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Monthly Archives: October 2008

Happy Halloween, Peeps!

BOO!!!

Happy Trick or Treating on this glorious Fall day! 

Check out last year’s Halloween Mix if you need some tunes. 

Make sure you stay safe and beware THE BOOGIE MAN….Bad ’70s clothes can be hazardous to your health.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in classic rock, halloween, holidays

 

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Mad About Mad Men…

Oh my Lord in Heaven.

I’m not one for watching “series” on TV.  I usually can’t get interested in a story line long enough to watch for any length of time.  However, a few weeks ago Shrew recommended Mad Men.  “You will love it”, she said.  While skeptical, I decided to puruse Hulu to find it, but evidently AMC (American Movie Classics), the cable network that carries Mad Men, does not license through Hulu, BUT did have one episode — the second season premier.  I decided to watch this episode and if it garnered my interest, I would download season one from iTunes, to keep me company on my many business trips.

Naturally, I LOVED IT.  I have completed season one and am anxiously awaiting the weekend when I can catch up on season two, which is conveniently available (for free) on On Demand.  YAHOO!!!

If you watch Mad Men, you know how I can love it so.  If you haven’t watched, YOU HAVE TO!!  Set in the early 60s, the characters lives revolve around a Madison Avenue advertising agency.  The nostalgia is phenomenal, to the point where you think you’ve entered a time warp and are right there with the girls in the secretarial pool, adjusting your Playtex bra and dodging the wayward hands of your boss.

The show is so honestly unpolitically correct that it’s realism captivates.  Here is a video I found on YouTube that lists the Top 10 politically incorrect moments in Mad Men (so far):

Of course, the brilliance of this is that in 1960, this was perfectly accepted behavior.  And, there are many more where these came from.  Women smoking and drinking while pregnant, drinking in the office (at any hour), incessant smoking — anywhere and everywhere by everybody, and the perfect mother worrying about her six year old “getting fat” are just a few of the issues that folks today would simply be mortified over.

And then there’s the sex.  Everyone is doing or trying to do everybody else.  While likely a little over done, the show does expose “the greatest generation’s” proclivity for extra marital dalliances — particularly in action-packed New York City when commerce and culture were seeping from every pore of the city.

Oh, and the music….I love me some nostalgia music, as I call it and Mad Men does not disappoint.  Here’s a few of my favorites from the first two seasons:

  Band of Gold, Don Cherry

  P.S., I Love You, Bobby Vinton

  Babylon (Written by Don McLean)

  Botcha Me, Rosemary Clooney  (ignore the drag queen)

  The Twist, Chubby Checker

  Fly Me to the Moon, Julie London

  Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Bob Dylan

  Theme from Summer Place, Percy Faith Orchestra

  Break It To Me Gently, Brenda Lee

  I’m Through With Love, Marilyn Monroe

Man, I just LOVE this stuff.  The songs, the era, the stories, and oh, the characters.  My favorite is Ad Agency owner Roger Sterling, played superbly (and oh so handsomely) by John Slattery.

Yeah buddy.

Anyway, even though the story of Mad Men takes place a couple of years before I was born, there is something oddly familiar about it all.  Even though things had changed (and not necessarily for the better) by the early 70s and my formative years, alot of what is portrayed in Mad Men was still happening.  While society continued to become more “open”, it also became much less tolerant of, and dare I say militant against, the obvious sexism and male dominance of everything in business and otherwise.  

Even through the bawdy behavior and pervasive deceptiveness, there’s still a wonderful innocence of a world before assassinations, marches in the streets and really, really bad clothes.  Watching Mad Men provides a glimpse into the end of an era…likely the most exciting time in recent U.S. history.  Post WWII society, drunk on money, sex and freedom. 

While you may be shocked by some of the behavior of these peers of our elders, I dare you not to have a few good laughs when you watch Mad Men and relish in the fact that yes, “you’ve come a long way, baby”.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2008 in Good Stuff, oldies, Reviews, TV

 

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Simon LeBon is 50?!?!

Yes, that’s right.  Today is Simon’s 50th birthday.  Can it be?

