Archive for Mixes

State Songs

State SongsLooking for a mix that has one song for each of the 50 U.S. states?  This isn’t it.  Nor are any of these official state songs. (Or, at least, I don’t think they are.)

Instead, this mix has 24 songs (one each for 23 states, plus one for DC), and some of them refer to multiple states. I’m well aware that many states are missing, and that I’ve skipped some obvious songs — Public Enemy’s “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” the B-52s’ “Private Idaho,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” to name but three.  Similarly, one could make several mixes worth of songs devoted to New York alone, but I’ve stuck to one song per state.  Finally, I’ve limited the length to only what would fit on a single CD.

So here’s one hour and nineteen minutes of music that references U.S. states. Some songs celebrate, others criticize, and still others merely allude to the state in question. Enjoy!

1)    Rhode Island Is Famous for You  Erin McKeown (2006)      2:46

Written by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz for the musical Inside U.S.A. (1948), this song gained popular attention via Blossom Dearie’s 1960 recording. McKeown’s appears on her delightful album of covers, Sing You Sinners. Though I’ve included it for Rhode Island, it references 20 other states: Arizona, Georgia, Maine, Nebraska, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, Louisiana, Montana, Idaho, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Dakota (it doesn’t specify whether North or South).

2)    I Like the Likes of You  Kate Baldwin (2009)      2:02

Composed by E. Y. Harburg and Vernon Duke for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1944, it only references Connecticut (and, more briefly, the Grand Canyon). I’ve always loved the way the song’s language evokes the giddiness of falling in love, and even finds the time to skewer love-song clichés (in the spoken section). And Kate Baldwin’s delivery is perfect.

3)    B.O.S.T.O.N.  Bleu (2010)      3:48

This is here for Massachusetts (my home state), but it also name checks Wisconsin (Green Bay), Virginia, and California (L.A.).  Catchy power-pop celebration of Boston. I also included it in my “For Boston” mix, back in April.

4)    Maine  John Linnell (1999)      2:07

I stole this mix’s title from John Linnell’s State Songs, the EP on which “Maine” appears.  If this sounds a bit like a They Might Be Giants song, that’s because Linnell is half of TMBGs.

5)   Manhattan  Ella Fitzgerald & Buddy Bregman Orchestra (1956)      2:49

Composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for Garrick Gaieties (1925), this song takes you on a tour through New York’s best-known borough. Because there are so many songs about New York, it was challenging to choose just one song for this state. “Harlem Shuffle,” “42nd Street,” “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” “Boy from New York City,” “Theme from New York, New York,” “Take the A Train” are but a few others that were in the running.

6)    I’m From New Jersey  John Gorka (1991)      3:08

On this mix, some songs celebrate and others criticize — except for this one, which does a little of both.  It appears on Gorka’s Jack’s Crows. Bonus: it also references Texas and Ohio.

7)    Pennsylvania 6-5000  Glenn Miller (1940)      3:14

I like that this song doesn’t really say anything at all about Pennsylvania. It’s just a telephone exchange. The absurdity appeals to me. Also in the running for this state were Standard Fare’s “Philadelphia” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia.”

8)   Delaware  Perry Como (1959)      2:19

Yes, the entire song is silly puns on state names. Believe it or not, this was a no. 22 pop hit in March of 1960.  In case you’re keeping track, the other states in this song are New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Mississippi, Minnesota, Oregon, Alaska, Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, and Missouri.

9)    Washington, D.C.  The Magnetic Fields (1999)      1:54

The nation’s capitol — which has no representation at the federal level — here gets celebrated with a rousing cheer and a snare drum. From 69 Love Songs.

10) Just a Little Bit South of North Carolina  Anita O’Day with Gene Krupa (1941)      2:43

I don’t know anything about the songwriters on this one. They’re identified as S. Skylar, A. Shaftel, B. Cannon. What else have they written? The song appears on Let Me Off Uptown!: Anita O’Day with Gene Krupa.

11) My City Was Gone  Pretenders (1982)      5:25

“I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone,” sings Chrissie Hynde, the composer of this song. It appears on the Pretenders’ classic record, Learning to Crawl.  Below, the 1995 incarnation of the group performs the song … in Ohio.

12) Michigan Militia  Moxy Früvous (1997)      3:18

The late, great Canadian quartet (active in the 1990s) satirizes a right-wing American paramilitary group which, according to Wikipedia, lasted from 1994 to 2000, and then was re-formed in 2009. I’m not sure what relationship the current Michigan Militia has to the one portrayed in this song. The song appears on Moxy Früvous’s Go to the Moon.  Below, a live performance from a 1998 telethon:

13) Down in Mississippi  Mavis Staples (2007)      4:58

Yes, that is Ladysmith Black Mambazo on backing vocals. A powerful song from one of the greatest albums ever recorded: We’ll Never Turn Back. It’s one of my desert island discs. Staples’ voice, Ry Cooder’s clean production, and many great musicians (including Cooder himself).  Below, a live performance from 2008:

14) Tennessee  Arrested Development (1992)      4:33

Written by Speech (who also is doing the main rap here), “Tennessee” was a top-10 single from the group’s successful debut album (which also featured “People Everyday” and “Mr. Wendal”). The song also references Georgia — in particular, Holly Springs, and Peachtree (a Street in Atlanta).  Below, the video:

15) Midnight Train to Georgia  Gladys Knight & The Pips (1973)      4:40

Another popular hit (number 1 on the pop charts), but from twenty years earlier. One of the few songs to be the subject of a Doonesbury strip:

G.B. Trudeau, Doonesbury, 28 July 1974

16) The Train from Kansas City  The Shangri-Las (1965)      3:21

Written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, this song is on the mix to represent Missouri. There is also a smaller Kansas City in Kansas, but the larger, better-known city is in Missouri.

17) On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe  Judy Garland (1946)      3:10

Written by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren for the musical film The Harvey Girls, this song is here for Kansas (Atchison, Topeka), though I suppose you could add in New Mexico (Santa Fe).

18) Iowa Stubborn  Ensemble (1962)      2:00

“See you at the picnic. You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself.” Meredith Willson’s salute to his home state of Iowa, as performed in the opening minutes of The Music Man — one of the truly great musicals.  In addition to many memorable tunes, it’s just saturated with language. The lead role (Professor Harold Hill) has to be one of the most challenging in all of musical theatre.  Here’s Robert Preston, giving his definitive rendition in the 1962 film:

19) Oklahoma (Finale)  Gordon MacRae, Charlotte Greenwood, James Whitmore, Shirley Jones & Jay Flippen (1955)      3:08

From the musical (stage, 1943; film, 1955) by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein.

20) That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas) Lyle Lovett (1996)      4:55

“But Texas wants you anyway.” From Lovett’s The Road to Ensenada.  Below, an early live version (from Austin City Limits, in the early 1990s):

21) Louisiana 1927  Randy Newman (1974)      2:58

From Newman’s Good Old Boys.

