Tag Archives: Neil Sedaka

My people in Iowa

My week of vacation started with Dionne Warwick on Monday night, then Kid Rock on Tuesday night.

It ended Saturday night with still another American pop icon, another underappreciated national treasure. We drove to east-central Iowa, to a new casino out in the middle of farmland, to see Neil Sedaka.

My reasons for wanting to see Sedaka were much the same as for wanting to see Warwick. Neither tours much, at least here in the States. Neither will tour forever. Their songs were among my earliest favorites.

So we enjoyed an evening with one of America’s greatest songwriters. Sedaka remains a fine singer and an even better pianist. At 69, he’s energetic and engaging on stage, and is more than willing to poke fun at his image as a lightweight.

Case in point: He good-naturedly showed the following Scopitone clip, which was filmed in Italy in 1961, calling it “the first music video.”

It was a mostly older crowd. We’re 50, and we were among the youngest, save for the … uh … trophy date sitting nearby. To say Sedaka was warmly received would be an understatement. It was a lovefest. Sedaka repeatedly bowed, acknowledging “my people in Iowa” and blowing kisses.

It’s that way all over the world. A week earlier, Sedaka performed in Manila, and it was almost exactly the same.

As Dionne Warwick did earlier in the week, Sedaka played almost everything you’d hope to hear during his 90-minute show in Iowa. He tore right into it with an ever-so-slightly funked-up version of this one:

“Bad Blood,” Neil Sedaka, 1975, from “Neil Sedaka’s Greatest Hits,” 1977. That’s Elton John singing harmony. The album — which gathers Sedaka’s mid-’70s hits — is out print, but the tune is available on “Neil Sedaka: The Definitive Collection,” a 2007 CD release.

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds

Laughter in the snow

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This is what our neighborhood looked like late this afternoon, after a day of steady snow.

It also is what my first girlfriend’s neighborhood looked like about this time, shortly after Christmas 1974.

Just before Thanksgiving of that year, our senior year in high school, my friend Joe started seeing Teri, who went to another school in our town. I wasn’t Joe’s wingman — he never needed the help — but we were tight.

One night, Joe dragged me along to Teri’s church to see or hear her in something. There, I met Karen. She and Teri were friends. So it seemed natural when Karen and I started seeing each other as well.

Now, 33 years later — and it still seems like yesterday — it’s a pleasant memory.

One of the things I remember is heading home from Karen’s house late at night, on a night with lots of new-fallen snow, a night like tonight. Everything is quieter, muffled by the snow. On the drive home, the only natural sound is the snow being crunched by the car.

The other sounds are these. They were on the radio in late December 1974, and they always take me right back to that time.

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“Everlasting Love,” Carl Carlton, from “Everlasting Love,” 1974.

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“You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” Barry White, 1974, from “All Time Greatest Hits,” a 1994 compilation.

… and the song I most often associate with those snowy nights …

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“Laughter in the Rain,” Neil Sedaka, 1974, from “The Definitive Collection,” 2007.

For all the laughter in the snow, though, neither Teri and Joe nor Karen and I were together all that long. Six weeks, tops. Just long enough to enjoy the Christmas season together.

When Teri and Joe broke up, that was the end for Karen and me, too.

Joe remembers it this way: “That was one of those mini-relationships. … Lots of fun condensed into a six-week courtship.”

Indeed it was.

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds

One last summer fling

As August draws to a close, there’s almost a tangible sense that summer also is doing so.

Those last few nights by the lake, or at the cottage, seem quieter. They seem longer. There’s an emptiness about them.

You know what has gone on all summer. Perhaps you miss that vibe. Perhaps you’re glad to be done with it.

Perhaps you hooked up with someone. Perhaps it went well, perhaps not. Perhaps you wanted to hook up with someone, but could not or did not. Perhaps you just remember those experiences from summers past.

That pursuit is one of the essential ingredients of any summer.

So we’re putting our money in the jukebox and playing those songs — the ones that have the feel of summer crushes, love, lust, flirtation, obsession, whatever — one last time before the outdoor bar closes until Memorial Day.

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“Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” the slow version, Neil Sedaka, 1976, from “The Definitive Collection,” 2007.

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“Me and Mrs. Jones,” Billy Paul, 1972, from “Soul Hits of the ’70s — Didn’t It Blow Your Mind” sampler, 1991. The entire series is out of print. Try “Me and Mrs. Jones: The Best of Billy Paul,” from 1999.

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“Bailamos,” Enrique Iglesias, from “Enrique,” 1999. (It’s also on the “Wild Wild West” soundtrack from the same year.)

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“Who Will the Next Fool Be?” Amazing Rhythm Aces, from “Stacked Deck,” 1975. (Packaged on CD with the “Too Stuffed To Jump” album.)

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“How Blue Can You Get?” B.B. King, 1970, from “The Best of B.B. King,” 1973. This album is out of print. This tune also is on “Live in Cook County Jail,” 1971. Whether it’s the same version, I don’t know. (It is, and thanks to Whiteray over at Echoes in the Wind for the heads-up.)

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Filed under August 2007, Sounds