Hard to believe that the Duran, Duran front man is half a century old, no?  Here’s to the olden, golden days…

  Perfect Day, Duran Duran

Welcome to the AARP, Simon!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2008 in music legends, oldies

 

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Colette’s Corner: More Smoke

Part II in Colette’s homage to Smokey Robinson….

SMOKEY SINGS AND SIZZLES
 
In Part 1 of my tribute to the incomparable Smokey Robinson  focused on the many hits he wrote for such fellow Motown artists as The Temptations, the Marvelettes and Marvin Gaye.
But Smokey, an ebullient charmer and pop music Renaissance Man,  has always loved performing as much as he loves songwriting.  He began pulling together his own singing groups with friends while in high school.  (He attended Detroit’s Northern High, by the way, when my Uncle Sid was the vice principal — and had many future Motowners in his classes!) 
One of  Smokey’s  teen groups was called The Matadors.  The young Berry Gordy wrote a tune for them, “Got a Job,”  which did well. Then Gordy went on to form Motown Records with Robinson very much on the scene, and the rest is history. 
From the jump, Smokey was a singer, record producer and composer vital to Motown’s success.    The Matadors changed their name to The Miracles (Smokey’s first wife Claudette was an early member).  And with Smoke penning most of their tunes, with various collaborators, and crooning the leads in his sweetly unique and  soulful falsetto, the group  quickly cut Motown’s first million-seller, the 1960 doo-woppy classic,  “Shop Around.”  
No good footage of “Shop Around,” but here’s the golden oldie on disc:
 
  – “Shop Around”
 
Throughout the ’60s, Smokey and the Miracles put out hit after hit,  and kept on touring, while the tireless Robinson also produced and wrote for other Motown stars.   Here are some of the many Miracle classics — a bluesy wonder, which the Beatles covered, and a demonstration of the Smokey’s irresistible sex appeal:
      
   – “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”
 
Smokey could get down and funky, but he was also a master of the wounded-lover ballad, and his early performances bring to mind such soul forefathers as Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.  This smash hit was a heartbreaker classic, and Smokey can still sing the bejesus out of it.  Here’s the MIracles doing a lip-synched version, but smooooooth.  Dig those white suits:
 
 – “Tracks of My Tears”
 
Though he’s a ballad freak, Smokey loved putting out dance records too.    Here’s his delightful, uptempo follow-up to “Tracks of My Tears,”  with nifty lyrics and arrangement that riff off the sad clown/carnival imagery.  Terrific vocal performance too:
 
  — “Tears of a Clown
 
OMG –  beach movie idol Frankie Avalon on TV’s “Hullabaloo,”  introducing Smokey and his dance hit “Going to A-Go Go”  by singing “Don’t Mess With Bill,” and frugging with the dancers?  Yikes!   Sorry for the terrible miking on this one, but Smokey is selling the tune hard:
 
 
But here’s my favorite live 1960s ballad performance by Smokey & the Miracles, on an absolutely awesome “make out song,”    He’s in top form here:
 
   – “Ooh Baby Baby”
 
Sorry the clip is fuzzy, and ends abruptly, but how can I not share this jewel, a brief duet on the same song with Smokester’s lifelong friend, the Queen of Soul?  If only they’d recorded together!:
 
   – “Ooh Baby, Baby”
 
Smokey left the Miracles in 1972, eager to go solo.   Lovable and loyal guy that he is, he dedicated his debut solo album to the Miracles.   But he didn’t chart a  hit of his own until 1975′s  “Quiet Storm.”    Live clips of him singing that one, and his radiantly sensuous hits since then, are sadly hard to come by.  So we’ll have to look to the music videos Smokey made to promote these swoony delights, which layer in the use of synthesizers and multi-tracking seamlessly:
 
    — “One Heartbeat”
 
And hey, the guy loves the beach!   The video for another very intimate, flowy kind of Smokey love song:
 
    –  “Being With You”

 
I’ve been hunting for alive TV vid of Smoke and Aretha doing this great fave.   He still causes a frenzy these days when he closes his live shows with it:
 
   – “Just to See Her”
 
