing talent including appearances by David Crosby, Graham Nash, Andrew Gold, Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon, Barry Beckett, Larry Knechtel, Russ Kunkel, Joe Osborne, Bill Payne, Klaus Voorman, Toni Tennille, Stephen Bishop and Leland Sklar.

Not only were the hits great, but there were quite a few non-singles that have become central to Garfunkel’s repertoire, including the Bruce Johnston penned “Disney Girls,” “99 Miles From L.A.” with lyrics by Hal David and a terrific cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever).”

Word is that Garfunkel’s voice isn’t what it used to be, so I guess a Bossa Nova album coming from him today would be too much to ask…however, with him at least on the road and back in front of audiences, I’ll bet he could still pull it off…

Edited: March 25th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #88 – Mason Williams: “Classical Gas” b/w “Baroque- A-Nova”– Warner Bros. 7 Arts 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 Arts-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 a Broadway 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 today’s jukebox classic “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 twelve 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.

The Mason Williams Phonograph Album – Full Album:

Edited: March 13th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #50– Johnny Mathis: “Chances Are” b/w “The Twelfth Of Never” – Columbia 45 4-40993 (U5/V5)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #50– Johnny Mathis: “Chances Are” b/w “The Twelfth Of Never” – Columbia 45 4-40993 (U5/V5)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Fluff piece…or Pure Pop For Then People? Neither of the above…just another great jukebox classic.

Smooth and intimate. Those are adjectives you don’t hear that often to describe much of the music being made today. But there was a time when smooth and intimate was the basis for an entire genre of music. I’m talking about Pop Music…The Pop music of the pre-rock era…Pop music your mom and pop listened to. Real pop music…Mitch Miller Pop…Ray Conniff Pop…Pop music that came from unforgettable singers like Doris Day, Bobby Vinton, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett and, of course Johnny Mathis.

Sure, there were many more accomplished vocalists back then too, vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé and Carmen McRae, who worked with some of the finest jazz players and arrangers of the day. But, with the exception of Sinatra and Cole, they really didn’t rule the airwaves.

So, if Michael Jackson was the King of Pop of the ’80s and beyond, then Johnny Mathis was his predecessor, the king of late 1950s and early 1960s pop. (I guess that leaves Barry Manilow for the 1970s.)

“Chances Are” was written by the songwriting team of Robert Allen and Al Stillman. They were the same team that also wrote Mathis’ “It’s Not For Me To Say,” The Four Lads’ “Moments To Remember,” “No Not Much,” “Enchanted Island,” and the holiday classic “Home For The Holidays.”

It’s all pillow talk from Mathis. The first thing that gets you is the fabulous echo-laden sound that puts the listener smack dab in the middle of cloud nine, provided courtesy of producer Mitch Miller. Then there’s the piano, gently caressing and embellishing the melody. But it all wouldn’t mean a hill of beans if it wasn’t for the gossamer-smooth Mathis magic on the vocals. “Chances Are” is one of the iconic records of the late 1950s. It’s a heavenly slice of pop production and much more than just a great song, it’s a great record. It’s the culmination of songwriting craft, performance and production that creates the whole sonic picture, and makes this record one for the ages.

When released as a single back in 1957, “Chances Are” soared all the way to the number four spot on the charts, while its flip side, “The Twelfth Of Never” also became a big hit.

“The Twelfth Of Never” was written by Jerry Livingston and Paul Francis Webster and when it was released as the flip of “Chances Are” in 1957, it rose to the #9 position of the pop charts. The song’s melody (minus the bridge) was based on the old English folk song called “The Riddle Song” which is also known as “I Gave My Love A Cherry.”

The song was also brought to the charts by Cliff Richard who scored a #8 UK hit with it in 1964 and Donny Osmond who rode the song to the #8 position in the US, while topping the UK charts with the song in 1973. Others who have had their way with the song include Nina Simone, Cher, Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Johnny Nash, Roger Miller, The Chi-Lites, Tammy Wynette, Roger Whittaker, Olivia Newton-John, Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow and Jeff Buckley.

Edited: December 22nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #49– Nilsson: “Everybody’s Talkin’” b/w “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” – RCA Gold Standard 45 447-0838 (S5/T5)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #49– Nilsson: “Everybody’s Talkin’” b/w “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” – RCA Gold Standard 45 447-0838 (S5/T5)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Harry Nilsson was a puzzlement. He was a brilliant songwriter who wrote some of the greatest pops songs of the 1960s. Songs like “One” (Three Dog Night), “Cuddly Toy” (The Monkees) and “Without Her” (Glen Campbell) came pouring from his pen providing many artists with some of their biggest hits. Yet the hits he scored on the charts were primarily written by others. Go figure…

Today’s jukebox classic is one of Nilsson’s biggest hits; some would say it is his signature song. And it is one that Nilsson (the songwriter) did not write. “Everybody’s Talkin’” was written and originally recorded by singer/songwriter Fred Neil. Neil was a big deal of the Greenwich Village folk music scene in New York City of the early 1960s.

Neil’s version was the last song written and recorded for his essential eponymously titled album which was released by Capitol Records in 1967. Neil was itching to get back to Florida and the ocean but needed one more song for his debut album. The song was hastily written as an afterthought at the urging of his producer, and recorded in one take. The album also included Neil’s song “The Dolphins” (covered most famously by Jefferson Airplane) and several years after recording the song, Neil fulfilled the promise of the lyrics to both songs and gave up the music business entirely in favor of living near the ocean in Florida and working with dolphins until the end of his life in 2001.

Nilsson recorded the song at the behest of his producer Rick Jarrard for his second album Aerial Ballet in 1968. The Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor was a big fan of Nilsson’s 1967 debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show, and famously ordered a case load of the album and gave them out to all of his friends including The Beatles who also became huge fans and good friends with Nilsson.

Taylor suggested Nilsson to film director John Schlesinger who was actively looking for a theme song to his current movie Midnight Cowboy. Schlesinger had been using Nilsson’s recording of “Everybody’s Talkin’” as a place holder in the film until the right song came along. Nilsson suggested that he use “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City,” a song he wrote from his 1969 Harry album for use in the film. Schlesinger had grown so used to hearing the song matched with the corresponding scene that he decided to keep “Everybody’s Talkin’” in the film. At the same time, Bob Dylan also pitched a newly-penned song that he specifically composed for the film called “Lay Lady Lay,” however his submission came too late for its inclusion. Ultimately, Dylan’s recording of “Lay Lady Lay” became one of his biggest hits climbing all the way to #7 on the singles charts in 1969.  

After its appearance in the movie, Nilsson’s version climbed to the #6 position of the singles charts in 1969 and sold over a million copies. It also won Nilsson a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male in 1970. After the song became a hit for Nilsson, Capitol Records rereleased Fred Neil’s self-titled 1967 album under the name Everybody’s Talkin’ and released his version as a single.

The song has been covered numerous times by artists including Tom Jones, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, Tony Bennett, Matthew Sweet, Neil diamond, Arlo Guthrie, Percy Faith, The Four Tops, Iggy Pop, Engelbert Humperdinck, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, The Kingston Trio, Liza Minnelli, Chet Atkins, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson, Bill Withers, Linda Eder, Dwight Yoakam and many others. Nilsson’s version of the song is also heard in the films Forrest Gump, Borat and The Hangover III.

Edited: December 19th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #45 – Melanie: “Brand New Key” b/w “Ring The Living Bell” – MCA 45-N-2737 (I5/J5)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #45 – Melanie: “Brand New Key” b/w “Ring The Living Bell” – MCA 45-N-2737 (I5/J5)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Today’s jukebox classic came out in 1972 when roller skating and roller rinks were all the rage in my eleven year old age group, and the song “Brand New Key” certainly spoke our language.

I had already been exposed to Melanie’s music since 1970 through my older sister who became so enamored by her, that she scrambled to not only get her latest Candles In the Rain album, but also her first one called Born To Be.  She used to blast “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” with The Edwin Hawkins Singers frequently around the house much to the chagrin of my parents. Needless to say, our house was filled with Melanie’s histrionic vocals and songs about peace, beautiful people, leftover wine and Winnie The Pooh, and as a result of her fascination with Melanie Safka. I paid close attention. For Melanie was the consummate hippie and her covers of James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind” and The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” ultimately introduced my young ears to the original versions.

Melanie not only interpreted the popular songs of the day, but she also had quite a few first-rate original songs that were favorites including “What Have They Done To My Song Ma,” “Ring The Living Bell,” “The Nickel Song” and “Beautiful People.”  More Melanie albums followed in my sister’s collection including Leftover Wine from 1970, The Good Book from 1971 and Gather Me from 1972, before she left for college and outgrew Melanie.

Melanie formed her own Neighborhood record label in 1972 and released today’s single which topped the charts and sold over three million copies. To my sister and her age group, the song was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused them to pretty much decide that she’d become yesterday’s news.

But to my age group, Melanie’s star was on the rise. Forget the apparent double entendre going on in the lyrics to “Brand New Key,” with locks and keys, and “going pretty far,” that was all lost on me and my cohort the first time around.

To be honest, I really didn’t like the song much when it was a hit. I saw it for what it was…a novelty that was capitalizing on a craze. However, millions found the song to their liking by sending it up to the top of the charts. Today, the song is a guilty pleasure, but the fact that I have the single in my jukebox says that it is still a nostalgic pleasure.

The flip of today’s jukebox classic was the follow-up single to “Brand New Key,” which was also from Melanie’s 1971 Gather Me album. “Ring The Living Bell” is an anthemic song that was written by Melanie with a swelling chorus that reached the #31 position on the pop charts.

