Tag Archives: 1965

A little variety from Ray’s Corner

There was a crisis at Ray’s Corner the other day.

My dad, who is 87, dropped his TV remote. It shattered. Without it, he can’t watch TV. Watching TV has been my dad’s main source of entertainment for as long as I can remember. You can see where this might be a problem. So we got him a new remote and managed to fix the old one.

However, there still are no variety shows for him to watch.

In the ’60s and ’70s, we frequently heard the sophisticated pop songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach on those shows. At the time, they worked most often with singer Dionne Warwick, of whom David once said: “She always interprets my lyrics in a way that sounds as though she had written them herself.”

Four years ago, I took Dad to see Dionne Warwick.  I was certain Dad would remember her from those long-ago variety shows. He didn’t. But once his hearing aid was adjusted, and he heard the songs, he recognized them. That night, Warwick performed two Bacharach-David tunes — “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” — with new, Latin-flavored arrangements and new phrasing. They sounded just fine.

That’s what makes them classics, and why the songs of Hal David — who died earlier today at 91 — are timeless. No matter who interprets them, they usually sound just fine. (Well, those Isaac Hayes covers might be an acquired taste.)

David and Bacharach worked together from 1957 to 1973, an arc that matches the first 16 years of my life, a time often spent watching TV with my dad. Enjoy, as we did, a little variety, some of the most familiar versions of Hal David’s songs, and some covers.

“What The World Needs Now Is Love,” Jackie DeShannon, 1965, from “The Very Best Of Jackie DeShannon,” 1975. The original version. David and Bacharach didn’t think this was such a good song after they wrote it. “We put it away in our desk drawer and kept it hidden there for 10 months,” David once said. “A flop, we thought.”

“This Guy’s In Love With You,” Al Wilson, from “Searching For The Dolphins,” 1968. Herb Alpert did the original version earlier that year.

“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969. Warwick did the original version as a demo in 1963. Lou Johnson had the first hit with it in 1964. It’s such a great song that it became a hit all over again in 1983 for the British synth-pop duo Naked Eyes.

“One Less Bell to Answer,” the 5th Dimension, from “Portrait,” 1970. Out of print, but available digitally. The original version, with Marilyn McCoo’s tremendous vocals.

Finally, a little glimpse of one of those old variety shows.

That’s Tom Jones, of course, doing “What’s New Pussycat.” In 1965, he did the original, for which David and Bacharach were nominated for an Oscar for best original song.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under September 2012, Sounds

Tom Jones, R&B shouter

The things you discover when the iPod is on shuffle play during a workout.

Today, this song came up, pretty much at top volume, as I lumbered around the track at the Y. There are a couple thousand songs on my iPod. I know most of them, but I don’t know them all. I didn’t recognize this one.

A check of the iPod after the workout revealed that this mystery R&B shouter was none other than a young Tom Jones.

It’s 1965, he’s 25 and he’s covering “I Need Your Lovin’,” a curiously paced tune that had been a hit for Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford in 1962. In the original, and in TJ’s blistering cover, things cook nicely, then come to a complete halt, then rev back up again.

“I Need Your Loving,” Tom Jones, from “It’s Not Unusual,” 1965. It’s out of print. The song is available digitally as part of “Chronicles,” an out-of-print 2005 CD box set with three of TJ’s mid-’60s LPs: This one, plus “What’s New Pussycat?” from 1965 and “A-Tom-ic Jones” from 1966.

It must have been a pretty good tune. Otis Redding covered it, too.

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Filed under January 2012, Sounds

In the beginning

Do you remember when you first became aware of rock music? Maybe you were so young that it was more pop than rock, but you get the idea.

My moment came in early 1964, when the Beatles took America by storm. My introduction came from the girls at Russell Boulevard Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri. It came almost as a taunt.

“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

That got old pretty fast, especially when you are in first grade and you can’t figure out why all the girls are going so gaga over it. Like this.

Yet it wasn’t all that long before I heard something I liked so much that I learned the whole song. It was the summer of 1965. I was 7, maybe 8 by then. I must have heard it on one of the TV variety shows my dad so loved watching.

“I’m Henery the Eighth I am, Henery the Eighth I am, I am.”

You get the idea. A song that’s easy for a kid to learn and sing over and over.

Peter Noone came to town earlier this year, playing an outstanding Herman’s Hermits show. Our tiny casino lounge was jam-packed. The overflow crowd snaked out around the slot machines. A woman standing in front of me fanned herself with a copy of 16 magazine from November 1965. This one.

