Prince never did release a studio version of “Nothing Compares 2 U”; in 1985, The Family cut the song under Prince’s supervision — Prince, in fact, provided most of the instrumentation himself — and Sinead O’Connor got the hit in 1990. Prince occasionally would perform the song live, though, and his estate turned up a 1984 rehearsal tape, live audio synced with various bits of video, and released it this past week.
I think it reflects her eclectic mixture of genetic and cultural heritage, which has endowed her with a secular sort of mysticism that’s sometimes impenetrable, but definitely appealing.
Ancient Heart, the album who made her world-(semi)-famous, never got into the American Top 50, and subsequent recordings drew fewer buyers. Still, it was a gem. “Twist” was her second single; the first, “Good Tradition,” sounds like it might be happier if you could figure out what the heck she was talking about:
From her 2016 album Closer to the People, the song “The Way You Move”:
The building was designated a city landmark in 1966 and was sold in 2016 to a group of investors. It stopped taking new bookings in 2011 but a small group of long-term residents are still living on the upper floors while the renovation work continues.
Dylan’s door was the priciest of the lot; in second place, at $85k, was a room where Leonard Cohen tried just a little bit harder for Janis Joplin.
We were talking Favorite Songs, and if we’d had more time, I’d surely have gotten to this one:
Dusty Day, a fundraiser for the Royal Marsden, the world’s first hospital (1851!) dedicated to the study and treatment of cancer, is held every spring. This year it’s Sunday, 15 April, which would have been the day before Dusty’s 79th birthday.
Mandy Moore, thirty-four today, has been around seemingly forever without coming close to superstar status, starting her film career as the voice of a bear cub in Dr. Dolittle 2, occasionally veering off into savage satire like Saved! but always returning to the animated mothership; if you saw anything related to Tangled, you heard Mandy as Rapunzel.
“[The record company] was like, ‘Here are your songs.’ I was like, ‘Hi, I’m 14. I’ll do anything.’ Those albums are why I’m here today, but goddamn, I should give a refund to anyone who bought my first record.”
And because I needed an excuse, here is your background music: “Bumble Boogie” by the pseudonymous B. Bumble and the Stingers, from those hyperactive days of 1961.
The actual Stingers were studio musicians at a Los Angeles record label and weren’t able to tour to support the hit, and a group of teens from Ada By God Oklahoma was anointed as the touring version of the band. “Bumble” himself was guitarist R. C. Gamble, later professor of economics at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.
This très French number has an ancient American ancestor, very popular on the vaudeville circuit at the end of the century — the nineteenth century, that is. Perhaps the best-known version of this comic monologue came from Nat M. Wills (1873-1917), who read it off into a Victor Talking Machine in 1908. I first heard it on the Dr. Demento Show just about this date in 1976.
The good Doctor apparently last played this record in the summer of 2014.
Says the Wikipedia scribe: “In mid-1958, at age 15, Hendrix acquired his first acoustic guitar, for $5.”
Did you ever ponder what Jimi Hendrix would have sounded like, as the young folks say, unplugged? Apparently there exists about seven minutes of footage of Hendrix doing Hendrix on an acoustic guitar, and, well, it’s Hendrix, and that’s about all you need to know. Quality is, all things considered, not bad at all.
There’s a properly electrified version of “Hear My Train a-Comin'” on the new Both Sides of the Sky compilation, but, simple 12-bar blues that it is, it works just as well without an amp in sight.
Zuhal Olcay is close to being a household word in her native Turkey. In the middle 1970s, she was a highly regarded stage actress; starting in 1983, she appeared in about three dozen films; she released her first record album (Küçük Bir Öykü Bu — “A Little Story”) in 1989. The singing has gotten her in trouble, as we shall see.
Turkish singer and actress Zuhal Olcay has been sentenced to 10 months in jail for “insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” finalizing an indictment approved by the 46th Criminal Court of Peace.
A lawsuit was filed against Olcay for “insulting” Erdoğan during a concert last year, with the prosecutor seeking a four-year prison sentence for the singer.
The indictment prepared by the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office said a citizen told the police that Olcay had made an insulting hand gesture about Erdoğan during a concert in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul on Aug. 5, 2016. An investigation was subsequently launched and footage from the concert was examined, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Dec. 12, 2017.
Olcay was also accused of revising lyrics to the song “Boş Vermişim Dünyayı” (I Let Go of the World) to criticize Erdoğan, devising a hand-gesture to accompany the melody. According to the footage, the revised lyrics say: “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.”
The maximum sentence for insulting the President is, um, four years.
Nor is this the first time she’s run afoul of the Turkish authorities; six years ago she was fined TL10,620 ($2708) for “insulting a public servant.”