When Neighborhood Records released the single, Buddah Records (her previous record company) dug up one of Melanie’s older recordings, “The Nickel Song” and released it as a single to compete on the charts. Meanwhile, “Brand New Key” was still on the charts. As a result Melanie became the first artist to have three top forty hits on the charts at the same time.

As the 1970s came to an end, so did Melanie’s hit making days. Today, she occasionally performs concerts and releases albums. I never got to see Melanie perform back in the day, but I’d bet it would be a hoot to see her now.

Edited: December 12th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #39 – Glen Campbell: “Wichita Lineman” b/w “Galveston” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 6093 (S4/T4)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #39 – Glen Campbell: “Wichita Lineman” b/w “Galveston” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 6093 (S4/T4)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Glen Campbell’s long, storied career is Forrest Gump-like in its nature. He was a member of The Champs, who sent the hit “Tequila” up the charts (before he joined them). He was also part of The Wrecking Crew, the West Coast studio elite session musicians who played on literally hundreds of hits during the 1960s by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, The Monkees, The 5th Dimension, Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys and Elvis Presley, to name but a few. He was also a touring member of The Beach Boys replacing Brian Wilson on the road in 1964-5, and playing on the group’s masterpiece Pet Sounds.

He’s a recording artist in his own rite that has sold millions of records and won countless Grammy, Country Music Association and Academy Of Country Music Awards. He’s also a member of the Country Hall Of Fame and was a popular TV host of his own Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour variety show whose connections in the music industry allowed him to feature top-shelf musical guests including The Beatles (on film), The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and dozens of others. He was also a movie star who shared the screen with John Wayne in the film True Grit.

Today’s jukebox classic is a double-shot of Jimmy Webb-penned classics performed by Glen Campbell. The A-side of today’s jukebox single (if you can actually delegate A & B sides to two songs this strong) is “Wichita Lineman,” a million-selling #3 hit from 1968.  The song was written by Jimmy Webb who also wrote classic sixties hits like “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Up-Up And Away” and “MacArthur Park.”

Webb’s inspiration for the song came from a drive he took through the telephone pole-lined roads of Washita County, Oklahoma. As he passed through an endless stream of telephone poles, he noticed a single county lineman in the distance working atop one of the poles. He saw the man as a picture of loneliness, which got him reflecting back on a failed relationship he had with a woman who also served as the inspiration for his song “MacArthur Park.” Webb placed himself on top of the pole speaking into the telephone receiver for the song.

Webb: “I’ve never worked with high-tension wires or anything like that. My characters were all ordinary guys. They were all blue-collar guys who did ordinary jobs…They came from places like Galveston and Wichita and places like that…I (had) a very specific image of a guy I saw working up on the wires out in the Oklahoma panhandle one time with a telephone in his hand talking to somebody. And this exquisite aesthetic balance of all these telephone poles just decreasing in size as they got further and further away from the viewer – that being me – and as I passed him, he began to diminish in size. The country is so flat, it was like this one quick snapshot of this guy rigged up on a pole with this telephone in his hand. And this song came about, really, from wondering what that was like, what it would be like to be working up on a telephone pole and what would you be talking about? Was he talking to his girlfriend? Probably just doing one of those checks where they called up and said, ‘Mile marker 46,’ you know. ‘Everything’s working so far.’” (Song Facts)

The song’s orchestral swells were created by Al DeLory to reflect the shimmering sound of the wind “singing through the wires” atop the poles. The musicians playing on the track were all Wrecking Crew stalwarts including Campbell, Al Casey and James Burton on guitar, Carol Kaye on bass, Jim Gordon on drums and Al DeLory  on piano. It has been covered by the likes of Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Robert Goulet, Andy Williams, Bobby Goldsboro, Engelbert Humperdink, Jose Feliciano, Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, James Taylor and R.E.M.

On the flip is Campbell’s take on an anti-war song that Jimmy Webb wrote while hanging out on the beaches of Galveston, Texas.  It came to Campbell’s attention via Hawaiian singer Don Ho, who recorded a version of the song that was released as the flip side of his “Has Anybody Lost A Love” single in 1968. When Ho appeared on Campbell’s Goodtime Hour TV show in 1969, he gave him a copy of his recording of the song and suggested that he give it a whirl in the studio.

When Campbell recorded the song, he changed the lyrics, replacing the line “Wonder if she could forget me, I’d go home if they would let me, put down this gun and go to Galveston” with “I still hear your sea waves crashing/as I watch the cannons flashing/ I clean my gun/And dream of Galveston.”

Campbell’s version climbed to #4 on the Billboard Pop Charts, and topped the Country and Easy Listening charts in 1969. It also sold over a million copies. “Galveston” was the title track of his 1969 album of the same name which topped the Country Charts and charted at #2 pop. Like his previous album, the musicians included such Wrecking Crew stalwarts as Campbell and Al Casey on guitar, Hal Blaine and Bob Felts on drums, Jo Osborne on bass and Dennis McCarthy on piano.

Currently Campbell is battling Alzheimer’s disease. After completing his final album, he took to the road this past summer one last time before retiring for good.

Edited: December 4th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #26 – Dionne Warwick: “Knowing When To Leave” b/w “Make It Easy On Yourself” – Scepter 45 RPM Single SCE-12294 (L3/M3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #26 – Dionne Warwick: “Knowing When To Leave” b/w “Make It Easy On Yourself” – Scepter 45 RPM Single SCE-12294 (L3/M3)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

The great thing about having a jukebox is that you get to decide what the A-side of the single will be by the way you place the single into its slot. Case in point is today’s jukebox classic. I bought the single specifically for the track “Knowing When To Leave” which is technically the B-side. The real A-side is a live version of “Make It Easy On Yourself,” but not in my jukebox.

“Walk On By,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” “Message To Michael,” “Alfie,” “”Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer” — the list goes on and on, making an argument for the notion that the songwriting partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David was one of the most important in the history of pop music on par with Lennon and McCartney. Add the sophisticated stylings of Dionne Warwick into the mix and you got recordings that resulted in pure pop perfection.

It was a marriage made in heaven, but soon after this recording, the marriage would dissolve into lawsuits and acrimony.

But for now, things were good. Bacharach and David were coming off of their 1968 hit Broadway musical Promises, Promises which was based on Neil Simon’s film The Apartment. The musical ran for 1,281 performances and featured several hit songs (all recorded by Warwick) including the title hit, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “Wanting Things” and today’s Song Of The Day, “Knowing When To Leave.”

After recording her 1968 album, also titled Promises, Promises, with Bacharach and David, Warwick went to Memphis where she recorded an album of soul covers called Soulful with Chips Moman. So the time was ripe for Warwick to return to her winning partnership with Bacharach and David, which they did for the 1970 album, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

The reunion of Warwick with Bacharach and David resulted in their last great album together, it would also be one of the last albums Warwick would record for Scepter Records where she spent the entirety of her career up to that point.  The album featured a clutch of some of the writing team’s greatest songs including “Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets,” “The Wine Is Young,” “Paper Mache,” “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and today’s Song Of The Day. Added to the album’s tune stack was Warwick’s own version of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” plus covers of George Harrison’s “Something,” Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” and Paul Anka’s “My Way.”

The album’s title song was originally a last minute addition to the musical Promises, Promises. “’I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ was written quicker than any song that I ever wrote with Hal. I had just gotten out of the hospital. I’d been on the road and gotten pneumonia. We were on the road with Promises, Promises and we’d try to get this song written and into the show the next night or two nights later. That’s where Hal’s line came from, ‘what do you do when you kiss a girl, you get enough germs to catch pneumonia, after you do she’ll never phone ya.’ So having been in the hospital for five days with pneumonia, I got out and struggled to write that song feeling not too great.” – Burt Bacharach (from Record Collector magazine)

After the release of this album, Warwick signed a lucrative contract with Warner Bros. Records. Her new contract specified that subsequent recording would be made with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s involvement. Their first album for the label, titled Dionne was a minor hit, only landing at #57 on the album charts.

At the time, Bacharach and David had just wrapped their first film musical Lost Horizon which when released was a colossal flop resulting in the bitter dissolution of the two writers’ songwriting partnership. This left Warwick in a precarious position with Warner Bros. facing the prospect of a breach of contract law suit. As a result, she was forced to sue Burt Bacharach and Hal David for breach of contract, ending their partnership as well.

It would be many years before Warwick would work again with Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

The true A-side to today’s jukebox classic is Dionne Warwick’s live recording of “Make It Easy On Yourself.” The Bacharach-David song was originally a hit for Jerry Butler in 1962. The song made it into the pop top twenty and reached #18 on the R&B charts. Butler originally heard the song from a demo featuring Warwick’s vocal. Warwick was under the impression that the song would be her debut single, but Scepter Records honcho Florence Greenberg rejected that idea and gave the song to Butler.

A very disappointed Warwick balked at Bacharach and David’s assurance that they would give her a song to record every bit as good as “Make It Easy On Yourself” by telling them “Don’t make me over, man.” Bacharach took her rebuke and wrote the song “Don’t Make Me Over” which ultimately became Warwick’s debut single. Warwick’s demo recording of “Make It Easy On Yourself” became an album track on her 1963 debut album called Presenting Dionne Warwick.

Warwick would later return to the song with a live single version in 1970 recorded at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. The concert version of the song peaked at #2 on the easy listening charts while climbing to #37 on the pop charts.