I hope Noone signed it for her. Autographs aren’t my thing, and there were plenty of the faithful on hand, so I didn’t stay for a meet-and-greet. Besides, my night was made when we got to sing along. I’ve known the words for 45 years.

“I’m Henery the Eighth I am, Henery the Eighth I am, I am.”

Ever since that night, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good Herman’s Hermits record. I found one the other day.

“I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” Herman’s Hermits, from “Herman’s Hermits On Tour,” 1965. This is their second American release. It’s out of print. The song is available on “Herman’s Hermits: Their Greatest Hits,” a 1990 CD release, and digitally.

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Filed under October 2011, Sounds

On the patio at Ray’s Corner

We haven’t been to Ray’s Corner for a while, and tonight is an especially good time to go. My dad turned 86 today. (He’s good, thanks.)

Four years ago, he gave me his record collection. I sorted through it, picked out a few things I wanted and shipped the rest to the senior citizens center my brother was running at the time.

This might have been the first record I set aside. The Baja Marimba Band were peers and label mates of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in the mid- to late ’60s, cranking out a slightly more irreverent bunch of “south of the border” easy-listening instrumentals. Not quite lounge. More like patio.

This record is from 1965. I’ve written about it before. My brothers and I listened to this endlessly as kids. The pops and ticks and skips on Dad’s copy are testament to that. That I have two or three better copies of this record is testament to how deeply it is seared into my head.

While record digging, I often come across other records by the Baja Marimba Band. I look them over. Then I put them back, figuring there is no way they are going to be as good as than my dad’s record.

Until recently, that is. I came across a Baja Marimba Band record I’d never seen.

This record, from 1968, seemed promising.

As with most Baja Marimba Band records, it has a bunch of instrumental covers of contemporary pop and show tunes along with a couple of original compositions. Among the covers: Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Always Something There To Remind Me,” the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” and the Turtles’ “Elenore.”

So I picked it up for 50 cents.

Then I put it on the turntable … and .. well … we won’t be sharing this record. Though I’d hoped otherwise, my hunch was right. It wasn’t as good as my dad’s record. Not even close.

But now I wonder … did I grow up with an exceptionally good record from 1965 or is my perception skewed, rendering it simply a guilty pleasure? Whatever. It’s part of the soundtrack of my life.

So, from Ray’s Corner, the apartment with the loud music, where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away, enjoy a couple of cuts from the only Baja Marimba Band record my dad owned and the only one I need.

“Juarez” and “Hecho En Mexico,” the Baja Marimba Band, from “Baja Marimba Band Rides Again,” 1965. It’s out of print, as is this 2001 best-of CD with “Juarez” on it.

Though Ray is hoisting a gin martini here, margaritas may better accompany these tunes. As always, you be the judge.

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Filed under June 2011, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 9

In the e-mail today is a note about NPR Music’s Jingle Jams holiday mix.

They asked 10 stations to suggest 10 Christmas songs each, then put it all together into one playlist. You can stream it here.

Here are 12 of the songs, in the order they appear on the Jingle Jams playlist. The station or program suggesting the song is in parentheses.

“Let It Snow,” Leon Redbone, from “Christmas Island,” 1989. (Folk Alley)

“‘Zat You, Santa Claus” Louis Armstrong, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Hipster’s Holiday,” a 1989 CD compilation.) (WBGO, Newark, New Jersey; WDUQ, Pittsburgh)

“Last Month Of The Year” the Blind Boys of Alabama, from “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” 2003. (WXPN, Philadelphia)

“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” James Brown, from “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” 1966. The LP is out of print but all the songs are on “The Complete James Brown Christmas,” a 2-CD set released earlier this year. (KUT, Austin, Texas)

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (KUT)

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” Darlene Love, from “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector,” 1963. (WXPN)

“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on the “Christmas Wrapping” EP. That also appears to be out of print, but the song is available digitally.) (KUT)

“Greensleeves,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1965. The buy link is to a 2006 remastered CD release with extra tracks, including an alternate take on this one. (WDUQ)

“Jingle Bells,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964. Smith’s “Christmas Cookin’,” from the same year, is the same record but with a much cooler cover.  (WBGO)

“Must Be Santa,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally. NPR’s version is from a live performance at KUT. This version is done as a polka.

“Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Yule Be Miserable,” a 2006 CD compilation) (WDUQ)

“The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You A Merry Christmas,” 1962. (NPR Music staff)

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

12 days of Christmas, Day 1

This year, a little something different for Christmas.

Because, somehow, it feels like a different kind of Christmas this year.