22) Sal Tlay Ka Siti  Nikki M. James (2011)      3:42

A (sort-of) tribute to Utah, from Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon.

23) Viva Las Vegas  The Grascals with Dolly Parton (2009)      3:15

Originally performed by Elvis Presley in the 1964 film of the same name, this song (written by Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus) here gets a lively country treatment. Indeed, I like this version better than Elvis’s original.

24) California  Rufus Wainwright (2001)      3:24

“You’re such a wonder that I think I’ll stay in bed.”  From Wainwright’s Poses.  Another state for which there are many songs we might use.  I like this one because it’s interested in the idea of California, but it’s also somewhat bemused by it.

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For Boston: A Mix

Boston Marathon logoBoston is the U.S. city that feels most like home to me. I grew up north of the city, in Lynnfield. Some of my family still live in the Boston area, though most are spread out around the globe. Indeed, I haven’t lived in Massachusetts in nearly three decades. But it’s still where I’m from.

In a city that embraces its diverse population (and their equally diverse opinions), the Boston Marathon is something (nearly) everyone agrees on.  Runners from all over the world compete.  Local TV broadcasts the race, which is always held on Patriots’ Day — a holiday commemorating the first battles of the American Revolution.  It’s celebrated in Massachusetts, but not nationally. I remember, as a kid, staying home from school, and watching the Boston Marathon on TV. It’s probably one reason that my mother, sister, and I have all run a marathon. (Or to be more accurate, my mother and I have each run one marathon; my sister has run over a dozen.) So, today’s bombing also hits close to home because I and my family know what it means to run a marathon.

As of this writing, I don’t know why some sociopath (or group of sociopaths) decided to bomb the city. I assume that the choice of Patriots’ Day was not an accident.

If you want to help,…

For information, I’ve found these useful:

Finally, here is a salute to Boston in song. It’s one of America’s great cities, and if you haven’t been there yet, please include it in future travel plans. As President Obama said today, “Boston is a tough and resilient town.” It and its people will recover from this.  So. Following is a mix of songs that either reference Boston or are by a band from Boston.

For Boston: A Mix

1. M.T.A. The Kingston Trio (1959)            3:16

A song that will tell you where the “Charlie card” (used for travel on the T, Massachusetts’ public transit system) got its name.

2. Yankee Doodle   Tex Ritter (1952)            1:28

An allusion to the city’s revolutionary past, performed by the father of John Ritter.

3. For Boston   Dropkick Murphys (2001)            1:33

Great Boston band, rousing Boston song.  Appears on the aptly titled Sing Loud, Sing Proud!

4. I’m Shipping Up to Boston   Boston Pops Orchestra (2009)            2:59

Also a Dropkick Murphys song (with lyrics by Woody Guthrie), but I didn’t want two songs by the same artist on the mix and I did want to include the Boston Pops.  So… here’s their version!  And, below, the Dropkick Murphys:

5. Massachusetts   Anita O’Day with Gene Krupa (1942)            3:16

“Boston, if you please, Massachusetts.”  From Let Me Off Uptown!

6. Dirty Water   Standells (1965)            2:49

“Love that dirty water, aw, Boston you’re my home” sing the Standells, a band from … Los Angeles.  From the great Nuggets collection.

7. B.O.S.T.O.N.   Bleu (2010)            3:48

A song about Boston from a singer-songwriter who studied at Boston’s Berklee School of Music.

8. Rock & Roll Band   Boston (1976)            3:00

“We were just another band out of Boston.” Tom Scholz (the creative force behind the band) is actually from Toledo, Ohio.  However, at the time of recording this album, he lived and worked in the Boston area.

9. Let’s Face It  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (1997)            2:33

The quintessential Boston band has a message for the haters: “Be racist, be sexist, be bigots, be sure: We won’t stand for your hatred.”  An appropriate song for the first state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage.  More recently, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he would not let the Chick-fil-A franchise (owned by anti-gay bigot Dan Cathy) open a restaurant in the city. He later acknowledged that he didn’t legally have the power to stop them, but his claim that “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail” resonated with those of us who support human rights.

10. Livin’ on the Edge  Aerosmith (1992)            6:20

Perhaps the most famous band from the city, Aerosmith are not famous for songs with a political message.  But, in this one, they have a caustic comment for bigots: “If you can tell a wise man by the color of his skin, then mister you’re a better man than I.”

11. The Fire Down Below   Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band (1976)            4:28

To give credit where it’s due, this song — and a few others here — is inspired by a medley of snippets of songs that reference Boston which (Boston’s) WBCN used to play as part of their station identification.

12. Freeze-Frame   The J. Geils Band (1981)            3:58

No references to Boston in this song, but these guys were one of the great Boston bands. People know them for this album (Freeze-Frame), but Blow Your Face Out (1976) is one of the all-time great live albums.

13. Ladies of Cambridge   Vampire Weekend (2007)            2:39

Just across the Charles River from Boston, is Cambridge (though the band is from NYC).

14. Here Comes Your Man   Pixies (1989)            3:22

Another classic song from a Boston band.

15. Pretty In Pink   The Dresden Dolls (2006)            3:58

And still another, though covering a song by the (British) Psychedelic Furs.

16. Sweet Little Sixteen   Chuck Berry (1958)            3:02

“They’ll be rockin’ in Boston.”  From The Great Twenty-Eight.  One day soon, Boston will be rocking with joyous songs — like this one.

17. Hey Nineteen   Steely Dan (1980)            5:10

Another song that references Boston and to which the aforementioned WBCN medley uses.

18. Let’s Do It   Joan Jett & Paul Westerberg (1995)            2:23

In this punk cover of the Cole Porter classic, we learn that “In Boston, even beans do it.”

19.Roadrunner   The Modern Lovers (1976)            4:09

Founded by (Natick, Mass. native) Jonathan Richman, the Modern Lovers got their start in Boston.  In February, Massachusetts Representative Marty Walsh proposed this song as the official rock song of the state.

20. Good Times Roll  The Cars (1978)            3:48

With the knowledge that the good times will roll again, in Boston, here’s a (or the?) great new wave band from Boston — possibly the second best-known Boston band (after Aerosmith)?

21. Early to Bed   Morphine (1997)            2:58

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man or woman miss out on the nightlife.” Morphine were from Boston, and fronted by the late, great Mark Sandman.

22. Night Train   James Brown (1962)            3:35

The night train stops in Boston.

23. I’ve Been Everywhere  Johnny Cash (1996)            3:15

In this song, Mr. Johnny Cash goes to Boston (among many other places).

Incidentally, if you’re a music fan, when in the Boston area, check out Planet Records (144 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge, Mass.).

Peace to all in Boston today. I know the city and its people will bounce back. We always do.

