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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Labor Songs

This One's for the Workers: Labor Songs, 1929-2010Today, the first of three Labor-Day-themed posts.  Here’s a mix of songs about work.  And, yes, I’m aware that many other songs that could be included here — I came up with enough additional songs to fill a second CD, and then some.  Since much of this blog is devoted to children’s literature, I should also note here that a couple of the songs later in this mix have lyrics that include obscenity (mostly f-bombs): I’m thinking specifically of Cake’s “Nugget” and Cam’ron’s “My Job.”  To begin the mix, here’s a song from the start of the Great Depression….

This One’s for the Workers: Labor Songs, 1929-2010

1)     How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?  Blind Alfred Reed (1929)      3:12

Probably the best-known song by West Virginia singer, songwriter and fiddler Blind Alfred Reed (1880-1956).  Ry Cooder recorded it on his self-titled debut album (1970), and Bruce Spingsteen recorded a revised version of it for the reissue of his We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (subtitled American Land Edition in this version).  Springsteen retained only the first verse from Reed’s original; new verses address the failed government response to Hurricane Katrina.

2)     Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?  Bing Crosby (1932)      3:15

To give you a sense of how popular this song was, two versions were hit singles in 1932 — one recorded by Crosby and the other by Rudy Vallee.  With music by Jay Gorney, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg’s lyrics tell of working people abandoned by the country they helped to build, and for which they fought.  During the third year of the Great Depression, the message resonated with the public. Harburg may be better-remembered today for “Over the Rainbow” (and other songs from the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz), “Old Devil Moon” (and other songs from the musical Finian’s Rainbow), or for “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” but this is one of his most powerful lyrics.

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

Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell — the Almanac Singers — recorded this song for their second record, Talking Union (1941; re-released with additional songs, 1955).  Written by Seeger, Hays, and Lampell, the song uses a “talking blues” style later adopted by Bob Dylan.

4)     Farmer-Labor Train  Woody Guthrie (1948)      2:51

An idol of Bob Dylan and sometime member of the Almanac Singers, Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) here sings in support of Henry Wallace, Progressive Party candidate for President in 1948.  As the liner notes to Hard Travelin’: The Asch Recordings Vol. 3 (on which this song appears) tell us, Guthrie “was certain that if farmers and laborers joined together they could elect Wallace; they didn’t.”  Guthrie is best-remembered today for his “This Land Is Your Land.”  Of songwriting, he once said:

I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built. I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.

5)     Get a Job  The Silhouettes (1958)      2:27

A #1 hit in 1958, the Silhouettes‘ “Get a Job” has an upbeat sound that masks the more serious subject matter — unemployment.  As the song’s protagonist says, his girl is “tellin’ me that I’m lyin’ about a job that I never could find.”  The band Sha Na Na took its name from the backing vocal.

6)     Chain Gang  Sam Cooke (1960)      2:34

Another pop hit (#2 on the U.S. pop charts), this one about prison labor.  Written by Cooke (1931-1964), the song is said to be inspired by his encounter with a chain gang.  Cooke’s biggest hits — “Wonderful World,” “Cupid,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” “You Send Me” — tend to address more conventional pop-music subjects.  But “Chain Gang” and the posthumously released “A Change Is Gonna Come” display Cooke’s social conscience.

7)     Them That Got  Ray Charles (1960)      2:50

Co-written by Ray Charles and Ricci Harper, “Them That Got” features a tenor sax solo by David “Fathead” Newman.  The song reached #10 on the R&B charts and #58 on the pop charts.

8)     Maggie’s Farm  Bob Dylan (1965)      3:54

“He hands you a nickel, he hands you a dime. / He asks you with a grin if you’re having a good time. / And he fines you every time you slam the door.”  From Dylan‘s album Bringing It All Back Home.

9)     Working in the Coal Mine  Lee Dorsey (1966)      2:51

Co-written by Dorsey and Alvin Toussaint, “Working in a Coal Mine” was Dorsey’s second top-10 hit and remains his best-known song.

10)  When Will We Be Paid  The Staple Singers (1970)      2:39

The Staple Singers ask when African-Americans will be paid for their contributions to the United States.  From the group’s We’ll Get Over.

11)  Gonna Be an Engineer  Peggy Seeger (1970)      4:31

The half-sister of Pete Seeger and an accomplished folksinger and songwriter herself, Peggy Seeger sings of how gender discrimination prevents women from getting the jobs (and salaries) they seek.  Compelling narrative, strong message.

12)  Career Opportunities  The Clash (1977)      1:55

Joe Strummer sings about jobs he doesn’t want to do.  “Career opportunities are the ones that never knock. / Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock.”  Co-written by Strummer and Mick Jones (who actually had worked a government job opening letters to make sure they didn’t contain bombs), the song appears on the Clash’s self-titled debut album.

