Tag Archives: 2003

National anthem performances, ranked

On this Independence Day, a ranking of the top national anthem performances of all time. This is a highly subjective list. Yours likely will be different. That’s what makes America great.

1. Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969. The national anthem as searing social commentary. A month later, he talked about it with Dick Cavett.

2. Marvin Gaye at the NBA All-Star Game, 1983. It was “groundbreaking,” Grantland wrote. It became “the players’ anthem,” sung by “the archbishop of swagger,” The Undefeated wrote. “You knew it was history, but it was also ‘hood,” said no less than Julius Erving, the mighty Dr. J himself.

3. Jose Feliciano at the World Series, 1968. Controversial at the time, it paved the way for Hendrix and everyone else who dared do the anthem a different way. Feliciano’s version came “before the nation was ready for it.” NPR wrote. It “infuriated America,” Deadspin wrote. Ever since, it has “given voice to immigrant pride,” Smithsonian magazine wrote.

4. Mo Cheeks helping a 13-year-old girl who forgot the lyrics, 2003. A beautiful moment of empathy and grace. “Treat people the right way. That’s all that is. It’s no secret. It’s no recipe to it,” the modest, humble Cheeks told the Oklahoman in 2009.

5. Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl, 1991. An epic performance at a time when America desperately wanted to wrap itself in the flag, ESPN wrote. Truth be told, this isn’t one of my favorites because it came at this time and in these circumstances, but it belongs in the top five.

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Filed under July 2019, Sounds

The missing Christmas hits

Fascinating to read in the Milwaukee paper the other day that no Christmas song has been a hit since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” in 1994.

My pal JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ also took note of that story, which prompted him to ponder the state of Christmas radio then and now.

All that said, there certainly are some Christmas songs that should have hit the charts in the last 17 years. Here are some of them.

“Who Needs Mistletoe,” Julie Roberts, from “Who Needs Mistletoe,” 2011. A country song every bit as filthy as Clarence Carter’s great “Back Door Santa.”

“Oi To The World,” Severe, from the wonderful Punk Rock Advent Calendar, 2009. Well, it’s reverent as far as UK punks go.

“We Three Kings,” Blondie, a 2009 holiday release. Always fun to find Debbie Harry under the tree. Always fun to hear Blondie’s classic sound.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Blistering vocals and blistering blues guitar. Move over, fellas.

“Silent Night,” the Blackhearts and special guests, from “A Blackheart Christmas,” 2008. Some sound bites from that year’s presidential race make it a bit of a time capsule. It once had a bit of a valedictory feel. Now it has the feel of opportunities lost.

“Silent Night,” Bootsy Collins, from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” 2006. A sweet mashup of reverent narration, funk, R&B and gospel.

“Winter (Basse Dance),” Blackmore’s Night, from “Winter Carols,” 2006. It’s out of print but is available digitally. If you can get past that Ritchie Blackmore is no longer rocking out as he did in Deep Purple and Rainbow and not cede all the elegant guitar work to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you might dig this instrumental.

“Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming),” Melanie Thornton, from “Memories,” 2003. It’s an import that has gone out of print. This tune was used in a Coca-Cola ad after the R&B singer’s death 10 years ago, but its back story transcends marketing.

“It’s Christmas And I Miss You,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. It’s out of print but is available digitally. A gentle ballad reflecting the loneliness the season can bring. It’s co-written by guitarist Don Barnes and our friend Jim Peterik.

“Little Drummer Boy,” the Dandy Warhols, from “Fruitcake,” 1997, a Capitol Records promo EP. It’s out of print. In which the Little Drummer Boy takes a psychedelic trip.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train),” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This fine bit of country swing actually was a modest hit on country radio in in 1995 and again in 1998. After all, it’s just their 1994 hit “Baby Likes To Rock It” retooled with new lyrics for Christmas.

“Soul Christmas,” Graham Parker and Nona Hendryx, from “Christmas Cracker,” 1994. If there were any justice, this scorcher would have been the hit from 17 years ago.

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Filed under December 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

For those about to rock …

This text turned up on our son’s Facebook page last Saturday night:

“in the front row at the survivor concert with ben and troy!”

Evan rocked his first festival last weekend.

Evan is 15. He rode his bike down to the Memorial Day weekend festival to hang with whoever was going to show. Somehow, he made $15 last on a hot, sunny day when he went coast to coast, arriving shortly after the park opened and leaving when it closed at 11 p.m.

There’s music all day long at the festival, along with food tents, a midway, and of course, hanging out. That — and a fair number of girls — was plenty to keep three high school freshmen boys occupied.

Apparently, the fellas worked their way through the crowd and parked themselves in the front row for the last two bands of the night. Pretty exciting, but just the beginning.

They were showered with guitar picks. That was cool. They were surrounded by “crazy old people,” including one guy who stuck an extra beer or two in the pockets of his shorts. That was not quite as cool.

The fellas rocked it through a set by Johnny Wad, a popular cover band in our corner of Wisconsin. That was followed, of course, by the headline act — Survivor, albeit a Survivor fronted neither by Jim Peterik nor Jimi Jameson.

So, Evan was asked, how were the bands?

“Johnny Wad was way better.
At least we knew some of the songs they were playing.”

Ouch. No respect for Survivor, even if Evan knows “Eye of the Tiger.”

That said, “Eye of the Tiger” came out 13 years before Evan was born.

Johnny Wad has more than 80 songs on its cover list. Here’s one.

“Down Under,” Colin Hay, from “Man @ Work,” 2003. It’s a laid-back acoustic cover of the Men at Work smash that also came out 13 years before Evan was born.

