Posts Tagged ‘Randy Newman’

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 – “Rednecks” by Randy Newman

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Rednecks” by Randy Newman

Here is what Randy Newman had to say about the lead song from his 1974 masterpiece Good Old Boys:

“I wrote ‘Rednecks’ soon after I saw Lester Maddox (Georgia Governor from 1967-1971) on The Dick Cavett Show. They sat Maddox next to Jim Brown, a black man and one of the greatest football players of all time. It looked like in a fair fight Brown would whip Maddox pretty bad; Brown had about 40 pounds, half a foot, and 30 years on him. The audience hooted and howled, and Maddox was never given a chance to speak, let alone put on the gloves. It bothered me, so I wrote the song, and Northerners have recognized ever since that they are as guilty of prejudice as the people of the South. I’m sure glad I wrote it. I wrote “Marie, “Rollin’,” “Birmingham,” and “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” for the same character.” (Jordan, Scott (2008). (“Backtalk with Randy Newman”. offBeat Magazine.)

Good Old Boys had its origin as a musical piece called Johnny Cutler’s Birthday that featured most of the source material for Good Old Boys and several other songs that didn’t make the final cut. Newman went into the studio in early February of 1973 to lay down one-take piano versions of each song and a draft of the story line for the intended Cutler album.

The tape was never meant for release, and remained in the can until the deluxe Good Old Boys CD reissue from Rhino Records in 2002. Listening to the Cutler tape gives one a real appreciation of how Newman thinks, as well as a window into the creative process he uses in developing the rich character studies of his songs.

If you’ve never heard the whole Good Old Boys album, you are missing out on a humorous, tongue-in-cheek American treasure. The version of today’s Song Of The Day comes from The Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey as recorded on February, 11 1978.

Edited: July 14th, 2014

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 – 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 – 5/6/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Midnight Cowboy Theme” by John Barry

Not only is today’s Song Of The Day perhaps one of the greatest movie themes of all time, it is also from one of the greatest films of the 1960s.

The 1969 film Midnight Cowboy was based on the 1965 novel of the same name by James Leo Herlihy. The movie starred Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight (in his film debut) and was directed by John Schelsiinger. It won three Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. When it was originally released, it was given an X rating, so it also holds the distinction of being the only X-rated film to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

The hit theme from the movie was written by John Barry who also composed eleven soundtracks for James Bond films between 1963 and 1987 as well as the famous “James Bond Theme” from Dr. No, the first Bond film. He also wrote the award winning scores to the films Dances With Wolves and Out Of Africa as well as the scores for The Lion in Winter, Born Free, and Somewhere in Time. Barry won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Theme for today’s Song Of The Day as well.

The film also included the hit version of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” which was performed by Harry Nilsson, who also took home a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Nilsson’s “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” and Randy Newman’s “Cowboy” were also considered for the film but never used. The soundtrack included songs by Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and Elephant’s Memory, plus a song called “He Quit Me” which was performed by Lesley Miller and written by a then-unknown Warren Zevon.

The song starts off with a mournful harmonica solo, played by Toots Thielman in the film and Tommy Reilly on the soundtrack with a light rock backing, and culminates with a majestic full orchestral crescendo. It is far superior to the hit version that was recorded by twin piano duo Ferrante & Teicher, who brought it into the top ten of the charts in 1969.

Edited: May 5th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/13/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Did You See?” by John Simon

John Simon’s 1970 debut album for Warner Brothers, called John Simon’s Album, was a culmination of the many album projects he produced over the two years it took to record. While a staff producer at Columbia Records, Simon produced such classics as Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends, Big Brother & The Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills, Leonard Cohen’s Songs By Leonard Cohen, Blood Sweat & Tears’ Child Is Father To The Man, The Electric Flag’s self-titled debut album and The Cyrkle’s Paul Simon-penned hit “Red Rubber Ball.”