The Walker Brothers topped the UK charts with their version of the song in 1965, although it only climbed to #16 on the U.S. pop charts. The song was also covered by The Carpenters (as part of a Bacharach medley), Johnny Mathis, Cilla Black, Tony Bennett, Glen Campbell, The Four Seasons, Sarah Vaughan, Long John Baldry and Rick Astley.

Edited: November 11th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #24 – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass: Jukebox EP: Whipped Cream & Other Delights “A Taste Of Honey,” “Green Peppers,” “Whipped Cream” b/w “Bittersweet Samba,” “Lollipops And Roses,” “El Garbanzo” – A&M 33 1/3 RPM Jukebox EP SP 410 (G3/H3)

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #24 – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass: Jukebox EP: Whipped Cream & Other Delights “A Taste Of Honey,” “Green Peppers,” “Whipped Cream” b/w “Bittersweet Samba,” “Lollipops And Roses,” “El Garbanzo” – A&M 33 1/3 RPM Jukebox EP SP 410 (G3/H3)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Jukebox EPs (or extended plays, or tiny albums) were made for the jukebox market during the 1950s through the mid-1970s. They were small-holed 7” records that played at 33 1/3 RPM and cost 25-50 cents per play. They typically included four to six tracks from an album and afforded the listener at a diner or bar an extended taste of a record by their favorite artist.

Today’s jukebox EP is culled from a record with the most iconic album cover of all time, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’ classic Whipped Cream & Other Delights featuring half of the album’s twelve tracks.

Before forming the Tijuana Brass and a record company (A&M) that still lives today, Herb Alpert was best known for co-writing Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” and producing tracks for Jan & Dean.  All that changed in 1962 when he recorded the single “The Lonely Bull” in his garage and gave birth to one of the biggest recording acts of the 1960s rivaling The Beatles.

The first few Tijuana Brass albums were recorded with a cadre of Los Angeles studio musicians. For the group’s fourth album, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, Alpert recruited future Tijuana Brass members John Pisano (guitar) and Bob Edmondson (trombone) and augmented them with Wrecking Crew members Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Chuck Berghofer, and Russell Bridges (aka Leon Russell). Once the album took off, Alpert solidified the TJB lineup by adding Nick Ceroli (drums), Pat Senatore (bass), Tonni Kalash (trumpet), Lou Pagani (piano), and Julius Wechter who played marimba and vibes only on studio recordings.

The food-themed Whipped Cream album, featuring such tasty tunes as “Tangerine,” “Butterball,” “Peanuts” and “Love Potion No. 9,” topped the charts and sold over 6 million copies in the United States. It also won five Grammy Awards, three for the single, “A Taste of Honey” which is the lead track on today’s EP. Sol Lake, who contributed numerous original songs to the TJB repertoire, wrote “Green Peppers,’ “Bittersweet Samba” and “El Garbanzo” for the album. The other track on this EP is “Lollipops And Roses.”

“Whipped Cream,” the album’s title track, is an Allen Toussaint-penned creation (under the pseudonym Naomi Neville) that was heard regularly on the TV game show, The Dating Game, as bachelorettes were being introduced to the audience.  Three other songs from the album, “Lollipops And Roses,” “Lemon Tree” and “Ladyfingers” were also used on the show as musical cues, as well as “Spanish Flea” from the TJB’s follow-up album, Going Places!.

“A Taste Of Honey” was written by Bobby Scott and Rick Marlow for the 1960 Broadway musical of the same name. The song was originally recorded as an instrumental by Bobby Scott.  The lyrics were specifically written by Marlow so Tony Bennett could record it. Lenny Welch recorded a vocal version of the song in 1962 that was heard by The Beatles who adapted it for their own recording on the Please Please Me album in 1963. The song was also a part of The Beatles’ live repertoire, and can be heard on 1962 recordings from The Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany.

The oft-covered song was also committed to vinyl by Barbra Streisand, Julie London, Tony Bennett, Chet Baker, Trini Lopez, Martin Denny, Acker Bilk, Chat Atkins, Bobby Darin, The Hollies, Tom Jones, Allan Sherman (as “A Waste Of Money”), Andy Williams, Lionel Hampton, The Ventures, Peggy Lee, The Temptations and The Rascals, to name but a few of the hundreds of versions of the song that exist.

And then there’s the album and EP cover…the most iconic in all of recorded music…the cover that launched millions of young adolescent boys sex lives!

The model on the cover, Dolores Erickson, was three months pregnant when the photo was taken!  It was parodied by such artists as Pat Cooper (Spaghetti Sauce & Other Delights), Soul Asylum (Clam Dip & Other Delights), Cherry Capri and the Martini Kings (Creamy Cocktails & Other Delights), The Frivolous Five (Sour Cream & Other Delights), plus on Herb Alpert tribute albums by Peter Nero and Dave Lewis.

Thanks to my buddy Kent Rayhill (of Ohana Films), I am the proud owner of not one…not two…but 151 copies of this record…can you really ever get enough Whipped Cream & Other Delights?

Several years ago, I went to see Herb Alpert perform with his wife Lani Hall (of Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66) perform at a club. These days, Alpert covers his entire Tijuana Brass era by performing a cursory medley of their hits. The format of the show included questions and answers from the audience between songs. At the show I attended, I remarked from the audience that I have 151 copies of Whipped Cream on vinyl. Herb was somewhat taken aback by this random fact and went on to tell the story of the album cover image.

After the show, I met Alpert backstage and had him sign a sealed copy of the album for me. He asked me why I had so many copies of the album and if they were worth anything. I told him that musically, they were priceless, but since he sold millions of copies of the album back in the 1960s, they are plentiful and sell for about 25 cents each. He took it all in stride.

The following night, he performed another show in the Chicago area of which a few of my friends were in attendance. When an audience member inquired about the Whipped Cream album, he remarked that he met a guy the previous night that owns 151 copies of the album. I guess I made an impression on him (however nutty an impression that may have been).

Edited: November 7th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #21 – Peggy Lee: “Is That All There Is” b/w “Me And My Shadow” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 2602 (A3/B3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #21 – Peggy Lee: “Is That All There Is” b/w “Me And My Shadow” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 2602 (A3/B3)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Records seldom get any darker than today’s jukebox classic by Peggy Lee. “Is That All There Is” was written by songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, the team who gave us such classic hits as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Searchin’,” “Young Blood,” “Charlie Brown,” “Poison Ivy,” “Kansas City,” “Stand  By Me,” “Love Potion No. 9,” “Spanish Harlem” and many others, too numerous to mention here.

The impetus for the song came to Jerry Lieber from his wife Gaby Rodgers, who introduced him to the 1896 short story Disillusionment by Nobel Prize winning author Thomas Mann. Many of the song’s lyrics including its title were picked up directly from the text of the story. Lieber picked two specific incidents in the story, the house fire and the breakup of a romance for the verses, and then he added his own verse about the circus to complete the record. When Mike Stoller read Lieber’s lyrics he said that the story “ached with the bittersweet irony of the German cabaret.” As a result, Stoller based the music on that of Threepenny Opera composers Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.

The song was originally recorded by Georgia Brown, Tony Bennett, Guy Lombardo, Marlene Dietrich and Leslie Uggams before making its way to Peggy Lee. Lieber and Stoller also offered it to Barbra Streisand’s management who turned it down for their charge. When Streisand finally heard the song, she complained that she got passed over for a crack at recording it.

By the time that Lee got around to recording this song in 1969, the big band era from which she got her start as a vocalist with Benny Goodman was long over, as well as the many hit making years that followed during the 1950s. Her last top ten hit before today’s Song Of The Day was “Fever” back in 1958.

The song’s orchestral arrangement was written by Randy Newman who also conducted the orchestra on the record. The track was included on Lee’s 1969 album of the same name in which she covers Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” George Harrison’s “Something,” Randy Newman’s “Love Story” and Lieber & Stoller’s “I’m A Woman.” She also revisited the song “Me And My Shadow” that she had recorded many years earlier for the album, making it the B-side to the single.

When Lee agreed to record the song, she was very specific as to how many times she would sing the song for them. Jerry Lieber picks up the story in the book Hound Dog: The Lieber And Stoller Autobiography:  “I’ll do three takes, she said, and no more … The initial takes weren’t great. She had to ease her way into the mood and find that sweet spot. At take 10, she still didn’t have it. But being a trouper, Peggy kept going. At take 15, I suspect that she took a belt because her takes were improving. Take 30 was good, but take 36 was pure magic. I looked at Mike and Mike looked at me and we could do nothing but jump up and down with joy. This was one of the greatest performances ever. Peggy had done it. We had done it. The enormous potential of this little song had been realized.”

Continues Lieber: “Let’s hear it back, I told the engineer. We waited. Silence. We waited a little longer. More silence. What’s wrong?, asked Peggy. I’m dying to hear the last take. Then came the words that cut through me like a knife. I forgot to hit the record button, said the engineer. What do you mean you forgot to hit the record button?, I screamed at the top of my lungs. This has to be a f*ckin’ prank! No one forgets to hit the record button. This was the greatest take in the history of takes! Stop joking! Let’s hear it! Play the goddamn thing!”

“But there was nothing to play. Nothing to do. Nothing had been recorded. Killing this kid would have been too kind. Yet Peggy, bless her heart, was stoic. Guess I’ll have to sing it again, she said bravely. And she did. Take 37 was nothing short of marvelous. That’s the take the world knows today. She is melancholy, she’s sultry, she’s fatalistic, she is in tune, and she delivers the song with a wondrous sense of mystery. It is good — it is, in fact, very, very good — but it is not, nor will ever be, take 36.” The 37th take was the one that was used as the master, with various splices from the other takes.