13)  9 to 5  Dolly Parton (1980)      3:01

One of Dolly Parton’s three #1 country hits in 1980, this was also a #1 pop hit that year.  It inspired the successful film of the same name — which starred Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin.

14)  The World Turned Upside Down  Billy Bragg (1985)      2:34

Bragg covers Leon Rosselson’s song about the Diggers, English agrarians (1649-1650) who sought to establish a more egalitarian society whose members could farm the common land for their mutual benefit.

15)  Heigh-Ho (The Dwarfs’ Marching Song)  Tom Waits (1988)      3:36

In his cover version, Waits recasts the song as a minor-key lament, reminding us that those dwarves in Snow White were in fact miners. And mining is a tough job.  From Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films.

16)  More Than a Paycheck  Sweet Honey in the Rock (1988)      3:57

The African-American a cappella group delivers a beautiful, incisive song about jobs that endanger the worker’s health.  From Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Breaths.

17)  I Love My Boss  Moxy Früvous (1990)      3:04

One of the greatest bands of the 1990s perform a song from their The B Album (1996), a collection of b-sides & rarities.  These guys were truly fantastic live.

18)  Job Application  Meryn Cadell (1992)      1:25

From Cadell’s Angel Food for Thought, which featured “The Sweater” — a top-40 hit in Canada, and a college radio hit in the U.S.

19)  The Ghost of Tom Joad  Bruce Springsteen (1995)      4:27

Inspired by John Ford’s film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (novel, 1939; film, 1940), Springsteen‘s song paraphrases Tom Joad’s speech near the end of the film.  Joad, played by Henry Fonda, says:  “I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build, I’ll be there, too.”

20)  Nugget  Cake (1996)      3:58

“They cut you from their bloated budgets like sharpened knives through Chicken McNuggets.”  From Cake‘s Fashion Nugget.

21)  We Do the Work  Jon Fromer (2000)      2:46

According to Classic Labor Songs (Smithsonian Folkways, on which this song appears), “Californian Jon Fromer has spent a career working in television and radio.  He is an active officer of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Communications Workers of America…. He is a member of the Freedom Song Network, an organization of San-Francisco-area musicians dedicated to social change.”

22)  Worker’s Song  Dropkick Murphys (2003)      3:32

The song from which this mix takes its title.  Appears on the Dropkick Murphys’ Blackout.

23)  My Job  Cam’ron (2009)      3:47

From Cam’ron’s Crime Pays.

24)  Low Light Low Life  P.O.S. feat. Dessa (2009)      3:15

“It’s the flight of the salesman, death of the bumblebee, nothing left for the attorneys and the tumbleweeds.” A song about the Great Recession, featuring a rap from one of the best lyricists working today: Dessa.

25)  Money  Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (2010)      3:22

“Money. Where have you gone?”  On I Learned the Hard Way, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings contribute another song to the music of the Great Recession.

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Wordplay: A Mix About Language

Wordplay: A Mix About LanguageIn North America, those of us who are teachers or students are thinking about school.  In August and September, the summer holidays end, and a new term begins.  To commemorate (or commiserate?) this season last year, I posted Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom: A Back-to-School Mix.  This year, I’m posting a mix about language.  Enjoy!

1)     The New A B C  Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (1959)      3:06

Leading the mix itself and its “ABC” section (which concludes with track 7), it’s the vocalese trio of Dave Lambert (1917-1966), Jon Hendricks (b. 1921), and Annie Ross (b. 1930).  From their album Lambert, Hendricks & Ross! (a.k.a. The Hottest New Group in Jazz!).

2)     ABC-DEF-GHI  Big Bird (1970)      1:48

On Sesame Street, Big Bird (voiced by Carroll Spinney) tries to pronounce the alphabet as a single, 26-letter word.  From Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music.

3)     African Alphabet  Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kermit the Frog (1991)      1:51

In another one from Sesame Street, the voices of Ladysmith Black Mambazo join Kermit the Frog (voiced by Jim Henson).  This song can also be found on Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music.

4)     Alphabet of Nations  They Might Be Giants (2005)      1:27

“West Xylophone, Yemen, Zimbabwe!” They Might Be Giants’ alphabetical trip around the world, from their second children’s album, Here Come the ABC’s.  If I weren’t restricting myself to one song per artist, I would definitely include other TMBG songs in this mix.

5)     “A” – You’re Adorable (The Alphabet Song)  Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae (1949)      2:25

I don’t know much about Gordon MacRae, but Jo Stafford was a popular vocalist in the 1940s and 1950s.  With husband Paul Weston, she was also half of the deliberately off-key comedy duo Jonathan and Darlene Edwards.  This song appears on the compilation Small Fry: Capitol Sings Kids’ Songs for Grown-Ups.