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Top 12 Covers of 2012

Top 12 covers of 2012Here are the best covers of 2012!  Well, they might be.  I haven’t kept up with music as well as I’d like to this year, and so I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones.  (I’m sure I can trust you to tell what I’ve missed, in the comments below.)  Though I recognize that there is no such thing as a cassette with 22 minutes per side, I’m nonetheless dividing this into the more uptempo side A and a quieter side B.


side A

1) Acapella The Futureheads (2012)            2:28

From the FutureheadsRant, a cover of Kellis. The album, incidentally, is entirely a capella, which I think earns the Futureheads some bonus points for coolness. Below: after mucking about for a minute, they perform this song live.

2) Judy Is a Punk The New Piccadillys (2012)             1:44

I have no idea who the New Piccadillys are, but this Beatle-esque cover of the Ramones is fantastic.  The group also created a Beatles-ish video to accompany the song.  Fun.

3) Feelin’ Alright Jackson 5 (1971)             3:13

This is the sole song here that was not recorded this year.  But it’s a great cover, and the box set on which it appears was released this year.   Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls features previously unreleased material from the Jackson 5.  Listening to it, I can’t help but think that the group could have had even more hits, had these songs been released at the time.  Great stuff.  This is their cover of Traffic.

4) You Be Illin’ Carolina Chocolate Drops (2012)             3:14

From the Carolina Chocolate Drops‘ Leaving Eden, a rootsy cover of the RUN-DMC classic.

5) Time Will Do the Talking Bettye LaVette (2012)             4:05

On her latest, Thankful n’ Thoughtful, Bettye LaVette performs a song from Patty Griffin’s debut album.  Tough to choose just one cover from this album.  I also considered the album opener, “Everything Is Broken,” but I already had a Dylan cover in the second half of the mix.

6) Right Back Where We Started From Chandler Travis Philharmonic (2012)           3:25

It was also tough to choose just one cover from this CD, Superhits of the Seventies: Original Hits, Today’s Stars, a 2012 WFMU fundraising exclusive assembled by Michael Shelley.  In addition to the Chandler Travis Philharmonic‘s merrily ragged cover of the Maxine Nightingale hit, the CD includes Yo La Tengo’s cover of Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light,” the Dahlmanns’ cover of ABBA’s “Ring Ring,” and many other greats.  It’s only available to people who gave $75 or more to WFMU’s latest fundraising drive.  And you can still get it.  (If you can afford to, I’d recommend giving even more so that you can get more DJ premiums.  WFMU is the greatest freeform station in the nation, and is struggling to bounce back from Sandy.  It’s managed to get back on the air, but needs more money this year than it usually does.)


side B

7) Bloodbuzz Ohio Julia Stone (2012)           5:11

Lovely cover of the National by Julia Stone, from her album By the Horns.

8) Daydream Believer Renee & Jeremy (2012)            2:25

Beautiful, gentle cover of the Monkees’ hit — from Renee & Jeremy‘s A Little Love.

9) Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) Active Child (2012)            3:27

Active Child perform this cover of the Eurythmics’ classic at Australia’s Triple J radio station.  Here’s a video of the performance:

10) Landslide Antony (2012)            3:31

From A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, in which Antony, the New Pornographers, Best Coast, MGMT, Lykke Li & others cover Fleetwood Mac songs.

11) Simple Twist of Fate Diana Krall (2012)           3:51

One of many fantastic songs from the 4-CD set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, a benefit album (for Amnesty International) featuring 128 covers of Dylan songs and Dylan himself performing “Chimes of Freedom.”

12) Video Games John Mayer (2012)              3:32

An instrumental take on the Lana Del Rey song.  In Mayer‘s rendition, it sounds like Ennio Morricone’s score for a 1960s western, or maybe incidental music for John Sayles’ Lone Star.


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Essential Holiday Tunes, Vol. 2

Essential Holiday Tunes 2Happy holidays!  A couple of years ago, I posted a mix of “Essential Holiday Tunes.”  Here is the sequel to that mix — and, yes, of course these selections are also idiosyncratic.  Unlike the previous mix, I’ve ventured a little further afield here: that is, I’ve deliberately veered towards some lesser-known songs.  Like the previous mix, this one is uptempo.  (For those interested in something quieter, I also posted a quieter, more melancholic “Blue Christmas” mix.)  I’m also posting a different song each day (some of which are featured here, and some of which are not) via Twitter, using the hashtag #FavoriteHolidaySongs

1) Now Sound of Christmas Introduction   The Free Design (1969)            0:33

The Free Design were contemporaries of (and had a comparable sound to) the Association, but never had much chart success.  Indeed, one of their songs, “2002 — A Hit Song,” pokes fun at their hit-less-ness and at pop music in general.  Only “Kites Are Fun” (the title track from their 1967 debut) cracked the top 40.  But their close harmonies and beautifully arranged orchestral pop influenced many, including Stereolab, whose “The Free Design” is named for the group.  Though they disbanded in 1974, the surviving members of the group — all of whom were siblings — reunited for one final record, Cosmic Peekaboo (2001). The group’s leader, Chris Dedrick, died of cancer in 2010.

2) Peanut Brittle Brigade (March)   Duke Ellington (1960)            4:38

Duke Ellington’s Three Suites includes his version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, from which this track comes.  If this isn’t part of your music collection, get the whole album — which also includes Ellington’s arrangement of Grieg’s Peer Gynt, and Ellington’s original music for John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday.

3) Hurray for Santa Claus   The Fleshtones (2008)            1:58

From the FleshtonesStocking Stuffer, this is a cover of Milton Delugg and the Little Eskimos’ theme for the science fiction film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).

4) Santa Claus Got Stuck (in My Chimney)   Ella Fitzgerald (1950)            3:07

One of my favorite Ella Fitzgerald holiday tunes (another is on the first Essential Holiday Tunes mix). I wonder, though, is it possible to listen to this song and not think of Freud?

5) (Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man with the Bag   Black Prairie featuring Sallie Ford (2012)            3:35

From the new Holidays Rule compilation, which I like nearly all of.  I particularly like the way this song opens in a minor key — gives it a slightly darker undercurrent.

6) I Want an Alien for Christmas   Fountains of Wayne (2005)            2:19

The masters of power pop give us a catchy tune on Out of State Plates, their double-CD compilation of non-album cuts and outtakes.

7) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer   The Fab Four (2002)            2:03

No, not that Fab Four.  These guys do fantastic Beatles-esque versions of holiday songs.  In this one, you get Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer performed in the style of “I Saw Her Standing There.”

8) Everywhere It’s Christmas   The Beatles (1966)            0:53

This is the real Fab Four, from their 1966 record sent to members of their fan club.

9) Feliz Navidad   El Vez (1994)            2:34

El Vez offers up a rockin’ cover of José Feliciano.  From El Vez’s Merry MeX-mas.

10) Soulful Christmas   James Brown (1968)            3:09

“James Brown loves you.”  From James Brown’s Soulful Christmas, which also includes “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year.”