Lee’s recording climbed to the #11 position on the pop charts and topped the easy listening charts in 1969. The song also went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance the following year. Throughout the years, it has been covered by the likes of Chaka Khan, Sandra Bernhard, P.J. Harvey, Bette Midler and rock group Giant Sand.

Edited: November 4th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #20 – Frank Sinatra: “Summer Wind” b/w “Strangers In The Night” – Reprise “Back-To-Back Hits” 45 RPM Single GRE-0710 (S2/T2)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #20 – Frank Sinatra: “Summer Wind” b/w “Strangers In The Night” – Reprise “Back-To-Back Hits” 45 RPM Single GRE-0710 (S2/T2)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

There was something magical about easy listening music from the early and mid-1960s. It was a strange confluence of male vocalists, some more talented than others, like Andy Williams, Jack Jones, Steve Lawrence, Johnny Mathis, John Davidson, John Gary, Tony Bennett and of course, the Chairman Of The Board, Frank Sinatra. They were smooth singers with worldly good looks. The ladies were just as compelling, from the likes of Eydie Gorme, Vikki Carr, Julie London, Shirley Bassey and “Babs” Barbra Streisand. There was a sophistication level in their craft that hasn’t been matched since that particular era.

1966 was a very good year for pop vocal music in general, and especially for Frank Sinatra. He broke through again on the pop charts with a number one album called Strangers In The Night and the number one single of the same name that appealed to both young and old alike. The album would go on to win Album of The Year at the 1967 Grammy Awards and Record Of The Year for the title track.

The album was Sinatra’s last one with Nelson Riddle providing arrangements, and Riddle went out with a bang on the swinging “All Or Nothing At All” featuring an arrangement not unlike the one he did for “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”  On top of that, there are masterful Sinatra versions of sixties easy listening staples like “Call Me,” “On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)” and “Downtown.”

“Doobey Doobey Doo.”

For a while back in the late ‘60s, that’s all that could be heard pouring out of the mono AM radio speakers in the car my dad drove. At the time, that music was much better than rest of his automotive musical fodder which consisted of the kind of instrumental music that the “Beautiful Music” stations would broadcast.

“Strangers” evocative melody was written by Bert Kaempfert (who was famous for writing such easy listening fare as Wayne Newton’s “Donke Schoen,” Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” and “A Swingin’ Safari,” which was also known as “The Theme from The Match Game” game show. ) The melody was originally titled “Beddie Bye” and it was written for the film A Man Could Get Killed. The lyrics were written by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder (who both also wrote the lyrics to Al Martino’s immortal “Spanish Eyes”).

Jack Jones actually recorded the song before Sinatra got around to it, and Sinatra was said to hate the song calling it “a piece of shit” and “the worst fucking song that I have ever heard.” (Sinatra: The Life) However, he managed to warm up to its powers as it rose to the top of the charts, and it became a staple of his performances for the rest of his life.

On the flip of this double A-sided single is “Summer Wind,” which really is the essence of the classic summer single…light, warm and breezy, with a hint of the kind of ennui you can only feel as the summer comes to a close thrown in for good measure. The song’s intro sets the perfect mood with its mélange of Wurlitzer styled organ and sexy Nelson Riddle horn arrangements. “Summer Wind” sported lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Heinz Meier, and Wayne Newton had a #78 chart his with the song in 1965 before Sinatra got around to recording it also for the Strangers In The Night album.

The song has been used numerous times in advertisements, movies and in TV shows. One of the song’s greatest TV uses was in the summer-themed episode of The Simpsons called Bart Of Darkness which is based on the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window. In the episode the family gets a pool and the Simpson’s back yard attracts all of the neighborhood kids. Bart breaks his leg and spends his summer at his bedroom window looking at the festivities below until he thinks he’s witnessed a murder at the Flanders’ house.

Edited: November 2nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #17 – Nancy Sinatra: “These Boots Are Made For Walking” b/w “Sugar Town” – Rhino/Collectables 45 RPM Single 033 (M2/N2)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #17 – Nancy Sinatra: “These Boots Are Made For Walking” b/w “Sugar Town” – Rhino/Collectables 45 RPM Single 033 (M2/N2)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Talent doesn’t always run in the family, but back in the late 1960s a lesser talent was matched with the likes of producer, arranger and all-around Svengali Lee Hazelwood, and solid gold was minted. Case in point is today’s Jukebox classic, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” by Nancy Sinatra.

Let’s face it, Nancy Sinatra would have never received the breaks she got in the music business had it not been for her iconic father, Frank Sinatra and his record label. That’s not to say that Nancy Sinatra is untalented. She possesses a passable voice, and during the 1960s she wasn’t too hard to look at either.

Today’s Song Of The Day was written and produced by Lee Hazlewood who encouraged Sinatra to sing the song as if she were “a sixteen year old girl who fucks truck drivers.” Hazlewood had originally intended to record the song himself, but the song worked much better coming from the perspective of a woman. (Perhaps, not coming from a 16 year old girl, but certainly an empowered woman.) Sinatra: “The image created by ‘Boots’ isn’t the real me.  ‘Boots’ was hard and I’m as soft as they come.” (Quote from Song Facts) That said, the song established Nancy Sinatra as a no-nonsense, take no prisoners kind of artist, and it ultimately went on to sell over six million copies worldwide.

Sinatra was no fly-by-night artist and during her career, she managed to land 10 hits on the Billboard charts including “How Does That Grab You Darlin’,” “Friday’s Child,” the Lee Hazelwood duets “Summer Wine,” “Jackson,” “Oh, Lonesome Me” and “Some Velvet Morning,” “You Only Live Twice,” and her chart topping duet with her famous father “Somethin’ Stupid.”  And even though she was signed to her father’s Reprise record label, she was still in danger of being dropped from her contract.

Lee Hazlewood: “When ‘Boots’ was #1 in half the countries in the world, Nancy came over to my house, and she was crying. She said, ‘They didn’t pick up on my option at Reprise and they said I owed them $12,000.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding, we’ve got the biggest record in the world.’ I rang my lawyer in New York and I rang Nancy the next day and said, ‘How would you like $1 million? I’ve got 3 labels that are offering that for you right now and I can get something pretty good for myself as well.’ She talked to her father and he said she could write her own contract with Reprise – after all she was selling more records than him at the time.” (Quotes from 1000 UK #1 Hits via Song Facts.)

Wrecking Crew stalwarts including Al Casey, Tommy Tedesco and Billy Strange (guitar), Carole Kaye (electric bass), Hal Blaine (drums), Don Randi (keyboards), Chuck Berghofer (string bass) and Ollie Mitchell, Roy Caton and Lew McCreary (horns) were all present and accounted for on the session that gave us this number one hit in February of 1966. A video was also shot for the song to be played on “Scopitone Video Jukeboxes,” and in 1966 and 1967, Sinatra traveled to Vietnam to perform the song for the troops, who adopted it as their unofficial anthem.

So what ever became of the boots that Sinatra wears on the cover of the Boots album? The now-famous boots were made into table lamps that sit on either side of Sinatra’s couch at home.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single, “Sugar Town” climbed to the #5 position on the pop charts in December of 1966, and also reached the top slot on the Easy Listening charts in January of 1967. The song appeared on the follow-up album to Boots called Sugar, and was also performed on Sinatra’s Movin’ With Nancy TV special in 1967.

As light and innocuous as it may seem, “Sugar Town” was actually written about taking LSD, Hazelwood: “I was in a folk club in LA which had two levels. I could see these kids lining up sugar cubes and they had an eye-dropper and were putting something on them. I wasn’t a doper so I didn’t know what it was but I asked them. It was LSD and one of the kids said, ‘You know, it’s kinda Sugar Town.’ Nancy knew what the song was about because I told her, but luckily Reprise didn’t.” (Quote from Song Facts.)

Edited: October 29th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

It wasn’t too long ago that I posted a brief piece on Marty Robbins’ recording of “El Paso” in conjunction with the last episode of Breaking Bad. It was great to see the song gain all kinds of new popularity on the heels of its use in the show. Today’s double A-sided Jukebox classic duplicates some of what I posted before, plus adds information about the equally big song on the flip of this single, “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation).”

Marty Robbins was a singer/songwriter who had dabbled in Rockabilly, Pop and Country recordings. Back in 1959, America was having a love affair with the Wild West with shows like Gunsmoke and The Riflemen lighting up millions of TV screens. It was against this backdrop that Robbins released the album Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs featuring today’s self-penned jukebox classic “El Paso.” It was by far one of the most compelling story songs of its time, buoyed by the great guitar work of Grady Martin with background vocals by The Glaser Brothers.

The record was easily twice as long as any other record to hit the radio airwaves, yet it managed to top both the Pop and Country charts. Later on, it was widely covered by rock groups like X, Meat Puppets and the Grateful Dead, who made it a staple of their concert sets from the early 1970s on.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single is “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation),” another Marty Robbins smash that reached number one on the country charts, yet only number two on the pop charts in 1958. The song was written by Robbins after seeing a group of high school students all dressed up for their prom dates. The track was produced by Ray Conniff , the purveyor of dozens of easy listening vocal albums from the ‘50s and ‘60s, who was charged with making sure the record would cross over to the pop charts. (Mission accomplished!) In 1973, Jimmy Buffett paid homage to Robbins and this song by titling one of his albums A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Crustacean).

Robbins, a race car enthusiast, went on to place 47 records in the Top Ten of the Country charts and to record several more Gunfighter Ballad albums before his death in 1982 at the age of 57.