6)     Alligators All Around  Carole King (1975)      1:54

From King’s great collaboration with Maurice Sendak, Really Rosie — an animated TV special that first aired on CBS in 1975.

7)     Crazy ABCs  Barenaked Ladies (2008)      3:49

Steven Page mocks Ed Robertson’s attempts to write a new alphabet song.  Appears on Snack Time!, the first BNL children’s record. Word is that the group (now sans Page) is working on a second children’s record.

8)     Dictionary  Muckafurgason (2004)      2:14

Having concluded the “ABC” section of the mix, we turn to the dictionary, courtesy of New York trio Muckfurgason.

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

“These are the books I like to read / Because reading suits me. / With every page I turn, the pictures coma alive.  / Imagination takes what’s possible to new heights.”  And the song name-checks both Harold and the Purple Crayon and Green Eggs and Ham!  From Frances England‘s Fascinating Creatures.

10)  A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing  Lynn Ahrens (1973)      2:57

The first of 6 songs from Schoolhouse Rock on this mix.  Since I encounter students (yes, college students) who do not know what a noun is, I often wish that these were still airing during Saturday morning cartoons.

11)  C Is for Cookie  Cookie Monster (1973)      1:29

“Hey, you know what? A round cookie with one bite out of it looks like a ‘C.’ A round doughnut with one bite of it also looks like a ‘C.’ But it is not as good as a cookie. Oh, and the moon sometimes looks like a ‘C,’ but you can’t eat that.”  Words of wisdom from the Cookie Monster.  The song appears on Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music, and (I expect) on many other compilations.

12)  Silent E  Tom Lehrer (1972)      1:31

One of several songs that Lehrer did for Sesame Street. Available as a bonus track on Tom Lehrer Revisited.

13)  All Together Now  The Beatles (1969)      2:11

This always sounded to me a bit like a combination of a nursery rhyme and a reading primer. From the end of Yellow Submarine, where the Beatles appear on screen and talk to the audience:

14)  Onomatopoeia  Todd Rundgren (1978)      1:35

From Rundgren’s Hermit of Mink Hollow.

15)  The Noise Song  Tex Ritter (1953)      1:48

Putting onomatopoeia into practice, Mr. Tex Ritter tells us all about noises — those made by cows, pigs, ducks, sheep, railroad trains,… even college boys.

16)  Tonguetwisters  Danny Kaye (1951)      2:17

Though I expect this song appears on more than one compilation, it appears here via the 3-CD set The Great Danny Kaye.  Can anyone sing this lyric at the pace that Kaye does?  I doubt it.

17)  Tip of My Tongue  Fatcat & Fishface (2008)      2:41

Appears on the New Zealand group‘s album Dogbreath, and again on the compilation The Bestest and Horriblest.

18)  Wordplay  Jason Mraz (2005)      3:09

Cheerful pop from Jason Mraz.  Appears on the album Mr. A-Z.

19)  A Word a Day  Phil Silvers & Rose Marie (1952)      3:32

A song of malapropisms, a term named for Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals (1775).  This particular song, however, is from a different play — the Broadway musical Top Banana (1952), with music and lyrics by Johnny Mercer and book by Hy Kraft.

20)  The Ballad of William Archibald Spooner  Logan Whitehurst & the Junior Science Club (2006)      0:55

From Logan Whitehurst’s final record (Very Tiny Songs, completed just before he passed away), a tribute to the man who gave us the term “Spoonerism.”

21)  Bob  “Weird Al” Yankovic (2003)      2:29

A Dylanesque tribute to palindromes or a palindromic tribute to Dylan?  Either way, the results are funny.  From Yankovic‘s Poodle Hat.

22)  Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla  Jack Sheldon (1976)      3:00

The second Schoolhouse Rock number on this mix addresses pronouns.  Actor, jazz trumpeter, and singer, Jack Sheldon also sang the Schoolhouse Rock numbers “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill.”

23)  Green Eggs and Ham  Moxy Früvous (1992)      3:45

From the band’s debut — a 6-song cassette.  This Canadian quartet were my favorite group of the 1990s.  Their live shows were something to behold. Below, an example of their improvisational stage shows. The song itself starts at around 4:30.  Warning to our underage listeners: in the live performance below, Jian Ghomeshi drops a bunch of F-bombs at around 7:40 or so.  The audio-only version (above) is clean.

24)  Mother Goose Étude #6  F’loom (1998)      1:20

From the band‘s self-titled debut album.

25)  Nursery Rhyme Rock  Wynona Carr (1956)      1:59

Gospel, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll — Carr sang it all.  This is from a collection titled Jump Jack Jump!