That said, this has long been one of Evan’s favorite records. Chock full of Men at Work covers and wonderful originals, it’s one of mine, too.

Evan is going to another festival later this summer.

The story of that adventure to come.

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Filed under June 2010, Sounds

Going in style

I dig fireworks, and this is what I think about as I watch:

That would be a great way to go out. Take my ashes, put them in a shell and fire them into the sky, where they explode in a riot of colors. My family thinks I’m kidding.

It came to mind last week, not only while watching fireworks, but as I learned about the serious illness of a woman married to a guy who used to work at our paper. Our time together at the paper was brief, and a long time ago. Our paths rarely crossed. I doubt he remembers me.

My old colleague has kept an online journal about his wife’s illness. A mutual friend pointed it out, and it’s remarkable.

My old colleague writes of his wife’s passion for Warren Zevon’s music, especially over the last year or so. Zevon, after all, kept writing and recording new songs even after learning he had a short time to live.

Her favorite song: “Keep Me In Your Heart,” the last cut on Zevon’s last album, “The Wind.” In it, the dying Zevon gently coaches his family and friends on how to remember him after he’s gone.

My old colleague, more of a Springsteen guy, has come around, saying “there’s something about Springsteen singing a Zevon song that comforts me these days.”

Especially Springsteen’s cover of “My Ride’s Here” on “Enjoy Every Sandwich,” a 2004 tribute album to Zevon. My old colleague described that song as done by someone “after a life on the road, stuck in yet another hotel and knowing his time had just about run out.”

zevonmyridesherecdjpg

“My Ride’s Here,” Warren Zevon, from “My Ride’s Here,” 2002. Also available digitally.

At the end of that journal entry, titled “My Ride’s (Almost) Here,” my old colleague writes:

“Everybody knows that moment at a party where it’s time to leave, but you linger a bit, savoring the moment and the experience. That’s what (she’s) doing right now — she’s lingering and savoring.”

She died the next day.

zevonthewindcdjpg

“Keep Me In Your Heart,” Warren Zevon, from “The Wind,” 2003. Also available digitally.

I haven’t named my old colleague and his wife because I don’t know them well enough to feel comfortable doing so. I never met her.

Their online journal was hosted by CaringBridge.org, which provides a place for families and friends to connect during times of serious illness. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, CaringBridge web sites are highly recommended.

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Filed under May 2009, Sounds

I got the fever, too

Our pal Kevin over at Got the Fever is out with a fine post on one of his obscure faves, the sizzling Latin group Cecilia Noel and the Wild Clams.

That got my attention because Noel is married to one of my obscure faves, Colin Hay. That’s right, the guy who was the lead singer in Men at Work back in the ’80s.

Lest you think I’m wallowing in nostalgia, let me assure you that Colin Hay is a terrific solo artist these days. I had a chance to meet him briefly after he (and Noel) played a wonderful show at our local casino lounge a couple of years ago, and he is gracious and good-natured.

Hay still plays some of the Men at Work tunes, going acoustic with some, tweaking others and doing it all with a smile. Some of his newer tunes are just as good. (That reminds me. I still haven’t gotten around to getting the album he released last year, “Are You Lookin’ At Me?”)

Here, then, is the best of both worlds, one of those old Men at Work tunes redone energetically by Hay, Noel and the Wild Clams.

“Down Under,” Colin Hay with Cecilia Noel and the Wild Clams, from “Man @ Work,” 2003.

Here’s a video of Hay and Noel doing another wild version of that tune.

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Filed under August 2008, Sounds

20/20/20 vision, Part II

We’re back with another installment of 20 Songs from 20 Albums for $20.

If you missed us last time out, these tunes are part of the haul from a recent morning of crate digging in the back yard of one of our local used record dealers.

Nothing too heavy here. Just enjoy the tunes, presented at random, much the way I came across them in the tents in Jim’s back yard.

“Let’s Hang On,” the Bob Crewe Generation, from “Music To Watch Girls By,” 1967. (The link is to a 2006 best-of CD.)

Until JB wrote about them over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ a couple of weeks ago, I’d never heard of the Bob Crewe Generation. But I had heard the old Diet Pepsi commercial that inspired the title track to the album, which JB graciously shared. The smooth instrumental oozed cool and sophistication, especially when you were just 10, as I was at the time.

As I was digging in the tents, I came across not one, but two copies of the original LP … along with another album JB mentioned in the same post. I passed on the T-Bones, but grabbed this one.

As for “Let’s Hang On,” Crewe helped write it for Frankie Valli, who performed for a sold-out house of 2,000-plus here in Green Bay last week. Our paper had this great story, recalling when fans mobbed a local record store when Valli and the original Four Seasons visited in 1962. That’s Valli doing a live radio show with a local DJ at upper right.

“Heart’s Desire,” Joe South, from “Games People Play,” 1969. The link is to a 2006 CD release with two Joe South albums, this one and “Joe South,” from 1971.

A sunny, upbeat slice of Southern soul-flavored pop. Great horn charts, great bass line, great backing vocals. The whole package.

“A Million Miles Away,” Joe South, from “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home?” 1969. The link is to a 2003 Australian CD import with two Joe South albums, this one and “Introspect,” his debut album from 1968.

Swamp rock meets psychedelia. Definitely not the song done by the Plimsouls.

“Summer,” War, from “War Greatest Hits,” 1976. Out of print, but this tune and all but one of the cuts on this album are available on “Grooves & Messages: The Greatest Hits of War,” a 1999 CD release.

Because you know you need it, want it for your summer mixtape or playlist.

More to come! (As soon as I rip them.)

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds