Archive for Happiness

12″ Mixes from the 1980s & 1990s

Soft Cell: “Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go” (1981)

From the late 1970s into the 1990s, producers issued extended mixes — accompanied by instrumental versions, remixes, bonus tracks (songs cut from the record, live versions) — on 12″ records. The same size as a regular LP, each 12″ record had but a few songs on it. It might play at 45 rpm (like a single) or at 33 1/3 rpm (like an LP). By the mid-1980s, 12″ records were everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Spotify doesn’t have it, but Google Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark (Blaster Mix)” (1984). It’s his famous hit song but with more drums, and placed more prominently in the mix. Also: more glockenspiel. And just… longer.

The Cure: “Boys Don’t Cry (New Vocal Mix)” (1986)

The production on that Springsteen track — and on many of these — can be excessive to the point of parody. But not always. Though they’re not available digitally, Peter Gabriel’s 12″ singles for his So album (1986) included some beautiful, different arrangements of those songs. (You can find the 12″ arrangement of “In Your Eyes” on his live albums.) Turning to songs included here, the “Mendelsohn Extended Mix” of INXS’s “Need You Tonight” (1987) begins by dropping out the drumbeat and a guitar part while placing the synthesizer further up in the mix. When the drums arrive later, and the omitted guitar later still, the song already has already established a slightly dreamier feel. It’s familiar, but different.

Some of these also will not feel like “new” renditions of familiar tunes. The 12″ of Soft Cell’s cover of “Tainted Love” (1981) has become the definitive version of that song. Likewise, the 12″ versions of New Order’s “Blue Monday” (1983) and “Bizarre Love Triangle” (1986) are likely the recordings of those tunes that you know best. And some of these exist only in their 12″ versions — Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” (1980), Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” (1982), Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” (1988).

Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock: “It Takes Two” (1988)

Likely because I was a teenager when most of these songs were released, I’m fond of these 12″ singles, however bombastic or excessive they may be. I like the massive chorus that opens Depeche Mode’s 9-and-a-half-minute mix of “Never Let Me Down Again” (1987). And as far as I’m concerned, Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin can sing “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” (1985) for as long as they like. So, then, here are 74 extended mixes — running a total of eight hours — mostly from the 1980s. (There are also some tracks from the 1990s, and two from the 1970s.) Enjoy!

New Order: “Blue Monday” (1983)

Coming tomorrow… the final playlist in this week-long experiment in musical delights!


The mixes/playlists thus far

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Mah Nà Mah Nà: Italian Cinema, 1965-1976

Album covers for Fumo di Londra, Svezia Inferno e Paradiso, Ad Ogni Costo, & I Giovani Tigri.

Need a pick-me-up in the middle of the week? Whether you’re listening on Wednesday (the day I’m posting this) or not, welcome to this collection of sonic uplift! I’ve named it after the song you almost certainly know: Piero Umiliani’s “Mah Nà Mah Nà,” made famous in various versions performed by Jim Henson’s Muppets. On this playlist, however, you’ll hear the original, from the soundtrack of Svezia, inferno e paradiso (1968). You’ll also hear 49 other songs, composed by Umiliani, Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovaioli, Piero Piccioni, and others.

To give credit where due, this selection of film music by Italian composers, all recorded between 1965 and about 1976, draws inspiration (and a good portion of its playlist) from a 90-minute mix created by Bill DeMain over 20 years ago. He gave it to me on a cassette, but without song titles.

The original "Italian Cinema" mix tape compiled by Bill DeMain
The “caffeinated” side of Bill’s original mix.

Maybe 5 or so years ago, assisted by the Shazam app, I managed to reconstruct much of it digitally. (It has long been a favorite mix of mine!) When I couldn’t find a particular track, I added something in a similar vein. I had such fun making it that I made a sequel. This playlist includes tracks from both — the attempted recreation of Bill’s original and my “Part II.” Though not everything is available on Spotify, a surprising amount is.

Tomorrow, this week-long experiment in musical delights continues with… a travel-themed playlist for children and their adults. See you then!