I stopped at the record store the other day and went through the Christmas CDs. Didn’t find anything. The new ones by Annie Lennox and Shelby Lynne looked interesting enough, but in the end, no.

In writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs. To be honest, more for you than for me. They’re really more than anyone should have.

So this time around, on these 12 Days of Christmas, please enjoy some of the tunes that have become our holiday favorites. Then seek out the records and make them yours.

“A Motown Christmas,” various artists, 1973.

This record has been part of Christmas at my house since the late ’70s.

The first cut on the first side is the song that blew my 13-year-old mind in 1970 — “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” by the Jackson 5.

That there was Christmas music like this, and that they played it on the radio every December, well, that made the season all the more special.

If I could have only one Christmas record, this would be it.

The songs are mined from the Motown archives, all from a time when the label was at its peak. Most of them appeared on the five artists’ own Christmas records, then were repackaged here.

“My Favorite Things,” the Supremes, originally from “Merry Christmas,” 1965.

This isn’t necessarily a Christmas song, and I’m not necessarily a big Supremes fan, but this is a nice holiday cut. It’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein tune from “The Sound of Music.” The lineup for this was Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard with the Andantes on backing vocals. Harvey Fuqua produced.

“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, originally from “Someday at Christmas,” 1967.

“Someday at Christmas, there’ll be no war.” We’re still hoping.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, originally from “The Season For Miracles,” 1970.

A little jazz styling, anyone?

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the Temptations, originally from “The Temptations’ Christmas Card,” 1970.

A song that really showcases each of the Tempts’ talents. This was the lineup with Eddie Kendricks hitting the high notes, Melvin Franklin the low notes and Dennis Edwards, Paul Williams and Otis Williams everything else. Barrett Strong co-produced.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, originally from “The Jackson 5 Christmas Album,” 1970.

Mind-blowing every time. It still summons the feeling of being 13 and hearing it for the first time.

All from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

One more thing: Yes, we’ll have 12 days of Christmas here this year. No, they won’t be 12 consecutive days, though.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

The time of a life

We’ve not visited Ray’s Corner for a while — nor done much of anything else here on the blog — largely because we’ve been visiting the real Ray’s Corner quite a bit lately.

My dad, who is 85, has had some health problems in the six months since a minor accident ended his driving career. He increasingly grew short of breath over the summer.

Long story short, a few doctor visits, a few tests. Heart trouble. Last month, Dad had three stents put in to clear blocked arteries. He’s feeling better, but I do the driving and grocery shopping. Some of that used to be time for blogging, or for working out. So it goes.

Today, though, I was reminded of a time that might have been the best of my father’s 85 years.

In the summer of 1964, my parents were in their late 30s, with three young boys. I was 7. My brothers were 5 and 1. Dad and Mom felt confident enough about their lives that they bought their first house.

This house, in a quiet, leafy older neighborhood in Columbia, Missouri. They paid $18,000 for it (about $127,000 in today’s money).

Things were so good in the summer of 1964 that my parents also bought a new car, a 1964 Pontiac Catalina, midnight blue. They paid $2,500 for it (about $18,000 in today’s money).

Mom loved living in Missouri, just far enough away from her family in Wisconsin. She loved that house, too. I saw today that it’s for sale.

Save for the two large decks and some necessary updating, it sounds largely unchanged from when we lived there. “The 3 bedrooms are clustered,” the description reads, “perfect for a young family.”

That it was, for exactly one year.

Dad worked for Railway Express Agency, something like today’s UPS. The gig in Columbia, a college town always shipping or receiving packages, must have seemed such a sure thing in 1964.

But business depended heavily on passenger trains, which were dying out. As business dried up, REA cut jobs. It allowed workers with more seniority to take the jobs of those with less seniority.

In 1965, just a year after buying his dream home and his dream car, Dad was bumped from his job. That summer, they sold the house and moved back to Wisconsin, where Dad bumped someone else.

That house in Columbia was the only house my parents ever owned. Thereafter, they always rented.

That year, 1965, was when Dad stopped buying records. His collection, part of which is mine now, ends that abruptly. You see why.

This was one of Dad’s records. I still have it, but it’s in rough shape. We listened to it with him over and over.

Now, 45 years later, one of its songs seems to summon the hope and dreams, the loss and wistfulness of that time.

“Walk On By,” the Baja Marimba Band, from “Baja Marimba Band Rides Again,” 1965. It’s out of print (but I have four copies). The song, an instrumental cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune, is available on this greatest-hits compilation CD from 2001.

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Filed under November 2010, Sounds