Simon met Albert Grossman through his work with Peter Yarrow on the film You Are What You Eat, who in turn introduced him to The Band. Simon helped them negotiate their record contract with Capitol and produced their first two albums, Music From Big Pink and The Band.  He also produced Mama Cass Elliot’s “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” Peter Paul & Mary’s Late Again, Seals And Croft’s Down Home and Gordon Lightfoot’s Did She Mention My Name for other labels.

Simon was also a prolific session musician, participating on records by Howlin’ Wolf, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, John Hartford, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Dave Mason. He even played the tuba on The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag.”

So it should come as no surprise that when Simon set out to record his debut album, many of his musical friends including Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Delaney Bramlett, Leon Russell, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Jim Price, Rita Coolidge and Bobby Whitlock joined in the recording sessions.

It easy to play spot the influence all over this album and you can hear elements of Randy Newman’s quirkiness and Brian Wilson’s psychedelia on “The Elves’ Song,” “Railroad Train Runnin’ Up My Back” and today’s Song Of the Day, ”Did You See?,” which sounds like a lost outtake from The Beach Boys’ Friends album. There are echoes of BS&T on the horn-fueled “Tannenbaum,” and “Davey’s On The Road Again,” (which was co-written by Robbie Robertson) and hints of The Band’s own brand of Americana on tracks like “Rain Song” and “Don’t Forget What I Told You.”

It’s hard to tell why neither of Simon’s albums on Warner Bros. did any significant  business, but they both stand up well next to the classic albums of the era that he produced. Simon sporadically continued to produce albums through the years, most notably Steve Forbert’s Jackrabbit Slim, The Band’s Islands and The Last Waltz, Bobby Charles’ Small Town Talk, Al Kooper’s Act Like Nothing’s Wrong and the cast album of Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. He also released several more solo albums throughout the years.

Edited: March 12th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 11/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Rednecks” by Randy Newman

Here is what Randy Newman had to say about the lead song from his 1974 masterpiece “Good Old Boys”: “I wrote ‘Rednecks’ soon after I saw Lester Maddox (Georgia Governor from 1967-1971) on the Dick Cavett Show. They sat Maddox next to Jim Brown, a black man and one of the greatest football players of all time. It looked like in a fair fight Brown would whip Maddox pretty bad; Brown had about 40 pounds, half a foot, and 30 years on him. The audience hooted and howled, and Maddox was never given a chance to speak, let alone put on the gloves. It bothered me, so I wrote the song, and Northerners have recognized ever since that they are as guilty of prejudice as the people of the South. I’m sure glad I wrote it. I wrote “Marie, “Rollin’,” “Birmingham,” and “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” for the same character.” “Good Old Boys” had its origin as a musical piece called “Johnny Cutler’s Birthday” that featured most of the source material for “Good Old Boys” and several other songs that didn’t make the final cut. Newman went into the studio in early February of 1973 to lay down one-take piano versions of each song and a draft of the story line for the intended “Cutler” album. The tape was never meant for release, and remained in the can until the deluxe “Good Old Boys” CD reissue from Rhino Records in 2002. Listening to the “Cutler” tape gives one a real appreciation of how Newman thinks, as well as a window into the creative process he uses in developing the rich character studies of his songs. If you’ve never heard the whole “Good Old Boys” album, you are missing out on a humorous, tongue-in-cheek American treasure.

Edited: November 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 9/2/11

Song Of The Day – “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” by Randy Newman

This classic originally from his 1968 debut album is miles ahead of the stuff he’s been writing for Disney over the last 20 years. A guy’s gotta make money…and the kiddies do like those songs however trite they may be. There was a time when ol’ Randy was an acerbic, witty and keen observer — like in this often-covered song.

Edited: September 2nd, 2011

Song Of The Day – 8/30/11

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

This record has a complete feel to it…the production values really make this Randy Newman-penned track come alive. And 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. From one of the greatest pop albums of all time, “Dusty In Memphis.”

Edited: August 31st, 2011