The mixes/playlists thus far

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You Can’t Do That: Over 100 Beatles Covers

Welcome to… over 100 cover versions of songs by the Beatles! 120 covers, to be precise. My favorites — not that you asked — are the truly transformative ones, such as Nina Simone’s “Revolution” (11th track on this playlist) and Harry Nilsson’s “You Can’t Do That” (57th track, which is also a mash-up). Though I really like versions that compel you to listen anew to a song you thought you knew, attempts at fidelity have their own appeal — especially when the song covered is the Beatles’ venture into concrete music, “Revolution No. 9.” (Scroll down to track #115 and listen to the version by Alarm Will Sound.)

Designed by Ivor Arbiter. First appeared on Ringo’s drum kit in May 1963.

Yes, technically, two of these are not covers. Lennon and McCartney pitched “I Wanna Be Your Man” to the Rolling Stones, who recorded it first. The Stones’ version, released 1 Nov. 1963, reached #12 in the UK. The Beatles’ recording appears on With the Beatles (released 22 Nov. 1963 in the UK). Similarly, Aretha Franklin’s “Let Be” was issued before the Beatles’ release of the original song. Franklin’s album This Girl’s in Love with You (which included both this and “Eleanor Rigby”) was released in January 1970, and the Beatles’ single (from the band’s final — and then still forthcoming — album) was released in March 1970. Franklin based her version on a Beatles demo.

This week-long experiment in musical delight (which I’ve hashtagged as #MusicDelights on Twitter) continues tomorrow with an energetic compilation of Italian film music from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s. As I say in tomorrow’s post, a hearty thanks to Bill DeMain for introducing me to many of these!


The mixes/playlists thus far

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Coffee Break!

From songs directly about coffee to others with a coffee motif, this mix is for fans of coffee and music. To give credit where it’s due, some of these selections come from Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour program on coffee. The songs range from Emmylou Harris to Prince, Bob Marley to the Boswell Sisters, Lightnin’ Hopkins to Squeeze, Tom Waits to Sylvan Esso. I created the first iteration of this mix five years ago, and have made several versions of it since then. The result, for you, is a 35-song playlist devoted to coffee! So, brew yourself a cup… and have a listen!

“Let’s have another cup of coffee. Let’s have another piece of pie.”
[image from Wikipedia’s “Coffee” entry]

Oh! And one more thing. This broad range of songs about coffee includes some that date back to at least the 1920s — “A Proper Cup of Coffee” is a British music-hall song from that period (though Ana Gasteyer’s recording is from 2014). As a result, you may occasionally encounter a problematic lyric, musical phrase, or vocal delivery. The one that stands out — indeed, the one that prompts this note — is Sinatra’s bizarre “Mexican” accent at the very end of his song about… Brazil. (I included it because it’s a classic coffee song, but jeez, Frank, WTF?) At any rate, of course, do feel free to skip that one — or any other that’s not to your taste.

A few notes on the songs (preceded by the songwriter, in parentheses).

1 (Suzanne Vega). From Solitude Standing (1987). The “actor who had died while he was drinking” is William Holden (1918-1981).

2 (Jim Infantino). From WERS: Live from Emerson College (2000), also appears on noplace like Nowhere (2000).

3 (Frank Loesser). From the 2011 Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961).

4 (Peter Dixon). From Schizophonic! (1996), the band’s second album — or third, if we include the soundtrack to Four Rooms (1995). Combustible Edison would release one more album before breaking up in 1999.

5 (Irving Berlin). Introduced in the Broadway musical Face the Music (1932). This recording — featuring vocals by Marion Hutton, Ernie Caceres and the Modernaires — is from 1942.

6 (Bob Hilliard & Dick Miles). A #6 pop hit in the U.S., in 1946.

7 (Ben Oakland & Milton Drake). A #15 pop hit in the U.S., in 1940.

8 (Patty Larkin). From Step Into the Light (1985), Larkin’s debut.

9 (Hank DeVito & Donivan Cowart). From Old Yellow Moon (2013).

10 (R.P. Weston & Bert Lee). This is an English music-hall song from the 1920s, originally popularized by Ernie Mayne. On Gasteyer’s I’m Hip (2014).

11 (Craig Ventresco). From the Ghost World soundtrack (2005).

12 (Adams & Corelli). Released as the b-side to Scatman Crothers’ “Dearest One” (1955).

13 (John Stiles, J. C. Hill). Released as a single in 1969, and collected on What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves, 1967-1977. (If you’re paying close attention, you’ll note that this was also on yesterday’s funk playlist — an inadvertent repeat on my part, but just as enjoyable in this context, I think!)