Edited: October 24th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #10 – Jack Jones: “Wives And Lovers” b/w “Toys In The Attic” – Kapp 45 RPM Single K-551 (1963) (S1/T1)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #10 – Jack Jones: “Wives And Lovers” b/w “Toys In The Attic” – Kapp 45 RPM Single K-551 (1963) (S1/T1)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

I know I’ve featured this 1963 classic before, but it’s one of my very favorite Burt Bacharach-Hal David compositions. I just love the nonchalance of Hal David’s lyrics – “Hey! Little Girl Comb your hair, fix your makeup. Soon he will open the door. Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger. You needn’t try anymore.” It is so innocent and yet so chauvinistic in a “ring-a-ding-ding” early sixties kind of way at the same time.

Add to it the 1950s bobby sox/teen idol production sheen of the recording and Bacharach’s light-as-air musical accompaniment and you’ve got all of the makings of a classic pop record right up there with the likes of Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are,” Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” and Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away Little Girl.”

While it is widely assumed that “Wives And Lovers” was written as the title song to the 1963 film of the same name, it never actually appeared in the film. Hal David: “We were asked to write what would be called an “exploitation song.” It wasn’t going in the film, but it was meant to come out and every time it got played the name of the film would be performed. It was a song made to promote the film, but it was never in the film. It was never meant to be in the film. Exploitation songs were very common in those days.”

Jack Jones won his second Grammy award for “Wives” in the category of Best Pop Male Performance with this song in 1964. He also won one in 1962 in the same category for his hit “Lollipops and Roses.” Along with the equally talented pop vocalist, Robert Goulet, he was also known for his recording of “The Impossible Dream” from the musical Man Of LaMancha. Jones also scored chart hits with “The Love Boat” from the TV show of the same name and “Lady.”

The flip of today’s Jukebox Classic was written by George Duning as the title song from the 1963 film Toys In The Attic, starring Dean Martin and Geraldine Page. (Not to be confused with the Aerosmith song of the same name.) As of two years ago, Jones was still performing and releasing new music.

Edited: October 20th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #5 – Ben E. King – “Spanish Harlem” b/w “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” – Atlantic Oldies 45 OS-13068 (I1/J1)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #5 – Ben E. King  – “Spanish Harlem” b/w “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”  – Atlantic Oldies 45 OS-13068  (I1/J1)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Today’s Song Of The Day exposes me for who I really am…a sucker for a great pop song. Give me a lush hummable melody and a simple lyric that I can relate to, add to it some strings for sweetening, and I’m a happy boy. So it should come as no surprise that the music that emanated from The Brill Building in New York City (1619 Broadway on 49th Street) from the late 1950s through the mid-sixties is right up my alley.

I think that growing up in proximity to New York City gave me an added appreciation of the music that came from that building’s hallowed halls, as the rhythm of the streets, the vibe and sounds of the city are inherent in every recording, and “Spanish Harlem” is certainly no different.

Today’s jukebox classic is from a double A-sided single I purchased cheaply on line when I first got the juke. It is one of the original records that I put in there, and it is also one that I can’t see myself ever taking out. I just never tire of Ben E. King’s classic “Spanish Harlem.”

The Spanish Harlem section of New York City was a crime-ridden Latino neighborhood, and the 1960 hit was written by Jerry Lieber and Phil Spector and released on the burgeoning Atco record label. Lieber’s partner Mike Stoller, did the arrangement on the track and came up with the song’s signature intro fill that runs throughout the song; however he does not receive a composer credit. Mike Stoller: “I presumed my contribution was seminal to the composition, but I also knew that Phil didn’t want to share credit with anyone but Jerry, so I kept quiet.”

The song was King’s first hit after leaving The Drifters, climbing to the #15 position on the R&B charts and #10 Pop, and it also served as the title track of his debut solo album. Singing background vocals was a then-unknown Dionne Warwick (as a member of The Gospelaires). The day the track was cut was indeed very productive, as King also recorded his follow-up single “Stand By Me” during the same session.

Aretha Franklin covered the song in 1971 and scored an even bigger hit with it climbing to the #1 position on the R&B charts and #2 on the Pop charts. Dr. John is also heard playing piano on her version. The song was also covered by the likes of Larua Nyro (on her essential 1971 album Gonna Take A Miracle), Jay And The Americans, The Mamas & The Papas, Leon Russell, Chet Atkins, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass and even Led Zeppelin, who used to incorporate the song’s melody into live performances of “Dazed And Confused.”

The flip of this double A-sided 45 is King’s 1962 version of “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” which was written by Atlantic Records head honcho Ahmet Ertegun and Betty Nelson (although my 45RPM copy is credited only to “Nugetre” which is Ertegun backwards). King’s version of the song climbed to the #2 position on the R&B charts and up to #11 on the Pop side. The song was also covered again by Aretha Franklin on her 1970 album Spirit In The Dark. Her version peaked at #1 on the R&B charts and went to #11 Pop.

Edited: October 11th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/27/13 – “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman - “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley

Today’s Song Of The Day goes out to all of those “Harper Valley hypocrites” who scorn mini-skirts, casual sex and casual drinking.

Jeannie C. Riley’s recording of “Harper Valley P.T.A.” sold six million copies worldwide in 1968 and catapulted her to instant notoriety, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and the Country Music Association Single of the Year award.  The Tom T. Hall-written ditty topped both the Country and Pop charts in 1968, a feat that would not be repeated by a song until Dolly Parton did the trick with “9 To 5″ in 1981.

Jeannie C. Riley had been a receptionist at Passkey Music on Music Row in Nashville before recording the song. She came to the attention of Plantation Records chief Shelby Singleton from a demo she recorded called “Old Town Drunk.”  Singleton thought that Riley would be perfect for another demo he was sitting on called “Harper Valley P.T.A.” written by a then-unknown Tom Hall.

The song was literally recorded in 15 minutes right after Riley left work at Passkey and walked into the studio that just happened to be next door. After it was recorded, it was suggested that Riley change the song’s final line from “the day that momma broke up the Harper Valley P.T.A.” to “the day my momma socked it to, the Harper Valley P.T.A.” The line sealed the deal on the song, as well as Jeannie C. Riley’s fate as the notorious vixen of Harper Valley.

Before the song got to Riley, it was originally given to Skeeter Davis who passed on it. In the meantime Billie Jo Spears and Margie Singleton also recorded versions of the song, but Riley’s recording not only topped the charts, but gave her a TV variety show of her own to star in. Later, it was turned into a 1978 major motion picture and a 1981 TV series, both starring Barbara Eden.

While Riley went on to have hit records with “The Girl Most Likely,” “There Never Was A Time,” “The Rib,” “The Back Side of Dallas,” “Country Girl,” “Oh Singer” and “Good Enough to Be Your Wife,” she will always be remembered by today’s Song Of The Day.

Edited: September 26th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/23/13 – “Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur

You either loved it…or you completely loathed it, but there’s no doubt that if you were around in 1974, you could not avoid Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight At The Oasis.”

Today’s Song Of The Day was released on Muldaur’s eponymously titled first solo album which soared all the way to the #3 position on the Billboard charts on the wings of this David Nichtern-penned top-ten single. Yet, most people don’t know much about Maria Muldaur before she sent her camel to bed in back in 1973.

Muldaur’s maiden name was Maria D’Amato and she got her start performing as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band alongside future Lovin’ Spoonful member John Sebastian, David Grisman and Stefan Grossman. The Jug Band was part of the same Greenwich Village folk scene that spawned Fred Neil, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. D’Amato then went on to join the Jim Kweskin Jug Band where she met her future husband Geoff Muldaur. After Kweskin’s outfit split up, Geoff and Maria went on to release two marvelous down-home old-timey albums for Reprise records. The first one called Pottery Pie was released in 1968, and a second called Sweet Potatoes followed in 1971.

Muldaur went solo after their marriage split up in 1972 and released her first album the following year. On the album, Muldaur wraps her precious pipes around the songs of Dolly Parton (“My Tennessee Mountain Home”), Dr. John (“Three Dollar Bill”) and Jimmie Rodgers (“Any Old Time”). It was also a springboard for several then-unknown songwriters including Wendy Waldman whose “Vaudeville Man” and “Mad Mad Me” were both included, as well as Kate McGarrigle’s wonderful “Work Song.”

Producers Joe Boyd and Lenny Waronker assembled a who’s who of the current rock and jazz scene for backing support on the album,  including Clarence White, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, David Grisman, Dr. John, Jim Dickinson, Spooner Oldham, Chris Ethridge, Klaus Voorman, Freebo, Ray Brown, Dave Holland, Jim Keltner, Bettye LaVette and Jim Gordon. But it was the lyrical and languid guitar solo of the great Amos Garrett (who also played on the Geoff & Maria records) that lights up the album’s signature song.

During the late 70s, Muldaur sang backing vocals with The Jerry Garcia Band. She’s released over 30 albums over the years and continues to release folk and gospel albums to this day.

Edited: September 22nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/27/13 – “Aquarium” by Van Dyke Parks

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Aquarium” by Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke Parks has essentially been making the same album since 1968, and fortunately for his fans, that album is a great one. Parks’ fascination with Tin Pan Alley sounds and Depression-Era songwriting has infused his work since the mid-1960s, resulting in albums that sound like original cast recordings from musicals that don’t exist.

Over the last two years, Parks self-released a series of six 7” singles on his own label. His brand new album, Songs Cycled compiles all of the singles. While the sticker on the outside of the album claims that Songs Cycled is his first “proper solo” album in 24 years, it’s all a matter of record company promotional semantics since his last album of all-new original material was Orange Crate Art, a collaboration with Brian Wilson that was released in 1995.