Though in his late 60s now, Smokey is still a wonderfully vital performer, and a deserved recipient of a Kennedy Center lifetime arts award.   I saw him in an outdoor concert this summer, with his ace band and backup singers.  His set lasted nearly two hours, with the ecstatic crowd singing along at his behest –  but him singing a lot better than we ever could!    Sure, the guy has had a little, shall we say, “work done” to keep that youthful glow.  But his talent and spirit are timeless!   Here he is, with Vince Vaughn, Whitney Wynonna  and Boyz 2 Men chiming in on his tunes.  As usual, Smokey is having a blast!:
 
                 
I’ll end with the disc version of a Miracles song that, of all the dozens of hits he’s forged, could be Smokey’s theme song.   For nearly half a century, the man has followed through on the lyrics’ beautiful pledge to his listeners:
 
             As we grow older no need to fear
        When you need me I’ll be here
        I’ll be beside you every step of the way 
        A heart that’s truthful & keeping you youthful with… 

      
        More love, more joy 
        Than age or time could ever destroy 
        My love will be so sound
        It would take about 100 lifetimes 
        To live it down, wear it down, tear it down
         
    –  “More Love” — Smokey Robinson and the Miracles  
 
 
 

Soulful Friday

Limping into the weekend…2,000 point drop in the stock market, work kickin’ my butt, gutters are clogged, and the country’s going to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

Thankfully, there’s a little soul for the soul.

  It’s All Wrong, But It’s Alright, Percy Sledge

 

  Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, Wilson Pickett

 

  Come in From the Cold,  Marc Broussard

 

  My Last Regret, Robert Cray

 

and a song from my youth….suddenly we’re back to 1976.

  A Real Mutha for Ya,  Johnny “Guitar” Watson

Hang in there, the weekend is almost here.  Next week HAS to be better.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in Soul, weekdays, wilson pickett

 

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That One

Country Music does make some good points now and then….a lot of “beer goggles” going on these days.

  Beer Goggles On, Neal McCoy

 
 

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Work is a Four Letter Word

Busy, busy.

I’ve been swamped and will continue to be for the next week or so.  Here’s the Music Maven Top Ten  “work” songs….to share my pain.

  Workin’ in a Coal Mine, Lee Dorsey

  Chain Gang,  Sam Cooke

  She Works Hard for the Money, Donna Summer

  Workin’ for a Livin’, Huey Lewis & The News

  Workin’ 9 to 5, Dolly Parton

  Workin’ Man Blues, Merle Haggard

  Workin’ Man Blues #2, Bob Dylan

  Five O’Clock World, The Vogues

  Workin’ Day & Night, Michael Jackson

  Work is a Four Letter Word, The Smiths

Happy Weekend…for some of us.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2008 in that's life, work

 

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Colette’s Corner: Where There’s Fire….There’s Smokey

Nah, not that Smokey, THIS Smokey…
 
The Great Smokey Robinson.  Singer.  Songwriter.  Producer.  Talent Extraordinairre.
Here’s Colette’s entertaining homage to William Robinson, Jr.:
It’s wonderful  to sing well.  It’s even more meaningful to write a great and enduring song.
Both talents were bestowed on young William “Smokey”  Robinson, long before he helped to start Motown Records in Detroit in the early 1960s, with his friend Berry Gordy.
Gordy had the business acumen; Smokey had the musical chops.  By the time he was in his early 20s, Smokey was writing, recording and arranging a stream of hit tunes for this landmark record company, which blended bluesy soulfulness with sleek arrangements and killer hooks.  He also was a terrific talent scout, cultivating the musical gifts of the kids he grew up with in  Motor City.
As an entertainer, Smokey’s still terrific — I saw him recently, and in his late 60s he’s not only still in great voice (one of the best pop falsettos ever) but he’s still sexy, romantic and full of joy.
But while I’ve found a lot of great performances on video of Smokey, with his hit-making crewT he Miracles and after he went solo,  Part I of this tribute considers some Smokey tunes especially wrote (and produced) for other Motown masters.
What makes Smokey’s songs so memorable?  The lyrics, though inevitably about boyfriend-girlfriend passions, are so clever that Bob Dylan once called Robinson one of his favorite poets, and  John Lennon and George Harrison also gave him props.

