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.”
“(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.
Not to get all preachy on you, but as I listened, it seemed an appropriate selection for this weekend. It has a nice gospel vibe.
I’m far from knowledgeable about gospel music, and I’m not particularly reverent, but I do enjoy exploring the funk and soul aspects of gospel music.
However, the progressive but predominately white mainstream church we attend rarely explores gospel music, and when it does, it rolls out the same few songs on the same few occasions. Apparently we can dig gospel music only when Martin Luther King Jr. Day draws near. But that is another issue for another day.
Perhaps some day we’ll hear this. It’s been one of my favorites for years. It still delivers chills.
“Oh Happy Day,” the Edwin Hawkins Singers, from “Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord,” 1968. The LP is out of print, but the song is available digitally. This was recorded live in 1967 at Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California.
Dorothy Combs Morrison is the lead singer. She was in her early 20s at the time. The rest of the Edwin Hawkins Singers also were young, ranging from their late teens to mid-20s.
The LP originally was to be released only locally, but it got a worldwide release after “Oh Happy Day” became a smash on San Francisco radio in 1969.
Did you know “Oh Happy Day” is a reworking of an English hymn that dates to the 18th century? Neither did I. Here’s another version.
“Oh Happy Day,” Aretha Franklin with Mavis Staples, from “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism,” 1987. This LP also is out of print, but the song is available digitally. This was recorded live at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit in late July 1987.
(Curiously, my copy of this song is from “Joy To The World,” a 2006 CD that was marketed as a Christmas release. However, only half of its 10 cuts are Christmas songs. Go figure.)
(There was a different post intended for today. It still begins the same way.)
To mark the fifth anniversary of AM, Then FM, we’ve gone back to the photo that graced the top of the blog as it landed on browsers in the last week of February 2007. The boy in that picture is our son, Evan.
Evan was 9 when that picture was taken in Duluth, Minnesota, in September 2004. He’s 17 now, yet he vividly remembers our long-ago trips to Duluth.
What are your vivid memories from when you were 9? Mine came rushing back earlier today with the news that Davy Jones of the Monkees had died.
When I was 9 in September 1966, “The Monkees” were must-see TV on early Monday nights on NBC. Mostly, it was for the skits and jokes and gags that would be the catch phrases at school for the week to come.
Eventually, though, the songs became the tidal wave that carried everyone along. So many friends — and friends’ sisters, mostly — had Monkees 45s. You heard them everywhere. Today, I’m amazed that I came to know so many Monkees songs without having camped out in front of the radio for hours.
Beyond the songs, I most vividly remember my Monkeemobile model. This one.
Somehow I managed to put it together. Eventually, though, it got played with, as all models do. One day, the flimsy supports on that low-slung roof folded up like an accordion. Just like that, my Monkeemobile was a convertible, just another tricked-out GTO headed for Model Demolition Derby.
I also vividly remember drawing the Monkees’ guitar logo. This logo.
We called it freehand drawing — sketching a copy from sight, and never tracing — and I did a lot of it. Sports logos, mostly, but I did this one, too. A couple of years later, I did the Woodstock logo, which was just a different kind of guitar.
The Monkees’ music belongs to everyone. That was apparent from the tremendous outpouring of memories on Facebook, on Twitter, on the blogs and in seemingly every corner of the Web today.
The Monkeemobile with the collapsed roof, the freehand drawings, those memories belong to me.
As do the memories of being just a couple of rows from the stage when Davy Jones brought his solo act to Green Bay back in the fall of 2010. We sat there, marveling at his charm and energy, and digging all those great Monkees songs.
Reading today that Davy Jones had passed away at age 66, my friend Glick said:
“66, my butt. He was never more than 24.”
He certainly seemed that way. The years just washed away, for him and for us.
In five years of writing this blog, the Monkees have been featured here just once. I apologize for that oversight. It was almost exactly four years ago that a Monkees song appeared in a throwaway post called “Sunny pop goodness.”
Davy Jones sang it.
“Valleri,” the Monkees, from the Colgems 7-inch, 1968. This is the single edit, which fades at the end. An alternate version, with a more distinct finish, was released on “The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees” in 1968. It’s out of print.
Davy Jones sang these, too. Neil Diamond wrote them.
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” from the Colgems 7-inch, 1967. This was the first time Davy Jones had sung lead on one of the Monkees’ singles.
Those of us who dig Seger’s early work, recorded before he hit it big with Silver Bullet Band, are feeling a little left out. Yes, he did release some of those songs last year on “Early Seger, Vol. 1,” but that never made it into wide release. Many of the early songs we so dig weren’t among its 10 songs.