The album’s title references Parks’ debut album for Warner Bros back in 1968 called Song Cycle, and many of the musical themes in his debut album are revisited here. In the promotional interviews for the new album, Parks has said that due to the high costs associated with releasing records today; this could well be his last album. If that is indeed the case, the music contained within Songs Cycled brings his storied career full circle.

Parks is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, and especially for his lyrical contributions to their ill-fated Smile project. He has also worked with such notable performers as Phil Ochs, The Byrds, Little Feat, Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention, Three Dog Night, Tim Buckley, Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus Wainwright, Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Victoria Williams, Joanna Newsom, U2, Grizzly Bear, Silverchair and Rufus Wainwright.

Part of his “Zelig-like” charm comes down to being at the right place at the right time. For instance, Parks sessioned on The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension album, after which David Crosby asked him to join the band. He was also later offered membership in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, however, he declined both offers.

When Parks first met Brian Wilson, he was asked to write new lyrics to “Good Vibrations” because Wilson was dissatisfied with Tony Asher’s lyrics. Parks declined, stating that he didn’t’ think he could improve on Asher’s lyrics. However, it was Parks idea to have the cellos play the eighth notes in the track.

It was through his involvement with “Good Vibrations” that Wilson asked Parks to write lyrics for the Smile album that was recorded in 1966, but did not get a proper release until 2012. In preparation for the writing and recording of the album, Wilson purchased several thousand dollars’ worth of marijuana and hash for him and his friends (including Parks) to consume.

Parks worked on numerous sessions for Warner Bros. and Reprise Records artists throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In the mid-1960s, he pitched a song composed by his brother Carson to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra recorded the song with his daughter Nancy, resulting in the chart-topping single “Somethin’ Stupid.” Parks also directed, arranged, produced and composed soundtracks for a many theatrical films, TV commercials and television shows.

Today’s Song of the Day is one of two tracks on Songs Cycled that are re-recordings of previously written material from Parks’ other albums. “Aquarium” is an instrumental recording made with The Esso Trinidad Steel Band composed originally by the French classical composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The track originally appeared on the 1971 album Van Dyke Parks Presents The Esso Trinidad Steel Band which was produced by Van Dyke Parks.

The Esso Trinidad Steel Band had been performing with Liberace in Las Vegas when Van Dyke Parks heard them. According to Parks, “I saw them as enslaved in their relationship to Liberace; I thought it was a vulgarity. I wanted to save them from their trivialization.”

Of Songs Cycled Parks said, “I think it is safe to say that my work can be branded Americana, but I think it’s also safe to say it can be branded ‘anti-Americana’ and ‘an inconvenient truth’ as well.…There is very little ‘divergent music’ made in America. I go to ‘worldbeat’ to get out of the box. I think those influences show in my perspective.”

To that end, the album features several songs tied to historical events including “Wall Street” which was written in response to the September 11th attacks on the U.S., and “Money Is King” which deals with the post-9/11 corporate greed in America. The song “Dreaming Of Paris” deals with the American bombing of Baghdad and “Missin’ Missippi” was written about Hurricane Katrina.

The most overtly Broadway-esque track on the album is a cover of Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Sassafrass,” which Parks calls “outlaw chamber music,” and the album’s centerpiece, “The Parting Hand” comes from The Sacred Harp Society’s Hymnal of 1835. The track begins as a straight-up acapella hymn and is followed by a long, ornate orchestral coda.

Songs Cycled is everything you’d want from a Van Dyke Parks album, Copland-esque Americana, fussy orchestral arrangements and songs that bring you into another world…a world that today is only inhabited by Parks himself. At 70 years old, Parks keeps pushing the envelope forward and has worked in recent years with Silverchair, Joanna Newsome, Grizzly Bear and Skrillex.

Here’s the whole album:

Edited: August 26th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/14/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” by Bonnie Tyler

If ever there was a song that I love and revile in equal measures at the same time, “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” is that song.

When it first blasted onto radio and MTV in 1983, I instantly recognized the song’s appeal and truly loved the melody. However, the very bombast of the track (courtesy of Jim Steinman) that set the song soaring up the charts, coupled with the husky voice of Bonnie Tyler also made me hate it, especially when it was pummeled repeatedly onto my psyche via constant airplay.

With the passage of time, and its absence from media saturation, I now truly appreciate and love this AM radio gem more than ever.

The song was written and produced by Jim Steinman, the man behind Meat Loaf’s epic Bat Out Of Hell album. In truth, “Eclipse” could have easily fit on a Meat Loaf album as all the Steinman hallmarks are present – the quiet initial statement of an alluring melody leading to a grand bombastic build up, interweaving vocals and larger-than-life Broadway production values. It should come as no surprise that Meat Loaf has said that the song was originally written for him to record.

Jim Steinman got his start working in musical theater writing for the minor musicals including Whistle Down The Wind and Tanz der Vampire. It was while working on a theatrical adaptation of Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold in 1974, that Steinman met Marvin Lee Aday who would go on to change his name to Meat Loaf a few years later. While touring with National Lampoon, Steinman and Aday began working on a set of songs with an eye toward making an album together.

The two shopped their magnum opus, Bat Out Of Hell to practically every record label and were met with nothing but utter rejection. When they got to Columbia Records, Clive Davis claimed that Steinman knew nothing about writing or rock music in general. The album was finally released by Cleveland International Records, which was distributed by Epic Records whose parent company coincidentally was Columbia Records. The album ultimately sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

After Meat Loaf developed problems with his voice and had a tough time recording a suitable follow-up to Bat Out Of Hell, Steinman worked on his musical score for Tanz der Vampire, which included the motifs for two more of his hits, Air Supply’s “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” and “Total Eclipse Of The Heart.”

Raspy voiced, Bonnie Tyler was born in Wales and found worldwide success with her 1978 top five single “It’s A Heartache.” She released four albums for RCA between 1977 and 1981, but became disenchanted with her handlers’ efforts to market her as a pop-country artist. After seeing Meat Loaf perform “Bat Out Of Hell” on The Old Grey Whistle Test, she approached Jim Steinman to produce her next record.

Steinman presented Tyler with “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and she readily agreed to record it.  The song was released as a single from Tyler’s Steinman-produced 1983 album Faster Than The Speed Of Light. The single topped the charts all over the world and sold over nine million copies. The song received two 1984 Grammy nominations for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

“Total Eclipse” also dueled it out on the charts with Air Supply’s “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” and ultimately “Eclipse” topped the charts to Air Supply’s number two showing. Tyler continued to work with Steinman, releasing the 1985 album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire which included the single “Holding Out For A Hero,” which was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Footloose.

You may wonder, what led to me choosing this song as today’s Song Of The Day. While trolling on Facebook, I came across a clip of comedienne and impressionist, Christina Bianco performing this song in the guise of numerous famous divas including Adele, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Gwen Stefani, Kristin Chenoweth, Julie Andrews, Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters. It’s a clip you don’t want to miss!

Christina Bianco Version: http://now.msn.com/christina-bianco-sings-total-eclipse-of-the-heart-as-19-divas#tscptmf

Edited: August 13th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/9/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Nicest Things Happen” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

By 1971, the non-stop run of hit albums and singles by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass was becoming a distant memory.  In fact, Alpert was more intent on producing other artists and running his mega-successful A&M record label than going into the studio to record new material, especially if it was under the Tijuana Brass moniker.

However, the Tijuana Brass brand was a potent one, and there was still great demand for more product. So a compilation of singles and previously unreleased off cuts was assembled to meet the demand of the masses. While the resultant album is nowhere near the greatness of albums like Whipped Cream, Going Places or SRO, the Summertime release does have several tracks that would sit comfortably next to anything on those aforementioned classics.

Case in point is today’s Song Of The Day, the warm and pastoral “The Nicest Things Happen.” The song was written by Julius Wechter (with his wife Cissy) who was the writer responsible for several indelible Tijuana Brass hits including “Spanish Flea” and “Brasilia.” In the spectrum of great easy listening instrumentals, this one is every bit as good in creating a pleasing mood as “Pet Sounds” by Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), “Theme From A Summer Place” by Percy Faith, “Quite Village” by Martin Denny and The B-52’s “Follow Your Bliss.”

The album’s title track pointed in the direction Alpert would take in the future, leaning farther into the jazz idiom with an arrangement of the Gershwin classic from Porgy And Bess inspired by the recordings of Miles Davis, Lambert Hendricks & Ross, and Ahmad Jamal. It is also the first Tijuana Brass track to feature vocals by Alpert’s wife and Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 member, Lani Hall.

Rounding out the album are TJB takes on current pop tunes of the day including versions of The Beatles’ “Martha My Dear” (marred by Alpert’s flat vocals), Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” a spirited take on The Beach Boys’ “Darlin’,” and a great version of Little Anthony & The Imperials’ “Hurt So Bad.” And no Tijuana Brass album would be complete without a few nostalgic gems thrown in for good measure, including a version of Perry Como’s “Catch A Falling Star” and another Gershwin classic, the rousing march “Strike Up The Band.”

The only other track of note on this album is “Montezuma’s Revenge,” which was written by Sol Lake who was also responsible for writing the TJB classics “The Lonely Bull,” “The Mexican Shuffle” (aka “The Teabury Shuffle”), “More And More Amor” and “Bittersweet Samba.”

Summertime closes the era of Alpert recording pure pop confections. It was also the last album to carry the Tijuana Brass name. His next album of all new material, You Smile, And The Song Begins, followed three years later and was credited to Herb Alpert & The TJB. It was also the beginning of the next phase of his career, finding Alpert leaving pop music behind and recording more straight ahead jazz albums.