11) What Christmas Means to Me   Stevie Wonder (1967)            2:28

From Stevie Wonder’s Someday at Christmas, which includes versions of “Silver Bells,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song.”

12) Mrs. Claus Ain’t Got Nothin’ on Me   Little Jackie (2010)            2:57

This appeared on The Christmas Gig, a compilation created by Target in 2010.

13) The Merriest   June Christy (1961)            2:08

Christy is perhaps best known for her Something Cool (1954), which in addition to the title track has great performances of “Whee Baby,” “You’re Making Me Crazy,” and “The First Thing You Know, You’re in Love.”   She performed with Stan Kenton’s band in the 1940s, and retired in the mid-1960s… though I don’t know why.  It seems to me that she could have had a longer career — along the lines of, say, Peggy Lee.  This song appears on Christy’s This Time of Year (1961).

14) Silver Bells   The Yobs (1980)            2:44

A punk shredding of Ray Evans & Jay Livingston’s classic.  From the Yobs’ Christmas Album.

15) Winter Wonderland    Peggy Lee (1965)            1:54

Written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) & Richard B. Smith (lyrics), “Winter Wonderland” has been recorded in hit versions by over 150 artists, including two hit versions in 1946 — one by Johnny Mercer, and the other by Perry Como.  Ella Fitzgerald has a version on her Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (1960), a great holiday record.  And, yes, many great versions — Chet Baker, Eurythmics, Brian Setzer….  Peggy Lee’s recording appears on the compilation Christmas Cocktails, and (I’m sure) on several other compilations.

16) Horchata   Vampire Weekend (2010)            3:27

From Contra, the band’s second LP.

17) Little Jack Frost Get Lost   Frankie Carle with Marjorie Hughes, vocal (1947)            2:47

A swingin’ little number that deserves to be better known.  Appears on A Big Band Christmas and on other compilations.

18) Santa Claus Is a Black Man   AKIM & the Teddy Vann Production Company (1973)            3:30

An Afro-centric re-casting of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” featuring Teddy Vann’s daughter Akim.   This appears on A John Waters Christmas (2004), though without Teddy Vann’s permission.  Apparently, Vann sued Waters over it.  Mr. Vann passed away in 2009; I’m not sure about the results of the lawsuit.  I do know that the John Waters Christmas album is currently the only CD on which you can find this song.

19) Happy Christmas Baby   The Boy Least Likely To (2010)            3:31

Appears on the Boy Least Likely To‘s Christmas Special.

20) Little Drummer Boy   The Soulful Strings (1968)            3:06

“Little Drummer Boy” may be my least favorite Christmas song. I’m including it here because the Soulful Strings have recorded a really great version — the sole recording of this song that’s actually listenable.  It surprises and pleases me every time I hear it.

21) Children of December   The Slip (2006)            4:50

From the band’s album, Eisnhower, some sympathy for people born in December.

22) Just Like Christmas    Low (1999)            3:08

Here, our mix veers towards the slightly more melancholic — but only slightly.  This song, from Low’s Christmas, has an uptempo bounce (and echo-ey Phil-Spector-ish drums) that contrasts nicely with the lyrics: “On our way from Stockholm, / It started to snow. / And you said it was just like Christmas. / But you were wrong. It wasn’t like Christmas at all.”

23) Is This Christmas? [Radio Edit]   The Wombats (2008)            3:38

This appears as a bonus track on the 2008 re-release of the Wombats’ first LP, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation.  Even more uptempo than the Low song, but with more downbeat lyrics: “Here comes our darkest end. / Christmas is here. / It’s about not extending the overdraft / to scrape out what is left / at the end of the year.”  The Wombats are one of my favorite contemporary pop groups.  I recommend both of their albums.

24) Fairytale of New York    The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl (1988)            4:33

One of the all-time great holiday songs.  Love, conflict, and a little profanity, too.  Dorian Lynskey wrote a great history of the song, which ran in the Guardian last week.  I recommend it.  The piece also embeds an early demo version of the song, which is fascinating.  But go and read the article.  It’s well worth your time.

25) Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?    The Staple Singers (1970)            2:31

“Searching for light, and can’t seem to find the right star.” A no. 2 pop hit for the Staple Singers, this song originally appeared as a single.  It later appears on The Very Best of the Staple Singers. I have it from the compilation Snow 3 — The Get Easy! Christmas Collection Volume III.

26) (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding    Brinsley Schwarz (1974)            3:34

This is the first recording of the song made famous by Elvis Costello. Written and sung by Brinsley Schwarz’s vocalist Nick Lowe, the song’s message makes it apt for a holiday mix. It’s also been a source of lots of royalties for Lowe: Curtis Stigers covered the song for The Bodyguard soundtrack, which sold over 40 million copies.

27) Christmas Medley: Carol of the Bells / Melodies for the Day / O Sanctissimo    The Swingle Singers (1968)            3:11

Ending the mix with a gentle a cappella medley.  The final song on the Swingle SingersChristmastime.

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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: a mix

Front cover by Chris Ware for: Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature (forthcoming from UP Mississippi, Sept. 2012)Here is a mix to celebrate the publication of my new biography, Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (2012).  Its official publication date is today (Sept. 1st), though it’s actually been available for a few weeks now. Given my own interest in music, it’s curious that I know relatively little about the musical tastes of Johnson and Krauss. So, while this mix does include some music they liked, it’s organized more by themes — each of which can be explored more fully in my book.

1)     Take the “A” Train  Duke Ellington (1941)      2:56

Crockett Johnson listened to Duke Ellington, and so did Mr. O’Malley. In response to a strip in which Barnaby’s Fairy Godfather enjoys an Ellington record, the composer himself wrote to PM (the newspaper where Barnaby first appeared) to express his admiration for the strip. Johnson owned the LP set The Duke.

2)     The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)  Simon & Garfunkel (1966)            1:43

Johnson was born in 1906 at 444 East 58th Street, a block south of where the 59th Street Bridge was under construction. Though this song (like many on this mix) was released long after his childhood, Simon’s lyric makes me think of the imaginative, dreaming boy who became Crockett Johnson.

3)     Baltimore Fire  Charlie Poole (1929)      3:12

In February 1904, the Great Baltimore Fire destroyed more than 1500 buildings in the city’s downtown business district. Ruth (who turned 3 that year) and her family were far enough north to escape the flames, but memories of the blaze stayed with her. She had a life-long fear of house fires, and kept her manuscripts in the freezer (as a precaution).

4)     Violin  They Might Be Giants (2002)      2:27

When she was growing up, Krauss played the violin. She was a creative player, but not exactly an accomplished one. Her avant-garde poetry (from later in her career) makes me think that she might have enjoyed this song’s Dadaist sense of humor.

5)     If I Had a Boat  Lyle Lovett (1987)      3:09

The sense of humor and associative logic of “If I Had a Boat” might also appeal to Krauss; the other reason for its inclusion is Johnson’s love of sailing.