So with the help of some friends and fellow bloggers, here’s a greatest-hits compilation from the days when Bob Seger was a rock powerhouse largely known only to those of us in the Midwest.
“East Side Story,” Bob Seger and the Last Heard, from the Hideout 7-inch, 1966. Out of print.
Larry from Funky 16 Corners: The greatest moment from Seger’s garage punk years with the Last Heard, “East Side Story” was a fairly big regional hit. rising to the Top 10 in Detroit, Windsor, Ont., Cleveland and Columbus. Released locally on the Hideout label and picked up for national distribution by Cameo Parkway, the record is a hard-charging, fuzzed-out tale of street violence that rolls on a “Gloria”-esque riff, bongo drums and Seger’s impassioned vocals. Though it didn’t break nationally, the song was covered in the following year by bands in California (the Caretakers) and the UK (St Louis Union). Interestingly, Seger wrote the song for another local band, the Underdogs (who eventually recorded for Motown’s VIP subsidiary), and apparently dissatisfied with their version, recorded it himself.
“Heavy Music (Part 1),” Bob Seger and the Last Heard, from the Cameo Parkway 7-inch, 1967. Out of print.
By popular demand: Bruce from Some Velvet Blog thought this smoking, scorching single ought to be included. Larry digs it over at Funky 16 Corners, calling it “powerful soul-influenced garage.” Derek from Derek’s Daily 45 thought so much of it that he wrote: “(Seger’s) early Detroit singles are legendary and the stuff of wonder.” My only problem, then, is sorting through the three versions I have. There is “Heavy Music (Part 1),” the A side of the single; “Heavy Music (Part 2),” the B side (they’re slightly different versions); and the cut off the 1972 LP “Smokin’ O.P.’s,” which edits both sides of the single into something that’s not really as good as either side of the original. Part 1 it is.
“2 + 2 = ?” the Bob Seger System, from the Capitol 7-inch, 1968. Also on the “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” LP, 1969. Both out of print.
Terry A., friend of the blog: In the late ’60s, I was part of the anti-war movement in Indiana, but I wasn’t a peacenik. My relatives and my friends were being dragged into a war that didn’t make any sense. I remember Wayne Taylor, a senior who sat next to me in geometry. In spring, he was joking and cheating off of my homework. By late summer, his picture was in the Michigan City News-Dispatch, a Vietnam casualty. I think that’s why the Bob Seger System’s “2 + 2 = ?” appealed to me from the first listen. It was about Wayne and all those guys who were being whisked away to combat for no good reason (and if my draft number had been lower it would have been about me). It was a muscular, blue-collar song that appealed to confused kids from The Region.
“Noah,” the Bob Seger System, from “Noah,” 1969. Out of print.
JB from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’: “Noah,” Seger’s second album, might be the strangest item in his catalog, because it featured a second lead singer, Tom Neme. Stories vary on what happened. Either Seger’s longtime producer, Punch Andrews, brought Neme into the band, or Seger hired Neme. Reasons vary, too. Either Seger believed he couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time, or he’d had some sort of breakdown and wanted the help. Some sources claim Neme tried to take over as bandleader after that. Others, including Neme himself, say he was merely filling a void that Seger was unwilling, or unable, to fill. In any event, Seger briefly quit his own band shortly after “Noah” was released, but quickly returned to fire Neme and restore the natural order. The title song is one of four Seger wrote or co-wrote for the album. It briefly bubbled under the Hot 100 in September 1969, but deserved a better fate. In some alternate universe, it’s a concert encore with the audience singing along.
“Looking Back,” Bob Seger, from the Capitol 7-inch, 1971. Out of print.
Mark E., friend of the blog: Seger has been one of my favorites since I was in high school. One of my best friends first introduced me to his music in 1975 when “Live Bullet” was released. His parents lived in an A-frame house outside of town and on summer nights, we would hang out on the deck with other friends listening to “Live Bullet.” When I began my college radio career in 1977, I discovered other great music from Bob Seger. One of my faves was “Looking Back,” which never made it on a Seger album, except for the live version on “Live Bullet.” The single was a huge hit in Detroit. I just love that spooky organ intro … and those lyrics! They still hold true today!
My selection: I was going to write about “Get Out Of Denver” off 1974’s “Seven” LP, but I’ve done that already. Besides, that’s one of the cuts on “Early Seger, Vol. 1.” Then I realized we had no selections from what has been my favorite Seger record ever since I found it at a record show in Minneapolis. So here’s a cover of the familiar Stephen Stills tune that has some nice Bo Diddley guitar and Hammond organ. After getting things revved up, Seger steps aside and leaves the lead vocals to Pam Todd and Crystal Jenkins. This is so good, you wonder why he didn’t do so more often. According to Scott Sparling’s fine Seger File website, Seger and his band mates (two of whom, drummer David Teegarden and keyboard player Skip Knape, were the one-hit wonders Teegarden and Van Winkle in 1970) had been together for about a year, but spent only about six weeks with backup singers Todd and Jenkins. I can’t think of too many other Seger tunes with female singers so prominently featured.