Edited: August 8th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/15/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sail Away” by Bobby Darin

By 1972, Bobby Darin was long past his “Splish-Splash” rock ‘n’ roll beginnings and the supper club success that followed. He’d moved from his successful home at Atco records to the new confines of Capitol records where the supper club hits began to dry up.

The late ‘60s was a turbulent time in our country and, especially in Darin’s life. He was deeply dedicated to supporting Bobby Kennedy in his 1968 bid for the presidency, and was present at the Ambassador Hotel the night he was assassinated.

Shortly thereafter, he was told that the girl he thought was his sister was actually his mother, and that he’d been brought up by his grandparents and not his parents. If you find this scenario confusing, you can imagine how much it blew Darin’s mind, sending him into seclusion.

With his personal issues as a backdrop, Darin launched his own Direction Record label in 1969 whose goal was to release records with messages that reflected his political views and supported the direction he thought the country should be going in. During his live shows of the time he refused to take requests for “Mack The Knife” and his other hits, choosing to perform his own original folk songs. Needless to say, his Direction Records period turned Darin’s career in the wrong direction…

Darin’s health was also failing. As a child, he suffered from rheumatic fever which severely weakened his heart muscle, making him see his whole career as a race against time. He underwent surgery in 1971 in an effort to improve his condition.

During the early 1970s, Motown Records was also in transition, moving its headquarters away from Detroit to California where Berry Gordy was directing Diana Ross in the film Lady Sings The Blues. Darin signed with the label in 1970 with the hope of moving in a more soulful direction to revive his career, and was also soon back on TV again hosting The Bobby Darin Amusement Co. variety show on NBC.

Motown recorded Darin in concert for a planned and then shelved album release called Live At The Desert Inn and instead chose to release two non-LP Motown singles (including a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” released as a B-side). In 1972, the label released his eponymously titled debut album for Motown featuring several original tunes, as well as some well-chosen covers including Cat Stevens’ “Hard Headed Woman,”  and Randy Newman’s “Sail Away” (today’s Song Of The Day), which were both coupled together for a single release that ultimately failed to chart.  A second single, “Average People” b/w “Something in Her Love” met a similar fate as did the album, which quickly faded into obscurity.

The album was the last Bobby Darin record to be released during his lifetime. In 1973, Darin contracted sepsis after a dental visit that weakened his system, sending him into the hospital where he underwent two surgeries to repair both artificial heart valves. He died during surgery on December 20th 1973 at the age of 37.

Edited: July 14th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/11/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Easy Come Easy Go” by Cass Elliot

Only in the 1960s could someone as robust as Cass Elliot become an equally big star. Sure, she had talent to burn and a set of unrivalled pipes, but in this day and age of the thinner than thin in showbiz, she just would not have stood a chance…and a shame it would have been indeed.

The former Ellen Cohen was born in Maryland and got her start as part of the folk trio, The Big Three along with Tim Rose and James Hendricks, whom she was married to for a time in an effort for him to avoid the draft. When Rose left the group in 1964, future Lovin’ Spoonful member Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty joined their ranks and they became The Mugwumps who cuts some sides for Warner Bros. Records the same year.

Shortly thereafter, Yanovsky joined forces with John Sebastian while Doherty joined The New Journeymen who counted John Phillips and his wife Michelle amongst their ranks. After Cass joined the fold, the group would soon become The Mamas And The Papas. Of course you can listen to their track,“Creeque Alley” to have the blanks filled in for you.

Cass was the ultimate hippy chick and center of the hip L.A. cognoscenti moving in the same circles as David Crosby, Steve Stills, and Graham Nash. In fact according to Stills, the trio first sang together while at a party at Cass’ house (although Nash and Crosby insist that the meeting took place at Joni Mitchell’s house). Nevertheless, it would only be a matter of time before Cass would record on her own, and with the help of extensive television work, she began to score hits. Her records were pure pop affairs cut at Western Recorders in LA in the late 60s and early 70s featuring a who’s who of wrecking crew favorites including on this track Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne, Larry Knechtel, Steve Barri and Carol Kaye.

This song is better known for Bobby Sherman’s version than Cass’, but I think the 1971 production values and arrangements on this version make it much better. It is originally from her album Bubble Gum, Lemonade &…Something For Mama whose cover image was framed in chewed bubble gum.

Elliot died in London in 1974 of a heart attack (and not from choking on a ham sandwich) in the same flat that Keith Moon would die, at the same age four years later.

Edited: July 10th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – Memorial Day Repost

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “It’s Been A Long Long Time” by Bing Crosby

As our boys came home from World War II, they were welcomed back with this number one hit from 1945 that perfectly captured the sentiments of those who remained home while their loved ones were away.

It’s a perfect record in every way. You’d be hard pressed to find a better vocalist than Crosby to deliver these hopeful, romantic lyrics in a croon that is both smooth and warm. Meanwhile, the lilting melody expertly supplied by Jule Styne effortlessly supports the lyrics written by Sammy Cahn that spoke to millions of couples who had been separated by the war.

However, it’s the lyrical guitar playing of Les Paul that steals the show, with a tone as smooth and genial as Crosby’s croon. His licks are the epitome of tasteful and never overpower the proceedings, while the rest of the Les Paul Trio, featuring Jim Atkins (half-brother of Chet Atkins) on rhythm guitar and Ernie “Darius” Newton on bass, add the perfect support.

The song was also a number one recording for Harry James and his Orchestra with Kitty Kallen on vocals in 1945, and a chart hit for Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra with Irene Daye on vocals.

It’s been covered dozens of times by the likes of Stan Kenton with June Christy, Sammy Kaye, Perry Como, Peggy Lee, Keely Smith, Louis Armstrong, Al Hibbler, Guy Mitchell, Frank Sinatra, The Ink Spots, Rosemary Clooney, Brook Benton, Tom Jones and many others. Les Paul revisited the song several times throughout his career, cutting a version with his wife Mary Ford in the 1950s, and nearly 30 years later another one with Chet Atkins on the Chester and Lester album.

This recording is the definition of timeless.

Edited: May 27th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/25/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Turn To White” by She & Him

Music critics crack me up. They’re always looking for something to dis about a record in order to validate their jobs as critics. And, I suppose at times I am no different than the rest. Nothing is ever just great, some fault must be found in order to have something to say. I guess without criticism, you’re just not a critic.

The rap critics usually give Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward every time they release a new She & Him record is that the music is too lightweight and twee with no heft whatsoever.  And to this, I find myself asking what exactly do they expect from this duo, death metal?

Breezy, sun-kissed ‘60s sounding pop is not only She & Him’s stock in trade; it is also what they do best. So if you’re not predisposed to liking this kind of music, than you really have no place reviewing one of their records. But critics do what they do, and slagging off She & Him seems to be one of their favorite pastimes.

For me, She & Him’s retro-pop songs, shimmering string arrangements and heavenly background vocals are right up my alley, and I’ve been a fan of Zooey Deschanel’s dusty voice since I first heard her in the movie Elf singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in the shower. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s also not too bad on the eyes, either!) The fact that she also stars in the successful TV sit-com New Girl, which I positively love, is just icing on the cake. Furthermore, M. Ward also has a successful career releasing exceptional critically-acclaimed albums, both solo and with his quasi-supergroup side project, Monsters Of Folk. He is also a terrific producer and a sturdy performer in concert as well.

She & Him were introduced to each other by Martin Hynes who was directing Deschanel in the starring role for the film The Go-Getter. Hynes wanted Deschanel to sing a song over the closing credits of the film, so he introduced her to M. Ward and while recording a cover of Richard & Linda Thompson’s “When I Get To The Border” for the film, the two bonded over their shared a love of sunny, ‘60s pop. Deschanel had been writing for several years as a hobby, and shared her backlog of finished songs with Ward, resulting in the birth of She & Him.

It’s interesting to point out at this juncture that most people are painfully unaware that Deschanel is not only a terrific actress and singer, but she is also a top shelf songwriter, for which she gets little credit. Over the years She & Him have released three albums consisting mainly of Deschanel’s original songs. (They’ve also released a Christmas album.) And while Deschanel is clearly the star of this show, Ward’s understated influence on the proceedings as an arranger and producer is crucial, for without him the album wouldn’t have the transistorized retro pop AM radio sound that makes it work so well.

On the surface, the record is all sunshine, lollipops and ukuleles, especially on the tracks “Somebody Sweet To Talk To” and “Together.” But scratch a little deeper than the surface and you quickly find out that there’s more to this record than meets the ear. Deschanel gets her melancholy on with today’s Song Of The Day, the gorgeous pop ballad “Turn To White,” where hints of cloudy days appear as she sings “But I’m stronger than the picture that you took before you left / In the light, it faded to white…” perhaps alluding to her divorce from husband Ben Gibbard of the band Death Cab For Cutie.

Elsewhere, Deschanel sings “Your love is a blessed curse actually / Bad gets worse supernaturally” in the song “Something’s Haunted You,” and on “I’ve Got Your Number Son” she sings “What’s a man without all the attention? / Well he’s just a man… / Who am I without all your affection? / I’m a nobody,” further cementing the notion that the fallout from her failed marriage has effected the sunny disposition of these proceedings.

Rounding out the record are three well-chosen covers including Deschanel’s smoky pop reading of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” which was a top ten hit in the 1950s by Karen Chandler, and then again in the 1960s by Mel Carter.  Their Brill Building pop cover of Ellie Greenwich’s classic 1965 hit “Baby,” is also a perfect fit for this album, and Deschanel’s superb reading of Blondie’s “Sunday Girl” proves that Debbie Harry has nothing on her.