6)     I Sing I Swim  Seabear (2007)      3:40

Krauss enjoyed swimming. Johnson sometimes joined her. The bio. includes a photo of the two of them, in bathing suits, on a beach — perhaps just before a swim?

7)     Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?  Buddy Johnson (1952)      2:18

Both Ruth and Dave (Johnson’s given name, and the one his friends used) supported civil rights for African-Americans. Johnson, a sports fan, joined the End Jim Crow in Baseball Committee in 1945. In 1947, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black player in the American Major Leagues.

8)     A Cup of Coffee and a Cigarette  Jerry Irby (1947); intro. by Bob Dylan (2006)            3:26

Both Ruth and Dave drank coffee, and he smoked.

9)     Coffee in the Morning (Kisses in the Night)  The Boswell Sisters (1933)            2:57

He probably needed the coffee a bit more than she did: he was nocturnal, often working until sunrise, going to bed, and then getting up for breakfast at lunchtime.

“The Midnight Special” and other Southern Prison Songs, performed by Leadbelly and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet10)  The Midnight Special  Leadbelly and The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (1940)      3:08

Johnson and Krauss had the LP set, “The Midnight Special” and other Southern Prison Songs, performed by Leadbelly and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet.

11)  Talking Union  The Almanac Singers (1941)      3:06

An active supporter of labor unions, Johnson would likely have known this song.

12)  The House I Live In  The Ravens (1949)      3:04

An anthem of the Popular Front (and a hit single for Frank Sinatra in 1945), “The House I Live In” was certainly known by Johnson and Krauss. It was written by Earl Robinson and Lewis Allan (pseudonym of Abel Meeropol) — Meeropol/Allen was a leftist better remembered today for writing the anti-lynching song, “Strange Fruit,” which Billie Holiday began performing (and first recorded) in 1939. Though I have found no evidence of it, I would not be surprised if Johnson knew Meeropol: they shared a political outlook, and moved in some of the same New York circles.

13)  Homegrown Tomatoes  Guy Clark (1983)      2:59

Barnaby isn’t the only one who had a Victory Garden. Johnson did, too. After moving to Connecticut in the early 1940s, he enjoyed gardening. By the 1950s he began to favor other pursuits.

14)  Mr. O’Malley and Barnaby  Frank Morgan & Norma Jean Nilsson (1945)            0:07

This, the first of several adaptations of Barnaby, appeared on the 12 June 1945 Frank Morgan Show.

The Carrot Seed (art by Crockett Johnson)15)  The Carrot Seed  Norman Rose (1950)      5:36

The classic adaptation of Ruth Krauss’s 1945 picture book (with art and design by Crockett Johnson).

16)  You Be You and I’ll Be Me  The Free Design (1969)      2:42

The Free Design’s song title seems too close to Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak’s I’ll Be You and You Be Me (1954) to be a coincidence, but it of course may well be just that.

17)  What a Dog / He’s a Tramp  Peggy Lee & Oliver Wallace (1955)      2:25

Johnson loved his dogs, and was quite content to let them be their doggy selves.

18) Dog  Bob Dorough (1966)      3:27

19) Onomatopoeia  Todd Rundgren (1978)      1:35

Krauss had a great ear for the sound of words, something you see (and hear) both in her books based on the spontaneous utterances of children and in her later verse.

Crockett Johnson, Merry Go Round (1958)20)  Carousel (La valse à mille temps)  Elly Stone, Wolfgang Knittel (1968)            3:30

Johnson and Krauss owned the LP Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, on which this song appears. I expect it was more her choice than his. I’ve also included the song in tribute to Johnson’s least-known (and most experimental) book, Merry Go Round.

21)  Get Happy  Art Tatum (1940)      2:46

Mr. O’Malley wasn’t the only one who enjoyed boogie-woogie piano. Johnson liked it, too. He owned the LP Decca Presents Art Tatum, which includes this song.  “Happy” also has a nice resonance with The Happy Day (1949), Krauss’s collaboration with Marc Simont.

22)  Comic Strip  Serge Gainsbourg (1968)      2:12

I don’t have a recording of “Mr. O’Malley’s March,” and so instead here is a playful tribute to the comic strip medium.

23)  Pies for the Public  Zoë Lewis (1998)      4:57

“So he laid out a nice simple picnic lunch. There was nothing but pie. But there were all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best.”

24)  The Books I Like to Read  Frances England (2006)      2:13

This tribute to picture books begins with Where the Wild Things Are (written by Johnson and Krauss’s friend) and name-checks Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Carole King, Really Rosie (art by Maurice Sendak)25)  Alligators All Around  Carole King (1975)      1:54

In recognition of how important Maurice Sendak is to the biography, here is a song based on his book of the same name.

26)  Wake Up (Where The Wild Things Are version)  Arcade Fire (2009)      1:39

It’s impossible to stress enough Maurice’s role in this — both in their lives, and in mine. I wish I could thank him once more.

27)  Neverending Math Equation  Sun Kil Moon (2005)      2:53

During the last decade of his life, Johnson painted tributes to great mathematical theorems and even worked out a couple theorems of his own.

28)  Garden of Your Mind  melodysheep feat. Mr. Rogers (2011)      3:07

The works of Johnson and Krauss inspire us to think and to imagine.

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Thirty Jaunty Songs

Thirty Jaunty SongsYes.  Spring is here, which means flowers blooming and (for academics, at least) the rapidly accelerating roller-coster that is the second half of the semester.  It is thus time for some jaunty music.  Enjoy!

1)    You Meet the Nicest People in Your Dreams       Fats Waller and His Rhythm (1939)    2:51

How is it that this song is not more widely known and recorded?  “I’ve looked the universe over from Wack-a-nac-sac to Dover,” and… I’m aware of only two recordings: this one, and one by Peter Mulvey.  This is one of my favorites because, well, how can you listen to this and not smile?  Although I expect this song is on more than one compilation, the only place I’ve found it is Fats Waller‘s The Middle Years Part 2 (1938-1940).  The song’s composers are Al Hoffman (best known for co-writing “Mairzy Doats”), Al Goodhart (co-wrote “Fit as a Fiddle”), and Manny Kurtz.

2)    Funiculi Funicula  The Mills Brothers (1938)    2:31

Another favorite that always makes me happy.  The original Italian version of the song (1880, music by Luigi Denza, lyrics by Peppino Turco) commemorated the opening of the first funicular cable car up Mount Vesuvius. Edward Oxenford’s English lyrics retain the cheeriness but not the meaning of the original.  This song appears in more than one compilation, but it comes to you here via the Mills BrothersThe 1930s Recordings Volume 5.

3)    Alouette     The Delta Rhythm Boys (1958)    2:42

Confession: that Target ad introduced me to the Delta Rhythm Boys, whose sound seems to fall in between the Mills Brothers and doo-wop.