Smokey knows how to twist a phrase to make it fresh every one of his songs tells a compelling story, and there are indeed poetic images in a lot of his tunes,  along with real wit.   But it’s also the arrangements he worked up with the fabulous Funk Brothers (Motown’s brilliant house  musicians), including the miraculous James Jamerson on bass, that make the best of the tunes he produced instantly unforgettable.  Listen to the baselines – a symphony in themselves! And there’s a perfect layering of percussion, piano, vocals, guitar, bass and backup voices (augmented sometimes by horns and violins). 

But Smokey’s been a huge fan of many kinds of music his entire life — from opera to Cole Porter to modern jazz.  A grouchy Boomer like me wants to encourage this in  young artists:  listen, listen, listen to all the greats, and absorb!
 

 
So from the more than 1,000 tunes in Smokey’s songbag, I’m picking out some gems.   (Later,  I’ll play tribute to Smokey doing his own material, with and without the fab Miracles.)

 

Let’s start with the suave, magical Temptations, since Smokey wrote their break-through hits.      Here are some  rare live  versions (sometimes with lipsynching, which was what some people did on TV at the time) with the ultra-suave Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin singing leads.  Do check out the choreography, created by such legendary jazz-tappers as Cholly Atkins and Honi Coles.  It’s a total delight.
 
First comes “The Way You Do the Things You Do,”  with a lyric led by Eddie that’s full of charming similes (“You got a smile so bright/You know you could’ve been a candle….”)
   “The Way You Do the Things You Do”  — The Temptations  (rare live on a NY TV show)
 
Another Temps classic.  Picture a little blurry, but the guys look so great, and move so hot:
 
   “Get Ready” — The Temptations
 
If you ever go see the Temps, and some incarnation of them is still out there touring, this is the tune they turn into a huge audience sing-along.  And who doesn’t know “My Girl”??  The song is in our collective bloodstream.  David Ruffin does the lead honors this time:
 
   “My Girl” — The Temptations
 
The other “My Girl” rendition that brings a different vibe and some rough-edged soul to the song is this live version by the incomparable Otis Redding, the Love Man.  ‘Nuff said.
 
    “My Girl” — Otis Redding  (with his great band, The Bar-Keys, live in England)
 
As a kind of book-end to “My Girl,” Smokey also conconcocted “My Guy” for Motown solo artist,  Mary Wells.  With its jaunty beat, witty internal rhymes  (“Nothing you can buy can make me tell a lie to my guy”), and that ultra-cool vocal by Mary, another favorite of the Beatles, it was another big-selling classic:
 
  “My Guy” — Mary Wells
 
The Smoke (as pal Stevie Wonder calls him) also took a strong interest in shaping the musical style of The Marvelettes, who  toured with the Beatles on their U.S. tour.  Talk about sexy, these girls were HOT, and I prefer them to the Supremes (shown here briefly).  Here’s one of the treasures Smokey wrote for them, featuring the sultry Wanda Rogers on lead –  one of the great “hands off, ladies!” tunes of all time.  And love their moves:
 
    “Don’t Mess With Bill
 
Finally, we have another Motown genius, Marvin Gaye, who was like a brother to Smokey.   The ebullient Gaye started out at Motown as a session drummer, but that skill was soon eclipsed by his mounting fame as a smooth, sexy, utterly distinctive vocalist.   Marvin is one of my soul gods! And these are his early classics, tailor-made for him by his pal:
 
   “Ain’t That Peculiar” –  Marvin
 
Another from Marvelous Marvin — what can I say?  I’m a sucker for a guy who looks this cool in a tux! :
 

   – Take This Heart of Mine — Marvin
 
Finally, a little novelty from the Smokey annals, first done by the Contours and later the J. Geils Band.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek tune about being a gold-digger, the lyrics are a hoot:

 

    
   “First I Look at the Purse” — The Contours
 
 
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Posted by on October 1, 2008 in colette's corner, motown, music legends, oldies, Soul

 

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