26)  The House That Jack Built  Aretha Franklin (1968)      2:21

Continuing the nursery rhyme theme, here’s a #6 pop hit for Aretha Franklin.  The B-side of “Say a Little Prayer,” the song appears on 30 Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1985).

27)  School Days (When We Were Kids)  Louis Jordan (1949)      2:34

The jump blues of Louis Jordan (and others) helped create the sound that would become known as “rock ‘n’ roll.”  From The Best of Louis Jordan (MCA Records, 1975), a solid single-CD collection of his work.

28)  Patty Cake, Patty Cake (Baker Man)  Fats Waller and His Rhythm (1938)      3:16

The final song in our “nursery rhyme” sequence appears on A Good Man Is Hard to Find: The Middle Years Part Two (1938-1940).  One in Bluebird/RCA’s fantastic series of Fats Waller CDs — now, alas, out of print.

29)  Maroon  Ken Nordine (1966)      1:40

The song for which Barenaked Ladies named their 2000 album appears on Ken Nordine’s spoken-word/jazz classic, Colors.  I’ve placed it here because, like nursery rhymes and playground chants, the song is as much about the sound of words as what they mean.  And, linking us to the next song, the theme of the record is Nordine trying to describe colors — the sort of task for which one might want to unpack some adjectives….

30)  Unpack Your Adjectives  Blossom Dearie (1975)      3:01

The mix concludes with four Schoolhouse Rock songs.  I generally don’t like to use so many songs from the same record (in this case, a 4-CD set), but since each track is performed by a different artist, I’ve given myself a pass here.  Here, the late Blossom Dearie — of “Peel Me a Grape” fame — teaches us about the adjective.

31)  Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here  Bob Dorough (1974)      3:02
Bob Dorough — who had previously worked with Miles Davis on “Blue Christmas (To Whom It May Concern)” — sang (and wrote) a number of Schoolhouse Rock songs, including “Three Is a Magic Number.”

32)  Verb: That’s What’s Happening  Zachary Sanders (1974)      3:00
“A verb tells it like it is.” In addition to teaching us about verbs, this cartoon features an African-American superhero — not a common sight on television either in the early 1970s or today.  Zachary Sanders also sang the Schoolhouse Rock song “Electricity, Electricity.”

33)  Interjections!  Essra Mohawk (1974)      3:01
“Darn! That’s the end.”  Essra Mohawk also sang the Schoolhouse Rock song “Sufferin’ Til Suffrage.”

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What You Need: 9 Lost Songs from the 1980s

They were hits.  They were available on vinyl.  But you can’t buy them now.  They’re unavailable on CD or in digital form.  Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes (Special Mix),” Opus’s “Live Is Life,” the English version of Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” (“99 Red Balloons”), the English version of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home),” the American Version of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” Blue Clocks Green’s “Hemingway.”

I have most of these on vinyl (photos below are from my collection unless otherwise indicated).  But the audio comes from persons unknown who have shared the sound files.  For the record (pun! pun!), I don’t condone piracy: I’ll only seek a “bootleg” copy of song if it’s unavailable commercially.  As always, if you are the owner or if you represent the owners of this material, just ask and I’ll take it down.

Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes" 12-inch

In Your Eyes (Special Mix) Peter Gabriel (1986)

Let’s start with the best unavailable song: Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes (Special Mix)” (1986).  Here is an 8:20 version, which is longer than the 7:14 on my 12-inch. With the exception of the extra minute, both of these versions are very similar in that they’re a vastly different version of Gabriel’s original — a new arrangement, with much more of Youssou N’Dour’s vocal.

Nena, "99 Red Balloons" ("99 Luftballons"): single cover

The 7:14 version is also available as a b-side to the original single.

99 Red Balloons Nena (1984)

Nena‘s original “99 Luftballons” (in German) can be found on the CD of the same name, along with a remix of “99 Red Balloons” (in English) — but, oddly, the original English version is not to be had.

Video (English):

Video (German):

Out of Mind Out of Sight Models (1986)

Perhaps this can be had in Australia (the band’s home), but it’s out of print here in the States.  At the time, I liked the song (I own the original 45) even if it sounded a bit like an INXS knock-off.  Now, however, this Models song sounds like a lost INXS classic. Time has shifted my aesthetic evaluation, or perhaps I was unfair to the song when it was first out. The video (below) reflects fashions I would have thought were hip in the 1980s and which now look like… they were hip in the 1980s. Um, yeah.

What You Need (Extended Vocal Mix) INXS (1985)

The Australian rock stars just before they became superstars.  From the 12” of “What You Need,” here’s a very 1980s remix by Nick Launay.  I enjoyed it just as much as the original version, which was a top #5 hit in the U.S.  It (the original) appears on INXS‘s Listen Like Thieves. The title track only made it to #54 on the U.S. pop charts, but their next album would yield four top ten singles in the US.  That record was, of course, Kick.