Said Turkish authorities have apparently sent all existing footage of “Boş Vermişim Dünyayı” down the memory hole. But we have to hear her sing, so here’s an “unplugged” version of “Eksik Bir Şey” (“One thing missing”):
It’s been 55 years since the Beatles’ Please Please Me album, and like most 1963 Beatles tracks, it went largely unnoticed in the States during 1963. By now, though, with the canonical British albums mostly supplanting the weird American hybrids, everyone pretty much accepts PPM as the first Fab Four long-play. (Vee-Jay’s Introducing the Beatles, out the first week of 1964, sold about 1.3 million copies before the small Chicago label’s license expired; nobody really knows how many copies are out there, since Introducing… was bootlegged at Prohibition-era levels. My own copy is bogus.)
Even after more than half a century, the savage intensity of “Twist and Shout” is still exciting. The simple three-chord riff (the same used in the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” and Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba”) isn’t anything special, and the Isley Brothers’ version had only reached No. 17 on the U.S. charts in 1962. Compare that version to what the Beatles recorded in 1963, and the difference is remarkable, mainly because of the raw sound of Lennon’s voice.
We will stipulate that the Isleys’ version is rather low in ferocity by comparison. But at least the Beatles worked from the arrangement George “Teacho” Wiltshire bestowed upon the Isleys, and neither of them paid any attention to the original version by the Top Notes, waxed in New York at Atlantic Studios with some excellent studio pros and production by a pre-Wall of Sound Phil Spector. You don’t want to imagine John Lennon doing this:
Bert Berns, who wrote the damn song, was reportedly annoyed by this version, which may be how the brothers Isley wound up recording it in the first place.
I left him a note regarding the one piece of Torke’s that I knew: his five-part suite Color Music, orchestral works derived from his synesthesia. I resolved to hear Three Manhattan Bridges, and, lucky me, not only was it easily to be had, but the pianist was Joyce Yang, who’d played that day for Roger.
A brief (four minutes) introduction with Yang, Albany Symphony Orchestra music director David Alan Miller, and the composer himself, may give you an idea of what Bridges is all about:
All three movements can be had from YouTube; a trip to the iTunes Store brought me the complete work plus Torke’s Winter’s Tale from 2014.
Incidentally, Joyce Yang was just here; she appeared with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in early March, knocking out a trusty warhorse: Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. Also on the program: Beethoven’s Eroica and Mason Bates’ modern-day mashup of classical and EDM, Mothership.
Under no circumstances was I expecting a new single by the Temptations, this being 2018 and all. Yet here it is:
Baritone Otis Williams has been with the group since Day One; tenor Ron Dyson has been on hand since the 1980s; the rest could be called the New Guys. And this live track from early this year makes it clear that not a heck of a lot has changed over the years:
I’m guessing they can go on so long as Williams can, since he owns the rights to the Temptations name. (He’s 76.)
Taimane translates to diamond from Samoan and perfectly reflects the different facets of her nature. Whether delicately finger-picking through Bach or radically ripping through Led Zeppelin, Taimane has the ability to morph genres — from classical to rock to flamenco — and stretch her instrument far beyond the familiar melodies of Hawai’i, where she grew up. When Don Ho caught wind of the talented teen, he invited her to join him as part of his venerable variety show at the Waikiki Beachcomber, further fueling Taimane’s desire to perform for and connect with audiences. In addition to performing her own distinctive versions of well-known pieces, Taimane weaves in original compositions that are as far ranging as her musical tastes. With the fierceness of a rocker, and the grace of a dancer, Taimane and her music are wowing ever-larger audiences. She lights up rooms wherever she goes, sparkling like the diamond that she is.
Don Ho is eleven years gone, suggesting that the “talented teen” is now thirtyish. Not that it matters. Thanks to the kind folks at Playing for Change, Taimane here rips through an original number called “Pluto — King of the Underworld”:
Sloan Wilson’s novel A Summer Place came out in 1958; it became a movie in 1959, written and directed by Delmer Daves. IMDb sums it up tersely: “A self-made businessman rekindles a romance with a former flame while their two teenage children begin a romance of their own with drastic consequences for both couples.” Molly and Johnny (Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue) were the teens in question, and Max Steiner, who scored the film, wrote a brief theme for the two of them.
And that theme, recorded by Percy Faith and a band of studio pros in late ’59, became the single biggest hit of 1960, spending nine weeks at #1:
I love this little bit of orchestral fluff unreservedly; during the 1980s I actually pestered a record-company exec on CompuServe after hearing that they might include it in an upcoming compilation. (Which they did.)
Steiner’s main-title theme, inevitably, was forgotten. This suite from the soundtrack leads off with that theme. And if it seems a bit odd to you that a movie theme, and a secondary movie theme at that, would long outlast the movie itself, well, how many of you have seen Unchained lately?
In 1965, I heard Johnny Nash for the first time. This was seven years before his ginormous reggae-based hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” but by 1965 Nash had already put out more than thirty singles over a nine-year period, few of which made any kind of chart noise. “Let’s Move and Groove (Together)” went nowhere at Top 40 — well, to #88, which if not nowhere is certainly nowhere-adjacent — but it climbed all the way to #4 on Billboard’s recently revived R&B chart. A local Top 40 outlet deemed their library copy superfluous, and somehow it ended up with me. It’s still a great song, even if there isn’t even the faintest whiff of reggae in those grooves.