The Delta Rhythm Boys are a jump-blues vocal group.  They performed in the U.S. in the 1930s and 1940s, but in the 1950s moved to Europe, where they remained for the rest of their careers.  Perhaps this is why the group is not as well-known in their native country, and why the CDs I could find mostly seem to have been produced in Europe.

4)    Sh-Boom   The Chords (1954)    2:26

Is there a more perfect doo-wop number than the Chords’ “Sh-Boom”?  The Crew Cuts’ cover (released the same year) sold more copies, but nothing matches the original version.  This was the Chords’ sole hit.  Below, an a capella rendition, and further evidence that all popular culture will eventually end up on YouTube.

5)    Boum        Charles Trenet (1938)    2:35

This one’s in French, but includes lots of imitations of animals.  Silly and fun, from the vocalist best known (in the U.S.) for “La Mer” — the song performed (in English) by Bobby Darin as “Beyond the Sea.”

6)    A Newt Called Tiny          Wee Hairy Beasties (2006)    0:18

Delightful pun.  It’s the sort of song that, I think, should be sung on playgrounds everywhere.  Indeed, it sounds like it’s an older song, but I think the group wrote it.  Comprised of Kelly Hogan and two members of the Mekons, the Wee Hairy Beasties are a supergroup of sorts.  This track appears on their first record, Animal Crackers.

7)    Swinging on a Star         Bing Crosby (1944)    2:32

Crosby sang this song in the film Going My Way (1944).  Written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, it won the Oscar for Best Original Song.  I like the arrangement on the record better than that in the film (below), but the movie is notable for its inclusion of a racially integrated boys’ choir.

8)    Mais Que Fait La Nasa?    Paris Combo (2001)    4:04

For a few years in the late 1990s and into the first decade of the 2000s, Paris Combo put out some great records.  Then,… they stopped.  I don’t know why.  I do know that they’re currently on tour.  Perhaps there’ll be new recordings soon?  There are some new demos on their website — so, I’m hopeful.  This particular song appears on their album, Attraction (2001).

9)    Love Astronaut    Murder Mystery (2007)    3:01

This extremely catchy song is from the band’s first LP, Are You Ready for the Heartache Because Here It Comes (2007).  That record contains a number of finely crafted pop songs, but this is my favorite.  After a few years of silence (at least in terms of new releases), Murder Mystery put out a new EP earlier this year: Problems.

10) Flying Home (Take B)      Ella Fitzgerald (1945)    2:30

One of the classic records to feature scat-singing, an art at which Ella Fitzgerald excels.  Her ability to use her voice as an instrument, improvising solos and syllables … is truly astonishing.  For more great scatting, check out her “Oh, Lady Be Good” (Decca, 1947), “Cotton Tail” (1967, on The Concert Years 1953-1967), and the great “Mack the Knife” (1960, on The Complete Ella in Berlin).  The box set Twelve Nights in Hollywood is also well worth your while.  This track appears on Ella: The Legendary Decca Recordings.

11) Float On    Modest Mouse  (2004)    3:28

From the album Good News for People Who Love Bad News.

12) What Would Jay-Z Do?    Ben Lee (2007)    2:55

A very good question, and a happy song, too.  From Lee‘s album, Ripe (2007).

13) It’s a Great Life (If You Don’t Weaken)    Sam Lanin & His Orchestra (1929)    3:14

The song that inspired the title of Seth’s It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken (1996).   Lyrics by Leo Robin, music by Richard Whiting and Newell Chase.

14) Pick Yourself Up  Fred Astaire (1936)    2:56

Composed by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, the song appears in Swing Time (1936), one of the great Astaire-Rogers films.  Not that you asked, but the other great ones are Top Hat (1935), The Gay Divorcee (1934), and Shall We Dance? (1937).

15) On the Sunny Side of the Street    Louis Armstrong (1937)    2:55

Composed by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, this song can be found in versions by Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Dorsey (with the Sentimentalists), and Dinah Washington.  Louis Armstrong’s recording is one of the earlier versions — the song made its debut in a 1930 Broadway musical.

16) The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)      Simon & Garfunkel (1966)    1:43

“Hello, lamppost. What’cha knowin’?”  One of Paul Simon‘s more whimsical compositions, this appears on Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966).  Below: Simon and Garfunkel on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967.

17) Sweet Georgia Brown       Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli (1938)    3:08

I first heard this song (whistled) as the theme to the Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine, which aired on Sunday mornings from 1974 to 1976.  Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli’s rendition reaches you here via the compilation Swing from Paris: The Quintette of the Hot Club of France (ASV/Living Era). Music composed by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard.  Kenneth Casey’s lyrics do not appear in this rendition.

18) Linus and Lucy     Vince Guaraldi (1968)    2:59

More commonly known as the Peanuts theme, Vince Guaraldi‘s song makes its debut in Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown (1964), appearing again in A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and many subsequent Peanuts productions.  This particular recording appears on Oh, Good Grief! (1968).

19) Il sole è di tutti       Franco Micalizzi (1968)    1:58

From the soundtrack to the film of the same name.  Appears on The Original Masters: Italian Comedy 60′s, Vol. 1

20) Ad Ogni Costo (At Any Cost)      Ennio Morricone (1967)    2:53

Continuing the theme of Italian film soundtracks from the 1960s, here’s one of the greatest Morricone tunes.  It appears in the film of the same name, and is on many compilations.  But it comes to you here via Cocktail Mix Volume 4: Soundtracks With a Twist!

21) The Liberty Bell March     Her Majesty’s Royal Marines & Lt. Colonel G.A.C. Hoskins (1992)    3:20

You know it as the theme to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but this John Philip Sousa piece is an American military march composed in 1893.

22) Whatchamacallit    Esquivel (1958)    2:33

From Esquivel‘s Exploring New Sounds in Stereo (1958).

23) Le fate (m8)           Armando Trovaioli (1966)    1:16

Returning to Italian film soundtracks from the 1960s, here’s the title song from the film of the same name.  This track appears on The Original Masters: The Film Music For Alberto Sordi.

24) Mah Na Mah Na   Mah Na Mah Na (1969)    1:54

Composed by Piero Umiliani for Svezia, inferno e paradiso, the song achieved lasting fame via its long association with the Muppets.

25) It Don’t Mean a Thing       Duke Ellington with Joya Sherrill, Marie Ellington and Kay Davis, vocals (1945)    3:01

“It makes no difference if it’s sweet or hot. / Just give that rhythm everything you’ve got!”  Composed by Duke Ellington (music) and Irving Mills (lyrics).

26) Tobacco Auctioneer          Don Byron (1996)    2:36

Composed by Raymond Scott but performed by Don Byron and co., this recording appears on Byron’s Bug Music.

27) Soul Bossa Nova (Original Mix)       Quincy Jones & His Orchestra (1962)    3:11

Probably best-known today for its appearance in the Austin Powers films, the song made its debut on JonesBig Band Bossa Nova (1962).