Opus, "Live Is Life" singleLive Is Life Opus (1985)

A big hit in Europe, and a smaller hit in the U.S. — made top 40 over here, but Opus‘s song topped the charts in France, Germany, Sweden.

Major Tom (Coming Home) Peter Schilling (1983)

Like Nena’s hit, the German version of Peter Schilling‘s song is readily available.  The English version is not.  A sequel to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (1969) and “Ashes to Ashes” (1980), “Major Tom (Coming Home)” appears on Schilling’s record Error in the System.

Hemingway Blue Clocks Green (1988)

Blue Clocks Green‘s song was on college radio, and (I think) a club hit.  A cheerful “new wave” pop tune with a dark lyric about Hemingway’s suicide.

Blue Clocks Green, "Hemingway" 12-inch

Rock Me Amadeus (Salieri Version Short) Falco (1985)

This is the closest to the “American Version” of Falco‘s song that I can find — it’s about a minute and a half longer, but it includes the spoken-word narrative of major events in Mozart’s life, and the other elements of the American release.  And, yes, the video is as ridiculous as the song.

Walk This Way (Instrumental) RUN-DMC with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (1985)

The b-side to the 12” single, this is not strictly instrumental.  It’s absent RUN-DMC’s vocals but does include Steven Tyler’s vocal.  On the original record, the inner groove had just the beats.  So, when the needle reached the end, it simply repeated those beats endlessly.

RUN-DMC, "Walk This Way" 12-inch

And who can forget the video?

Well, that was fun.  Perhaps, in another post, I’ll share other forgotten (but still available) music from the 1980s: Big Pig, Royal Crescent Mob, Toni Childs, David & David, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Red Rider, and so many others….

Image credits: from my record collection except for Nena (Wikipedia).

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Summertime: The Box Set

Happy First Day of Summer!  Here’s a “Summertime” box set.  I will now take your questions.

Q: Are there good “summer” songs omitted from these four mixes?

A: Yes, of course there are.  I came up with an additional 133 songs that I did not use.

Q: Will you assemble more mixes including those songs?

A: If I had world enough and time,… I would.  But….  [Long pause.]  Yes — the young man in beige?

Q: Beyond “Summertime,” does each mix have any additional theme or mood?

A: Yes.  The first three are all uptempo.  The fourth is more midtempo, even quiet, and contains the highest proportion of melancholic songs.  So, if you want something a little more calm, head for the fourth one.

Summertime, vol. 1: Let’s Get Away from It All

Summertime 1: Let's Get Away from It All1)     In the Summertime Mungo Jerry (1970)      3:33

Named for a line in a T.S. Eliot poem, this band had its biggest hit with this song.  Shaggy also recorded a hit version of this in the mid-1990s

2)     Heat Wave Ethel Waters with Bunny Berigan, trumpet; Benny Goodman, clarinet (1933)      3:03

Written by Irving Berlin for the musical As Thousands Cheer, where it was performed by the great Ethel Waters — whom you hear in this recording, backed by Bunny Berigan and Benny Goodman.

3)     (Love Is Like A) Heatwave Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (1963)      2:43

Composed by the crack songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland Jr., this song was a top ten hit in 1963.

4)     Summer in the City The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)      2:43

A #1 hit for the Lovin’ Spoonful.

5)     Vacation The Go-Go’s (1982)      3:00

“Now that I’m away, / I wish I’d stayed.”  The title track to the Go-Go’s second album.

6)     Holiday Vampire Weekend (2010)      2:18

“To go away on a summer’s day never seemed so clear.” From Vampire Weekend’s Contra.

7)     Island in the Sun Weezer (2001)      3:20

“We’ll never feel bad anymore.”  From Weezer [The Green Album].

8)     Let’s Get Away From It All Gene Krupa with Anita O’Day and band, vocals (1941)            3:08

“Let’s take a kayak / To Quincy or Nyack” or, no, “Let’s take a powder / To Boston for Chowder.”  Love the couplets, and the band’s shouted responses to Anita O’Day’s vocals.  “Let’s take a trip to Niagara. / This time we’ll look at the falls.” Band replies: “What? No romance?”

9)     A Mid-80s Lower-middle Class Family Summer Road Trip The Very Most (2010)      4:17

From A Year with the Very Most.

10)  Hot Fun in the Summer Time Sly & The Family Stone (1969)      2:38

A #2 hit from the summer of 1969.

11)  I Wanna Be a Lifeguard blotto (1980)      4:15

I first heard this song on the Dr. Demento Show.  MTV also played it, back in the early days of the network.

12)  Rockaway Beach Ramones (1977)      2:05

Ramones’ homage to the Beach Boys.  See also “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.”