14 (Prince & Susannah Melvoin). From Prince’s Sign o’ the Times (1987).

15 (Billy Rose, Al Dubin, Joseph Meyer). Carl Stalling (1891-1972), arranger and composer (1936-1958) for the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, often used this tune in scenes featuring cooking, eating, or hunger. The song dates to 1925 (sadly, Spotify lacks Nick Lucas’ 1926 recording), and the Buffalo Bills rendition is on the group’s 1959 album, The Buffalo Bills with Banjo.

16 (Al Dubin & Harry Warren). When asked to name the singer who most influenced her, Ella Fitzgerald always cited Connie Boswell, the sole Boswell sister to have a singing career after the group disbanded in 1936. (This song is from 1933.)

17 (Ray Henderson, Buddy G. DeSylva, Lew Brown). Written in 1928, and recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio in 1946, a year of many hits for the group — “The Frim Fram Sauce,” “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” “(I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons.” (This was not among those hits.)

18 (Danny Overbea). The final hit (#26, 1953) for Ella Mae Morse, a White singer who had hits on both the pop and R&B charts in the 1940s. She’s also one of many who was singing rock-n-roll before rock-n-roll (see also Big Joe Turner, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Louis Jordan, Helen Humes, Wynonie Harris,…).

19 (Glenn Troutman). Don’t let the songwriter’s name fool you: Glen Glenn is the stage name for Glenn Troutman. He recorded this song in 1958.

20 (Lightnin’ Hopkins). First released on Hopkins’ Walkin’ This Road by Myself (1961).

21 (Mississippi John Hurt). Recorded in 1963, this song inspired the band name the Lovin’ Spoonful.

22 (Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook). With backing vocals from Elvis Costello and Paul Young, this was a minor hit from Sweets from a Stranger (1981), also included on Singles — 45’s and Under (1982).

23 (Amelia Meath, Nick Sanborn, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich). Sylvan Esso’s 2014 song incorporates Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Hanky Panky” near the end (hence the Barry & Greenwich credit).

24 (Adam Schlesinger & Chris Collingwood). From Welcome Interstate Managers (2003), a great pop record best known for the hit “Stacy’s Mom.”

25 (Tom T. Hall). The b-side to Dave Dudley’s “What We’re Fighting For,” a #4 hit on the country charts in 1965.

26 (Tom Waits). From Waits’ Nighthawks at the Diner (1975)

27 (Jerry Butler, Eddie Thomas, Jay Walker). From Otis Redding’s The Soul Album (1966).

28 (Shorty Long & Susan Heather). Single from 1956. Note: I don’t think this is the same Shorty Long known for “Function at the Junction.”

29 (Maurice Sigler, Al Goodhart, Al Hoffman). Recorded in 1935.

30 (Robert Marley). Yes, Robert Marley is Bob Marley. He recorded this song in 1962.

31 (Bob Dylan). From Masked and Anonymous: Music from the Motion Picture (2003).

32 (Marty Robbins). A #13 country hit for Frizzell in 1958.

33 (Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins). Single from 1951.

34 (Ron Sexsmith). From Sexsmith & Kerr’s Destination Unknown (2005).

35 (Sonny Burke, Paul Francis Webster). A #13 pop hit for Sarah Vaughan in 1949.


As noted yesterday, I am posting mixes/playlists each day of this week. Return tomorrow for over 100 covers of Beatles songs!

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Overpowered by Funk: (Mostly) Instrumental Grooves, 1967-1975

This is the first in a series of posts intended to elicit delight — specifically, musical delight. What occasions it? 1. There needs to be more joy in the world. 2. Inspired by Ross Gay’s Book of Delights (2019), I am trying to locate delight in the everyday. Music is one of my delights. 3. I have started recreating (as best I can) my iTunes playlists on Spotify.

covers for albums by the Meters, James Brown, and some funk compilations

Created a little over a year ago for a friend who requested a mix of instrumental funk, this playlist ought to lift your spirits. Though I have named it for the 1982 Clash song, the tracks here all date to funk’s first wave — or, at least, what I think of as its first wave. Part of the fun in responding to this request was that it required a bit of research on my part. (I’m interested in all kinds of music, but know funk far less well than other genres.) So,… if you think of any (mostly) wordless early funk instrumentals that should be added here, let me know! Note: the songs have to be on Spotify. (Alas, a few of my original choices were not on Spotify.) Enjoy!