While many consider the group inconsequential and lightweight, they do have the clout to attract the likes of Tom Hagerman of Devotchka, Pierre de Reeder of Rilo Kiley, Joey Spampinato of NRBQ and Mike Watt of The Minutemen as guest musicians on this album.

There are times that It’s hard to tell where Deschanel’s New Girl character, Jess Day begins and Zooey Deschanel ends. However, four albums in Deschanel  proves not to be the clueless cringe-inducing doe-eyed waif like she portrays on TV, but a supremely talented artist who is firmly in charge and knows exactly what she wants.

Volume 3 offers nothing that Volume Two and Volume One didn’t, but as the title suggests, this is just the latest edition of first-rate non-stop pleasing pop sounds, performed to perfection by the New Girl and her super talented counterpart.

Edited: May 24th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/11/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Knowing When To Leave” by Dionne Warwick

“Walk On By,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” “Message To Michael,” “Alfie,” “”Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer” — the list goes on and on, making an argument for the notion that the songwriting partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David was one of the most important in the history of pop music on par with Lennon and McCartney. Add the sophisticated stylings of Dionne Warwick into the mix and you got recordings that resulted in pure pop perfection.

It was a marriage made in heaven, but soon after this recording, the marriage would dissolve into lawsuits and acrimony.

But for now, things were good. Bacharach and David were coming off of their 1968 hit Broadway musical Promises, Promises which was based on Neil Simon’s film The Apartment. The musical ran for 1,281 performances and featured several hit songs (all recorded by Warwick) including the title hit, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “Wanting Things” and today’s Song Of The Day, “Knowing When To Leave.”

After recording her 1968 album, also titled Promises, Promises, with Bacharach and David, Warwick went to Memphis where she recorded an album of soul covers called Soulful with Chips Moman. So the time was ripe for Warwick to return to her winning partnership with Bacharach and David, which they did for the 1970 album, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

The reunion of Warwick with Bacharach and David resulted in their last great album together, it would also be one of the last albums Warwick would record for Scepter Records where she spent the entirety of her career up to that point.  The album featured a clutch of some of the writing team’s greatest songs including “Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets,” “The Wine Is Young,” “Paper Mache,” “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and today’s Song Of The Day. Added to the album’s tune stack was Warwick’s own version of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” plus covers of George Harrison’s “Something,” Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” and Paul Anka’s “My Way.”

The album’s title song was originally a last minute addition to the musical Promises, Promises. “’I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ was written quicker than any song that I ever wrote with Hal. I had just gotten out of the hospital. I’d been on the road and gotten pneumonia. We were on the road with Promises, Promises and we’d try to get this song written and into the show the next night or two nights later. That’s where Hal’s line came from, ‘what do you do when you kiss a girl, you get enough germs to catch pneumonia, after you do she’ll never phone ya.’ So having been in the hospital for five days with pneumonia, I got out and struggled to write that song feeling not too great.” – Burt Bacharach (from Record Collector magazine)

After the release of this album, Warwick signed a lucrative contract with Warner Bros. Records. Her new contract specified that subsequent recording would be made with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s involvement. Their first album for the label, titled Dionne was a minor hit, only landing at #57 on the album charts.

At the time, Bacharach and David had just wrapped their first film musical Lost Horizon which when released was a colossal flop resulting in the bitter dissolution of the two writers’ songwriting partnership. This left Warwick in a precarious position with Warner Bros. facing the prospect of a breach of contract law suit. As a result, she was forced to sue Burt Bacharach and Hal David for breach of contract, ending their partnership as well.

It would be many years before Warwick would work again with Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Edited: May 10th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/20/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Chicken Fat” by Robert Preston

It’s “Poultry in motion!” (Sadly, I didn’t write this line but it was too great to pass up.)

How many of you remember this gem from the early 1960s? Even though I was only one year old when this record was released to public schools across the nation, I distinctly remember exercising to this song in gym class when I was in grade school. “Go you Chicken Fat, Go Away!”

Childhood obesity is nothing new. Even though the problem has risen to epidemic proportions, it was an issue in America as early as the late 1950s.

Enter Chicken Fat to save the day!

In the late 1950s, an international study found that American children were far less fit than children from other countries. In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. During the 1960 Presidential election, John F. Kennedy made physical fitness an integral part of his campaign. While on the campaign trail, he wrote an article for Sports Illustrated called The Soft American which spelled out his proposed fitness program.

When Kennedy got into office, Physical Fitness for America’s youth was a very high priority: “We’re in a war with two great nations. Not a shooting war, but we’re at war with China and Russia. If we cannot do something to improve the physical fitness of Americans, then, as history has proven, in fifty years we will not be able to compete with these societies.” (John F. Kennedy) And as we know today, Kennedy was absolutely prescient on this topic. To that end, Kennedy chose Bud Wilson, the football coach from the University of Oklahoma to be the first Physical Fitness Consultant to the President.

Around this time, Meredith Wilson’s musical The Music Man was a smash Broadway hit starring Robert Preston as Professor Henry Hill. The musical included such Meredith-penned standards as “76 Trombones,” “Goodnight My Someone” and “Till There Was You.”

Upon hearing about Kennedy’s program, Meredith Wilson offered to write an exercise song completely free of charge to help, and Robert Preston agreed to sing it. Wilson consulted with Physical Fitness Council director Ted Forbes, to ensure that the song would provide a good workout and came up with today’s Song Of The Day, Chicken Fat.

Since Capitol Records was riding high on the charts with the Original Cast Recording of The Music Man, they agreed to provide their musicians, chorus and recording studios to record the song. Crucially, they also provided their distribution network, shipping over three million copies of the record to public schools across the country, completely free of charge.

There were two versions of the song recorded for the 7-inch, 33 1/3 RPM small-holed single. One version ran over six and a half minutes and featured eleven different exercises, including push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, toe touches and marching in place. The flip side was a two-minute “Disk Jockey” version, that was edited for radio and television use.

After being out of print for close to 40 years, an updated version was released in 2000 by Bernie Knee who was a part-time cantor and commercial jingle singer. That recording is still a popular favorite in schools today.

Edited: April 20th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/12/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Piggies” by Theo Bikel

Broadway and film star, folk singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, and back in 1969 Theodore Bikel attempted to add pop star to his list of credentials with the release of one bright and shining album for Reprise Records.

As a Broadway star, Theodore Bikel originated the role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music on Broadway and he’s portrayed the role of Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof on stage over 2000 times. In film, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Defiant Ones (1958) and also acted in The African Queen (1951) and Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (1970) to name but a few.

He was one of the first artists signed to Jac Holzman’s upstart Elektra Records where he recorded 16 albums of ethnic folk songs throughout the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, helping to establish himself as a recording artist and the label as an entity to be reckoned with.  He also founded the Newport Folk Festival (with Pete Seeger, Oscar Brand and George Wein) in 1959 and became a civil rights activist in the early ‘60s and a delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention.

He was signed to Mo Ostin’s artist friendly Reprise Records in 1968 where he was paired with hip producer of the day, Richard Perry to record the album A New Day where today’s Song Of The Day was culled. Perry’s stock in trade within the Warner/Reprise family was as a career revivalist. He worked with established artists who hadn’t had hits in awhile and put them into the context of what was currently happening in music. To that end, Perry recorded albums with Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Domino and Little Richard for the label, casting them all into a more hip and contemporary vein.

As he did with the others in his charge, Perry surrounded Bikel with sympathetic backing musicians including Larry Knechtel on bass and keyboards, Eric Weissberg on banjo, Jim Gordon on drums, Louie Shelton on guitar, Paul Beaver (of Beaver & Krause) on synthesizer and Sid Sharp, Donnie Gallucci and Joey Newman on strings. Together they worked to update Bikel’s sound by choosing current songs that would spotlight Bikel’s interpretive talents.

Today, the album is purely a pop period piece from the late ‘60s that features Bikel performing current hits of the day in contemporary easy listening settings of the time, as evidenced by the chamber pop arrangements on Donovan’s “Jennifer Juniper,” The Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane,” The Beatles’ “For No One,” Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Going” and today’s Song Of The Day, The Beatles’ “Piggies.” While the arrangements date the material, the material doesn’t sound dated at all.

Elsewhere Bikel rocks out on Cat Stevens’ “I Love My Dog” and gets positively theatrical (and a little hysterical) on Jaques Brel’s “Amsterdam.” Other songs include covers of Peter Yarrow’s (of Peter, Paul & Mary) “The Great Mandala (The Wheel Of Life),” Paul Williams’ “The Lady Is Waiting,” Bikel’s own “I Hear The Laughter” and yet a third Beatles song, “Mother Nature’s Son.” Bikel lends a theatrical touch to several of the songs by incorporating spoken word vignettes that occasionally drag the proceedings down.

Back in the late 1960s, Warner Bros. and Reprise Records release sampler albums in a series they called The Loss Leaders. They charged $2.00 for each double album and included tracks from all of the labels’ new releases. As a pre-teen kid, I first discovered groups like Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, The Fugs, Randy Newman, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Rod McKuen, Harper’s Bizarre, The Mike Post Coalition, Petula Clark and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition through these albums.

I first came into contact with tracks from Bikel’s A New Day from the Loss Leader albums Schlaggers, which included his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Goin’,” and The 1969 Warner/Reprise Record Show that included today’s Song Of The Day.

1969 Reprise Records RS-6348

Edited: April 12th, 2013