13)  Surfin’ U.S.A. The Beach Boys (1963)      2:29

The Beach Boys’ first mega hit borrows its melody from Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

14)  Magic The Cars (1984)      4:00

“It’s like a merry-go-round.’  Also, “Twisted under sideways down.”  Indeed.  Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange.  Below, the deeply silly video.  Enjoy!

15)  Summerfling k.d. lang (2000)      4:16

From lang’s Invincible Summer.

16)  Jogging Gorgeous Summer Islands (2006)      2:48

From Islands’ Return to the Sea.

17)  Girls in Their Summer Clothes Bruce Springsteen (2007)      4:19

From Springsteen’s Magic.

18)  It Must Be Summer Fountains of Wayne (1999)      3:19

“And the sun keeps shining ’til it’s dead and gone. / And it must be summer ’cause I can’t go on.”  Power pop with melancholic lyrics. Fountains of Wayne’s new record, Sky Full of Holes, is due out later this summer.

19)  The Other Side of Summer Elvis Costello (1991)      3:56

“I feel glad in my own suspicious way.”

20)  Cruel Summer Bananarama (1984)      3:37

In the U.S., this song and their cover of “Venus” were this group’s biggest hits, but they had more chart success in their native U.K.

21)  Summertime Blues Eddie Cochran (1958)      1:59

Covered by T. Rex, Blue Cheer, and many others — but here’s the original.  For a guy who only lived to be 21 years old, Eddie Cochran had a remarkable impact on popular music.  In particular, check out his “Somethin’ Else,” “C’mon Everybody,” and “Nervous Breakdown.”

22)  Sunny Afternoon The Kinks (1966)      3:34

Ray Davies, adopting the persona of a petulant millionaire.  A #1 U.K. hit, and a #14 U.S. hit.

23)  Sunshine Atmosphere (2007)      3:37

“Feelin alright, stopped at a stop sign / A car pulled up, bumpin’ Fresh Prince’s ‘Summertime.'”

24)  Summertime DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)      4:32

Borrowing Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (a.k.a. Will Smith) score their final and biggest hit.

Summertime, vol. 2: Good Vibrations

Summertime 2: Good Vibrations1)     Why Does the Sun Shine? Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans (1959)      2:41

You’ve probably heard They Might Be Giants’ cover of this, but have you heard the original?  It appears on Space Songs, one of several educational records Tom Glazer cut in the late 1950s.

2)     Why Does the Sun Really Shine? They Might Be Giants (2009)      1:52

Turns out scientists now know more about how the sun works.  For their album Here Comes Science, They Might Be Giants updates “Why Does the Sun Shine?”

3)     Summer Sun Koop (2001)      3:48

From the Swedish duo Koop.  Appears on their album, Waltz for Koop.

4)     Blue Skies Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (1941)      3:18

Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.

5)     Good Day Sunshine The Beatles (1966)      2:10

“I take a walk, the sun is shining down. / Burns my feet as they touch the ground.” From Revolver.

6)     It’s a Sunshine Day The Brady Bunch (1972)      2:32

“Can’t you dig the sunshine?” This ersatz pop group perform this song on a talent show (on their own hit TV series, The Brady Bunch), and place third. Hmm.  I guess the judges had no appreciation for camp.

7)     Automatically Sunshine Swan Dive (2002)      3:45

From the duo of Bill DeMain and Molly Felder (a.k.a. Swan Dive), a bit of happy summer pop.  I knew Bill when I lived in Nashville.  He once made me an incredible mix tape of Italian film soundtrack music.  Someday, I should try to recreate it on CD — it was (and remains) one of my favorite mixes.

8)     Mambo Sun T.Rex (1971)      3:41

The opening track from Electric Warrior, the record that brought you “Bang a Gong (Get It On).”

9)     Blister in the Sun Nouvelle Vague (2009)      3:12

Love the ESL nonsensical lyrics in this — a cover of the first track from the Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut.

10)  Too Darn Hot Ella Fitzgerald (1956)      3:51

From Ella Fitzgerald’s The Cole Porter Songbook, Vol. 1 — which I recommend to any fans of Fitzgerald or Porter.

11)  Some Like It Hot The Power Station (1985)      5:05

This “supergroup” (the late Robert Palmer, Chic’s Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran’s John Taylor and Andy Taylor) also had a hit with a cover of T.Rex’s “Bang a Gong.”

12)  Summertime Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (1999)      2:10

With music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, this song from Porgy and Bess gets a punk make-over.  This version appears on Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ Are a Drag — all covers of show tunes.

13)  Here Comes the Summer The Undertones (1979)      1:43

Punk legends who really should be better known than they are.  If you’ve never heard their “Teenage Kicks,” you’ll want to go and listen to it.  Now.