ALSO: for the next week, I will be posting one mix each day, purely for the enjoyment of anyone who would like to listen. Tune in again tomorrow for a new playlist!

What is tomorrow’s theme? Well, since it will be Monday, I thought coffee would be apt. Thus, it will be 35 songs about coffee!

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Study Shows Dr. Seuss Makes You Happy

Often, media headlines highlight academic research in order to make fun of it — so that people can say, “look at how these eggheads spend their time!” or “They needed a study to prove that!?”  My title (above) alludes to such media coverage, but my purpose here is to highlight a new article which argues… precisely what the title says.  Aaron Ahuvia, a professor in the College of Business at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, writes:

A felicitator is a person or thing which brings happiness to others. As with most good authors, Dr. Seuss was a felicitator in part through the enjoyment people derived directly from his work. But he was a felicitator in a more profound sense as well, because he has helped teach a particular set of values and outlook on life to hundreds of millions of children. Geisel disliked the heavy-handed moralism which was endemic to the children’s literature of his day, but many of his works nonetheless taught a moral point of view. Like that of many children’s authors, his work emphasized honesty and our responsibility to protect those weaker than ourselves. But somewhat less typically, especially for an author of his generation, his work championed personal creativity while rebuking snobbery, materialism, conformity and prejudice. It is the values that underlie Seuss’s stories, and not just the memorable rhymes and funny illustrations, which gave his work the classic status it has today. And it is these values which form the foundation of my argument that he was a felicitator. Specifically, I argue that his books had a modest but nonetheless real influence on millions of children, encouraging their imaginative creativity and discouraging snobbery, social exclusion and materialism.

The article, titled “Dr. Seuss, felicitator,” appears in the International Journal of Wellbeing, 1.2 (2011), 197-213.  You can download it from the journal’s website for free (it’s open access — just scroll down to the “full text” pdf).  I have no expertise in either business or happiness, but I like the social dimension in Professor Ahuvia’s definition of happiness.  Though I’m skeptical of our ability to track the ways in which literature influences those who read it, I also like both the optimism of his assessment and the fact that it’s qualified: he calls Seuss’s effect “modest,” and, later in this paragraph, adds, “children raised on Dr. Seuss had improved odds of growing up to be happy adults.”  “Improved odds” is, I think, the best we can hope for.

I share this article because I’m interested in the ways in which Seuss circulates in contemporary culture, from political cartoons to scholarly articles to The Simpsons — I deal with this subject in more detail in Chapter 6 of my Dr. Seuss: American Icon (Continuum, 2004).  Some examples of the range of scholarship: One essay argues (incorrectly, as it turns out) that the little cats in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (1958) are examples of fractals.  Another finds similarities between apparently fantastic Seussian creatures and the natural world (this one is accurate, as far as I can tell).  Here are the citations, in case you want to look them up:

  • Lakhtakia, Akhlesh. “Fractals and The Cat in the Hat.” Journal of Recreational Mathematics 22.3 (1990): 161-4.
  • Raymo, Chet.   “Dr. Seuss and Dr. Einstein: Children’s Books and Scientific Imagination.”  The Horn Book Sept.-Oct. 1992.  Repr. Thomas Fensch, ed., Of Sneetches and Whos and the Good Dr. Seuss: Essays on the Life and Writing of Theodor Geisel (McFarland & Company, 1997):  169-75.

At one point, I imagined that I would maintain a bibliography of all new Seuss — both literary criticism and any other posthumously published Seuss books.  This grew out of a desire both to correct omissions in Dr. Seuss: American Icon, and to add works published since then.  As you can see, I’ve fallen behind on updating it.  I’ll add the above article to it, and will make an effort to add others I’ve omitted, such as Kevin Shortsleeve’s smart new piece in Lynne Vallone and Julia Mickenberg‘s Oxford Handbook of Children’s Literature (2011), and Charles Cohen’s new collection of Seuss’s Redbook stories (The Bippolo Seed). If you see others (and I’m sure you will), feel free to send them my way.  Thanks!

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