“Midnight Rider,” Bob Seger, from “Back in ’72,” 1973. The LP is out of print, but the song is available on “Early Seger, Vol. 1,” a 2010 release.
Whiteray from Echoes in the Wind: The track I’d insist on being included in this mythical anthology of Seger’s early work would be his take on Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider,” which was the opening track on “Back in ’72.” From the start of the thumping piano-and-drum introduction that leads into the nearly-spoken first verse, the listener knows that although the tale may have originated from somewhere near Macon, Georgia, this track is not some slice of languid Southern mythology. Right at that thumping start, Seger’s version of “Midnight Rider” rolls with the sound of a Rust Belt bar band, which is exactly where one would place the early Bob Seger. But then, as the second verse sounds, there’s a cluster of female background voices that sounds like it was pulled in from a 1967 Aretha session. Then follows a guitar solo that from its first shadings is coming unmistakably from the fretboard of J.J. Cale, and you begin to realize what Seger has done. He’s taken the power of Great Lakes rock and combined it with the soul and sass of Southern rock into a synthesis that’s lifted that mythical rider from the back roads and swamps of the South and placed him in a slowly decaying working-class neighborhood of the industrial Midwest. What matters most about Bob Seger’s version of “Midnight Rider” is that it kicks ass.
“So I Wrote You A Song,” Bob Seger, from “Back in ’72,” 1973. Out of print.
Rob from Popdose: When Seger sings a ballad — I mean really sings it, pushing that upper register a few dozen miles into the mesosphere — it can wobble buildings, give brave men chills, and make statues cry. Think “Somewhere Tonight,” the heartbreaking coda of “Like a Rock,” if you dare (batten down the hatches first). That kind of balladry pretty much starts here, with a simple piano figure and a straightforward lyric about finding love. “I’m no longer alone,” he sings, “Think I’ve found me a home / And I think it’s real.” Were you or I to say something like that, we’d sound silly. When Seger sings it, it sounds like a profound truth we are fortunate to hear, and lucky to understand.
This summer marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Loesser, the great songwriter who came up with that holiday favorite, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and the best New Year’s Eve song ever.
I know that because I somehow managed to see “Heart & Soul,” a documentary about Loesser, twice this year on Turner Classic Movies.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has a great story behind it. Loesser wrote it in 1944 for their housewarming party, singing it with his first wife, Lynn Garland. They often performed it for friends at parties. Four years later, he sold the song to MGM. His wife didn’t approve. She’d always thought it was theirs alone, something special.
Well, it was special. MGM used it in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter,” and it became a big hit, released by at least seven duos that year. Often covered since then, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. If breathy, baby-doll vocals are your thing, then you probably like it.
But the most special of Loesser’s tunes — at least at this time of year — is “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”
When we started these 12 days of Christmas, I noted that in writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs, more for you than for me.
In so doing, there were a bunch of records that had more misses than hits. Most of them were used, so there wasn’t a lot of money wasted.
This year, I bought only one Christmas CD, one I’d been seeking for a while. I bought it new, and it turned out to be another one with more misses than hits. So it goes.
Rarely do I come across a Christmas record that doesn’t have something worth hearing. I can think of a couple, but there’s no need to name names.
We’re here to put some nice things in your Christmas stocking, so hope you will enjoy these tunes from records that had some nice moments.
“Christmas Is A Special Day,” Fats Domino, from “Christmas Gumbo,” 1993. It’s out of print as such, but is available as “Christmas Is A Special Day,” a 2006 CD re-release with a different cover. Fats wrote this charming little hymn and does it in — what else? — a laid-back New Orleans style.
“Merry Christmas Darling,” Deana Carter, from “Father Christmas,” 2001. What makes this cover of the Carpenters song so remarkable is its acoustic arrangement with Carter’s father, veteran Nashville session man Fred Carter, on guitar. Deana Carter sings this in a higher register than did Karen Carpenter — and that may not be for everyone — but she nicely complements her dad. Fred Carter died earlier this year.
“Christmas Is,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print. This tune starts out with a swinging big-band arrangement, then has Lou channeling Santa Claus midway through before wrapping up with some smooth nightclub cheer. This Percy Faith tune never sounded so good.
“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)