28) The Mesopotamians          They Might Be Giants (2007)    2:58

On my imaginary radio station, this song was a big hit.  From They Might Be GiantsThe Else.

29) Bongo Bong          Manu Chao (1999)    2:56

Manu Chao‘s song first appears on his record Clandestino (1998), but this version comes from the compilation World Playground: A Musical Adventure for Kids (1999).

30) Particle Man          Mrs. Belaire’s second grade class, Ottawa Elementary School (Buchanan, MI), music director Tim McCarthy (1990)    2:06

The greatest cover of any They Might Be Giants song ever appears on Then! The Earlier Years.  The original version is on TMBG’s Flood (1990).

 

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Holiday Mix Redux

GrinchI’d hoped to post some new (well, new to you) mixes for the holidays, and I may yet manage to do so.  It’s been the busiest semester of my professional career and, indeed, of my life.  And, where I’m currently staying, there’s no wi-fi… well, unless I poach some from another apartment.  (I’m writing this on the train to NYC.)

Last year, I did manage to get up a few mixes, and they remain ready to supply holiday cheer:

  • Essential Holiday Tunes (6 Dec. 2010).  A selection of my favorites, including the Glam Chops, Gayla Peevey, Swingerhead, the Rondelles, the Ronettes, and the Ravonettes!
  • Blue Christmas (10 Dec. 2010).  A downbeat holiday mix, for when you have the holiday blues.
  • You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (20 Dec. 2010).  15 versions of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” because, well, why not?

 

Enjoy!

 

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Top 12 Covers of 2011

Top 12 Covers from 2011Inspired by NPR’s 5 Great Cover Songs from 2011, here are my top 12 covers from 2011 — starting with two of the hardest-rocking, and ending with the quietest ones.

1)    Like a Prayer   Grace Potter & The Nocturnals      6:23

This cover of Madonna’s 1989 hit comes from Grace Potter & The NocturnalsiTunes Session EP, which also includes a cover of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.”

2)    Get Back   The Jim Jones Revue      2:40

This Beatles cover appears on Burning Your House Down, a title which nicely describes the band‘s explosive  thrash/punk/rockabilly sound.  Wow.  The intensity knocks me over.  Here they are performing “High Horse” (an original) on Letterman in September.

3)    Tubthumping   They Might Be Giants feat. the Onion AV Club Choir      3:22

Recorded for the Onion AV Club earlier this year, They Might Be Giants‘ cover of Chumbawumba’s 1997 pop hit appears on the TMBG b-sides compilation, Album Raises New and Troubling Questions.

4)    99 Problems / Can’t Tell Me Nothing   Aloe Blacc      2:47

Aloe Blacc‘s soulful cover of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” (cleaned up for radio), which pulls in Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and James Brown’s “The Big Payback.”   He performed the song on BBC Radio 1′s Live Lounge.

5)    Price Tag   The Wombats      4:16

The Wombats cover Jessie J’s big hit, described by lead vocalist Matthew Murphy as “a massive bulletproof pop song with quite a nice sentiment.”  I’m a big Wombats fan — if you don’t have their two LPs, well, what are you waiting for?

6)    Hard Bargain   Emmylou Harris      3:23

Such a beautiful cover of Ron Sexsmith‘s song, which originally appears on his Retriever (2004). Emmylou Harris likes the song so much that she also used it for the title of her album.  She could sing almost anything and make it sound transcendent, but when she sings a song that’s already a good one — well, just give it a listen, eh?

7)    When U Love Somebody   The Decemberists      3:11

This doesn’t actually stray that far from the Fruit Bats‘ original version, but there’s something about the Decemberists‘ ragged intensity that keeps bringing me back to their recording.  It appears on their iTunes Session EP.

8)    I Want You Back   Sonos      1:46

Beautiful, melancholic version of the Jackson 5′s 1969 smash hit.  Sonos were one of the best groups on NBC’s The Sing-Off, sent home early for being a bit too experimental in their interpretations.  That willingness to experiment, however, is precisely what made them — and Afro-Blue (another group that should have been a finalist) — so great.  But the judges didn’t get it.  Sonos also recorded a longer version of this for their 2009 record SONOSings.  The version here comes from The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 4.

9)    Take Five   Sachal Studios Orchestra      5:52

An “Eastern” version of Dave Brubeck’s classic, recorded in Lahore, Pakistan by the Sachal Studios Orchestra.

10) White Rabbit (Live on Fresh Air)   Gillian Welch      2:59

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings offer their version of the Jefferson Airplane song.  If you’re a fan of Gillian Welch, Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview is well worth your while.

11) Don’t Fence Me In   Daniel Johnson and Brie Stoner      3:43

There’s a version of this on iTunes, but this is the recording you see in the video below… because I like this version better.  Johnson and Stoner originally recorded their version of this Cole Porter classic for a Nokia advertisement.

12) I’m Going to Go Back There Someday   Rachael Yamagata      4:16

Very nearly all of the covers on the Green Album (new versions of songs that feature in Muppet programs) are great, but I’m particularly fond of this one.  Gonzo the Great brings some pathos to the original version, but Rachel Yamagata singing “There isn’t a word yet for old friends who’ve just met” should touch the heart of even the crustiest curmudgeon.  (Yes, I’m talking to you, Statler and Waldorf!)

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Halloween Mix VIII: A Shot in the Dark

Halloween 8: A Shot in the DarkLast year, Nine Kinds of Pie presented seven Halloween mixes.  This year, it’ll be just one new Halloween mix.  (Feel free to check out the old ones, though.  They’re still up on the blog!)  The theme this year is all instrumental.  Henry Mancini, Combustible Edison, Big Lazy, and others present some (mostly) spooky tunes without words.  Enjoy!

1)     The Twilight Zone  Marius Constant (1960)      0:57

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone”

The theme to the classic television program, The Twilight Zone (1959-1964). Though this is the familiar theme, it wasn’t used on the first season (1959-1960) — that year used a theme by Bernard Herrmann (best-known for his Alfred Hitchcock scores).  Below, the opening for the 1963 season:

And here is the original opening, with the Herrmann theme:

2)     Spellbound  Esquivel (1958)      3:31

From Esquivel’s Exploring New Sounds in Stereo.  The tune itself (by Miklós Rózsa) is the theme to Hitchcock’s 1945 film, which included a dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí:

3)     Carnival of Souls  Combustible Edison (1994)      3:13

From the group‘s I, Swinger.

4)     Chant of the Moon  Voodoo Suite (2006)      2:32

Music from Voodoo Suite.

5)     Experiment in Terror  Henry Mancini (1962)      2:20

Mancini‘s theme for the film of the same name (directed by Blake Edwards).