14)  Ice Cream Man John Brim (1953)      2:49

I’m a devotee of cover versions and I’ve heard the Van Halen rendition of this song, but I’ve yet to hear a recording that beats John Brim’s original.  And yes, Mr. Brim is talking about what you think he’s talking about.

15)  Ice Cream The Jolenes (2006)      2:43

Unlike the last song, this one — as far as I’m aware — is just about ice cream.  I mean, I’m aware that one could perform it to bring out other meanings.  But, in this rendition, it sounds quite literal (to me, at any rate).

16)  June-teenth Jamboree Fatso Bentley (1950)      2:02

Juneteenth (celebrated June 19th) commemorates the ending of slavery, and is recognized in most but not all U.S. States.

17)  On Vacation The Robot Ate Me (2004)      3:00

From the album of the same name.

18)  You’re An Ocean Fastball (2000)      3:18

Powerpop from Fastball’s The Harsh Light of Day.

19)  Wipe Out The Surfaris (1963)      2:41

The Surfaris’ biggest hit.

20)  Good Vibrations The Beach Boys (1966)      3:37

Bringing the theremin to rock music!  Yeah!

21)  Soak Up the Sun Sheryl Crow (2002)      3:18

Is Sheryl Crow’s “friend the Communist” (in the first line of this song) the “vending machine repair man” who is “high on intellectualism” (in her “Everyday Is a Winding Road”)?

22)  Sunny Bobby Hebb (1966)      2:49

Such a lovely song from the late Bobby Hebb.

23)  Summer Nights John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John & Cast (1978)            3:37

From the film version of the musical Grease.

24)  Red Hot Moon Rancid (2003)      3:36

“Take the bus downtown to the graveyard shift tonight.” From Rancid Indestructible.

25)  Starless Summer Sky Marshall Crenshaw (1996)      3:25

Known for his sole hit “Someday, Someway,” Crenshaw deserves a larger audience.  By way of introduction, I recommend This Is Easy: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw.

26)  Long, Sweet Summer Night The Thorns (2003)      3:15

The Thorns are: Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge, and Shawn Mullins.  Or I should say “were” — they did one album (and a tour)… but that’s it.

Summertime, vol. 3: Sunshowers

Summertime 3: Sunshowers1)     Holiday Road Lindsey Buckingham (1983)      2:11

The theme to National Lampoon’s Vacation.

2)     Walking on Sunshine Katrina & the Waves (1985)      4:01

Written by Kimberley Rew, who was also a member of the Soft Boys.

3)     Feel the Sun The Goldbergs (2008)      2:41

Mmmm.  Power pop.  From the Goldbergs’ Under the Radar.

4)     Catch a Wave The Beach Boys (1963)      2:11

From the collection Endless Summer, but originally released on Surfer Girl.

5)     Surf Beat Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (1962)      3:01

Everyone knows Dick Dale’s version of “Misirlou,” but he cut a number of other great surf rock tunes — such as this one.

6)     Ocean Bonerama (2007)      4:43

Led Zeppelin, as rendered by the trombone-tastic sounds of New Orleans’ Bonerama.

7)     Sunshine Superman Donovan (1966)      4:34

I confess that I debated putting on Mel Torme’s cover of this on instead of Donovan’s original.  It’s just as silly, but Mel knows how to bring the kitsch.

8)     Sunshine Smiles Billie Burke Estate (2005)      2:10

From Give It All Away.

9)     In the Sun She & Him (2010)      2:51

From Volume 2, which is just as great as Volume 1.  Save time: get them both.

10)  Sunshine Paul Westerberg (1996)      2:26

Paul Westerberg covers Jonathan Edwards.  From the Friends soundtrack.

11)  Sunshowers M.I.A. (2004)      3:17

This is the first song I heard by Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A., now best known for her “Paper Planes.” During a visit to Kansas, Scott McCloud introduced me to her work.

12)  Walkin’ on the Sun Smash Mouth (1997)      3:27

The big hit from Fush Yu Mang.

13)  You Dress Up For Armageddon, I Dress For Summer The Hives (2007)            3:10

From The Black and White Album.

14)  Don’t Look Back Into the Sun The Libertines (2003)      2:58

Before Babyshambles and his tabloid fame, Pete Doherty led this band.  Good stuff.

15)  Turn My Back On the Sun Big Star (2005)      2:39

From their reunion record, In Space.  Unless there are unreleased recordings lying around, this is also their last record (frontman Alex Chilton passed away last year).

16)  You’re So Damn Hot OK Go (2002)      2:39

From the band’s self-titled debut album.

17)  Hot Stuff Donna Summer (1979)      5:15

The chart-topping disco hit.