6)     Spy in the Lounge  Dusty Trails (2000)      3:40

Luscious Jackson’s Vivian Trimble + the Breeders’ Josephine Wiggs = Dusty Trails, who put out just one LP.  It’s a fine record, reminiscent of a particularly good soundtrack.  Bonus: one of the songs includes vocals by Emmylou Harris.

7)     Creepy Street  Walter Murphy (1974)      1:34

Best known for his disco hit, “A Fifth of Beethoven” (1976), Walter Murphy composed a lot of film library music, including this track, which appears on Cinemaphonic: Electro Soul (a collection of such music by Murphy and others).

8)     Enter Sandman  Twink (2004)      3:22

This is the only cover of Metallica that uses a toy piano — or, at the very least, it’s the only such cover I’ve ever heard.  It appears on Twink‘s Supercute!

9)     Psycko (Themes from Psycho and Vertigo)  Laika & The Cosmonauts (1994)            2:24

The themes to two Hitchcock films, done up, surf-style.

10)  A Shot in the Dark  Henry Mancini (1964)      2:35

Mancini‘s theme for the Blake Edwards film.

11)  Perry Mason Theme  Jon Rauhouse (2003)      2:19

Rauhouse‘s recording of the theme for Perry Mason.  It appears on Steel Guitar Rodeo.

12)  Crooked  Big Lazy (1999)      3:17

Appears on the group‘s first full-length LP, Big Lazy.

13)  J.S. Bach’s Fugue, “The Little, ” BWV 578 (G Minor)  E. Power Biggs (1960)            4:05

From the compilation Bach: Great Organ Favorites.

14)  A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors  The Hives (2007)      2:39

From the HivesBlack and White Album, which featured the single “Tick Tick Boom.”

15)  Tubular Bells  Mike Oldfield (1973)      3:17

I’m sharing the abbreviated version used in The Exorcist, but you might want to check out the full version of “Tubular Bells, Part I.”  This blog limits the file size to 20MB, and the full 25:33 track is 37MB.  So, I’m unable to share the longer version here — even though that’s the version I’ve used on the iTunes version of this mix.  On the original recording, Oldfield played all of the instruments himself.  Below, a trio of videos in which he (on bass guitar, initially) performs it live with Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlen, Mick Taylor, and others.


16)  Paranoid Android  UMASS Front Percussion Ensemble (2004)      5:02

The UMass Front Percussion Ensemble cover Radiohead.

17)  Devil’s Waltz  Erin McKeown (2006)      2:40

A bonus track from McKeown‘s Sing You Sinners.

18)  Great Pumpkin Waltz  Vince Guaraldi (1968)      3:36

After the dissonant conclusion of the previous track, here’s something a bit more gentle — music for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!  This recording appears on Guaraldi‘s Oh Good Grief!

19)  Graceful Ghost Rag  Eugene Barban (1997)      4:31

Composed by William Bolcolm, this rendition appears on Barban’s An American Piano Odyssey.

Last year’s Halloween mixes (all seven of them!):

  1. Halloween Mix I: A Put a Spell on You
  2. Halloween Mix II: Zombie Jamboree
  3. Halloween Mix III: That Old Black Magic
  4. Halloween Mix IV: Living After Midnight
  5. Halloween Mix V: Wicked & Sweet
  6. Halloween Mix VI: Season of the Witch
  7. Halloween Mix VII: People Are Strange

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I’m Gonna D.J. at the End of the World: R.E.M., the Cover Band

some covers by REMAs R.E.M. has called it a day this week, I’m paying tribute by highlighting a facet of their career that is not being talked about that much — or, at least, not in the articles I’ve seen.  And that is… R.E.M., the cover band!  One of their hits was a cover of the Clique’s “Superman.”  Rather than focus on that, I thought I’d highlight a few covers that were not hits.  To quote the (lesser-known) R.E.M. song from which this blog post takes its title, “Music will provide the light / You cannot resist.”

1. Tom’s ? (recorded as Bingo Hand Job, 1991)

This one is part cover, part improvisation, and (at its conclusion) part mash-up.  R.E.M. — performing under the name Bingo Hand Job — plays a version of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” which was then gaining notice because of DNA’s remix of the song.  Billy Bragg joins on backing vocals, chiming in near the end with “Unbelievable” (from EMF’s song, very popular at the time).  Recorded at the Borderline Club in London.

2. The Lion Sleeps Tonight (1993)

In which R.E.M. cover a song with a complicated history — “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” a song written by Solomon Linda, who recorded it first (as “Mbube”) with his group the Evening Birds in 1939.  Retitling it “Wimoweh” and adding some lyrics, the Weavers had a hit with it in 1951.  Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore created a new arrangement for the song, added revised lyrics by David Weiss, retitled the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” — and gave themselves songwriting credit for their alterations to this allegedly traditional folk melody.  I read about this in Rian Malan’s excellent piece in an issue of Rolling Stone in 2000.  The Wikipedia page devoted to the song sums up many of its points, including the legal history which (ultimately) resulted in Linda’s heirs receiving some royalties for the song.  Anyway, the Tokens recorded a hit version of the Peretti-Creatore-Weiss version in 1961, and the song has long been a staple for a capella singers.  This recording appears as a b-side to R.E.M.’s “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”

3. Wall of Death (1994)

R.E.M.’s contribution to the album of Richard Thompson covers, Beat the Retreat.  The song appeared originally on Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights (1982).

4. I Will Survive (1996)

A laid-back and probably improvised cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” (1979) appears on a single sent to members of R.E.M.’s fan club in 1996 — the year before drummer Bill Berry’s departure.  And, perhaps, one day, it’ll gain wider release on a big R.E.M. box set.  Now that the band has decided to part ways, perhaps they’ll assume a curatorial role over their back catalogue & release such rarities?  Well, one can hope….

5. Pale Blue Eyes (1984)

It’s been said that, though the Velvet Underground had few fans, everyone who listened to them started their own band.  In the interest of full disclosure, I heard R.E.M.’s cover of “Pale Blue Eyes” (on Dead Letter Office, 1987) before I heard the Velvet Underground’s original recording.  The R.E.M. version first appeared as a b-side to “So. Central Rain” (1984).

6. Dream (All I Have To Do) (1987)

A lovely version of the Everly Brothers’ song.

7. The Arms of Love (1993)

As a b-side to “Man on the Moon,” R.E.M. records a version of a gentle Robyn Hitchcock song.  Fun trivia: Peter Buck (R.E.M. guitarist) plays on Hitchcock’s Globe of Frogs, and has toured with him.

8. Moon River (1984)

The boys from Athens, GA cover … Audrey Hepburn… or possibly Andy Williams or, well, any of the people who recorded this song prior to them.  Irrespective of which version inspired Michael Stipe to take it on, the first version of “Moon River” (music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer) appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), sung by Audrey Hepburn.  “We’re after that same rainbow’s end, waiting round the bend.”  Thanks for the tunes, Messrs Berry, Buck, Mills, & Stipe –

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