18)  Love’s Crashing Waves Difford & Tilbrook (1984)      3:10

After Squeeze broke up in 1982, Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook cut a record as a duo.  Released in 1984, it’s the “lost” Squeeze album between Sweets from a Stranger (1982) and Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985)

19)  4th of July X (1987)      4:07

From X’s See How We Are.

20)  5 Years Time (Sun Sun Sun) Noah and the Whale (2008)      3:36

The first song I heard by Noah and the Whale, but they’ve many other memorable tunes: “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” and “Tonight’s the Kind of Night” are upbeat, “Blue Skies” is melancholic.

21)  Another Sunny Day Belle & Sebastian (2006)      4:04

“You picked me up for a long drive. / We took the tourist route. / The nights are light until midnight.” From Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit.

22)  Summer Love The Brunettes (2002)      2:31

From the New Zealand pop duo’s debut LP, Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks.

23)  Tropicalia Beck (1998)      3:21

“Now you’ve had your fun / Under an air-conditioned sun.”  From Beck’s Mutations.

24)  Summer Samba (So Nice) [Samba de Verão] Walter Wanderley (1966)            3:07

From Rain Forest.

25)  Ice Cream Truck 0:57

Exactly what it says — the sounds of an ice cream truck.

Summertime, vol. 4: That Summer Feeling

Summertime 4: That Summer Feeling1)     Summer Breeze Seals & Crofts (1972)      3:26

Jasmine is in their minds.  And it is blowing.

2)     The Summer Wind Madeleine Peyroux (2006)      3:55

You probably know Frank Sinatra’s recording, but I prefer this one.  From Peyroux’s Half the Perfect World.

3)     Groovin’ The Young Rascals (1967)      2:32

“Couldn’t get away too soon.”  A #1 hit in 1967.

4)     Ice Cream Song Dynamics (1969)      3:18

“Great God Almighty!”

5)     When the Sun Goes Down Ben Gibbard (2011)      3:20

From the new Arthur soundtrack — one of two contributions by Death Cab front man Ben Gibbard.

6)     Summer Rains The Ditty Bops (2008)      3:20

The Ditty Bops’ new album, Love Letters, is due out soon. It’ll be their first since Summer Rains — the title track of which is represented here.

7)     Have You Ever Seen the Rain? Creedence Clearwater Revival (1971)      2:40

A top ten hit in early 1971, from the Credence album Pendulum (also on Chronicle, of course).

8)     June Hymn The Decemberists (2011)      3:58

“And you were waking / And day was breaking / A panoply of song.” From the band’s latest, The King Is Dead.

9)     4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) Bruce Springsteen (1973)      5:38

From The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle.

10)  Ocean City Girl Ivy (2005)      4:25

From In the Clear, Ivy’s last album.  The group’s new album, All Hours, is due in September.

11)  Sleep All Summer St. Vincent and The National (2009)      4:33

“Give the ocean what I took from you so one day you find it can find it in the sand / And hold it in your hands again.”  From Score!: 20 Years of Merge Records.

12)  Summer’s the Worst Michael Leviton (2006)      3:36

“I’m giving summer just one chance.”  From Leviton’s My Favorite Place to Drown.

13)  That Summer Feeling Jonathan Richman (1983)      6:08

“If you’ve forgotten what I’m naming, / you’re going to long to reclaim it one day, / because that summer feeling’s gonna haunt you one day in your life.”

14)  Summer in the City Regina Spektor (2006)      3:51

From her Begin to Hope.

15)  Once Upon a Summertime The Innocence Mission (2004)      2:13

From the group’s Now the Day Is Over.  Not sure who recorded this song first, but Blossom Dearie cut a version on her album of the same name (1959).

16)  Something Cool June Christy (1953)      4:20

“I don’t ordinarily drink with strangers.  I most usually drink alone. / But you were so awfully nice to ask me, and I’m so terribly far from home.”

17)  Black Hole Sun Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gormé (1999)      4:35

From the delightful collection of covers, Lounge-a-Palooza.  Does anyone know what Soundgarden thinks of this version?

18)  Don’t Let the Sun Go Down The Living Sisters (2010)      3:36

Beautiful harmonies from Inara George, Eleni Mandell, and Becky Stark.  If you enjoy this track, you’ll enjoy the entire album: Love to Live.

19)  Surf’s Up Brian Wilson (2004)      4:08

In 2004, Wilson finished the legendary Beach Boys Smile record (1966-1967) — parts of which appear on Smiley Smile and on Beach Boys compilations.

20)  Surfboard The Swingle Singers (2003)      2:49

From the group’s album Mood Swings.

21)  La Mer Charles Trenet (1946)      3:20

With new English lyrics by Jack Lawrence, this tune — retitled “Beyond the Sea” — became a hit for Bobby Darin in 1959.  I prefer Charles Trenet’s original.

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