South Africa, that is. Folk singer Josef Marais was born in 1905 near Sir Lowry’s Pass, about 60 km from Cape Town; he put out tons of records, many of them with Rosa de Miranda, and more than a few were covered by European and North American artists.
In 1952, Frankie Laine and Doris Day teamed up on Marais’ “Sugarbush,” which appears to be a term of endearment:
Somehow I had this on an original Columbia 45. Brother Paul played it once and pronounced it meh. He then flipped it over, found “How Lovely Cooks the Meat,” and went apoplectic:
This is pretty true to the Marais and Miranda original [this recording is a late-Fifties remake], but this fact did not impress my aggrieved sibling, who demanded to know, among other things, what sort of meat was involved, why anyone would sing about it, and since when can Doris Day cook? In answer to the latter, I snatched up a photo of Doris, probably from Pillow Talk, and said “Who the hell cares if she can cook?” It took him several years to fail to forget this incident.
You have to figure that a riff this gigantic would last at least a decade, and so it did. A British dance act called 5000 Volts put it to good use in 1975:
The Volts had been previously known as Airbus and had sold a fair number of records on the Continent, but went nowhere at home until Philips, their label pretty much everywhere, decided that the Airbus single “Bye Love” ought to be flipped over and its B-side promoted instead. “I’m On Fire,” sung by Tina Charles, even got some traction in the States, peaking at #26. Charles went on to a solo career; she and another original Volt, Martin Jay, reunited for a 5000 Volts album in 2012 called, um, Reunited.
[Zooey] Deschanel wrote most of these songs, and they fit into a mostly-forgotten segment of the pop spectrum: wedged between Shelby Flint and Norma Tanega. (“Black Hole,” to me, sounds like a long-lost sequel to “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog.”)
I didn’t miss too many songs from 1966 that made it all the way up to #22 in Billboard.
Tanega was from Vallejo, California. She began as a painter, got her MFA degree, and would eventually cut four singles and an LP for Bob Crewe’s New Voice label, also the home of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Only the second single, “A Street That Rhymes at Six A.M.” (if you like off-center titles), made any chart noise:
Shortly afterwards, she traveled to England, where she met Dusty Springfield; after lots of back-and-forth communications, she and Dusty wound up as a couple, and Dusty recorded some of Norma’s songs. An example:
Patrick Williams wrote tons of TV and movie music, including the theme song to The Bob Newhart Show, which ran for six seasons on CBS in the 1970s. As the years progressed, Williams regularly updated his 59 seconds of the opening-title sequence, and each season the theme got just a trifle funkier, to the extent that anything that makes you think of Bob Newhart can be said to be funky. By season six, one lousy minute just wasn’t enough.
Somehow I managed to miss it, but in 1978, Newhart’s last year as Dr. Bob Hartley, Williams and his orchestra recorded an album called Theme, and side two led off with a six-minute version, which turned out to be titled “Home to Emily.” Manning the electric piano is the reliable Sonny Burke. Here we go:
You half expect to see Marcia Wallace and Peter Bonerz standing by the elevator.
The gayageum or kayagum is a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument, with 12 strings, though some more recent variants have 21 or other number of strings. It is probably the best known traditional Korean musical instrument. It is related to other Asian instruments, including the Chinese guzheng, the Japanese koto, the Mongolian yatga, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. When played, the sound varies between traditional Eurasian stringed instruments and the Appalachian banjo.
Here, Luna Lee, at the 21-string (I think) gayageum, performs a classic folk song from the faraway land of Tejas:
There exists something called LMMS, and this is its core functionality:
Compose music on Windows, Linux and macOS
Sequence, compose, mix and automate songs in one simple interface
Note playback via MIDI or typing keyboard
Consolidate instrument tracks using Beat+Bassline Editor
Fine tune patterns, notes, chords and melodies using Piano Roll Editor
Full user-defined track-based automation and computer-controlled automation sources
Import of MIDI files and Hydrogen project files
I understood about half of that, maybe. And it doesn’t do a thing for the visuals if you’re uploading it to YouTube or some such place. Still, someone with actual talent — not me — can make wondrous noises with it.
I found this one last night:
This chap might be a third my age; most of the 40 or so tracks I’ve acquired from him qualify as good “production music,” the sort of stuff you find in your better movie trailers before the actual musical score is completed. “Denouement” here is totally different, and totally, well, wondrous.
It’s almost, but not quite, a tongue-twister of a name: Tinashe Jorgensen Kachingwe. The first name, you might think, would be quite enough; early on, she decided she agreed with you. In 2007, at the ripe old age of fourteen, Tinashe and some friends formed a singing group called The Stunners, who put out a series of heavily adolescent singles like “Spin the Bottle”:
The Stunners broke up in 2011, and Tinashe decided she could do this on her own. Six years ago this week she put out a “mixtape,” recorded in her home studio; she wrote all but one song, and brought in production assistance on some of them. Even after she’d gotten a record deal (with RCA), she continued with the mixtape format. And somehow in her apparently copious free time she found time to make her name in animation: she did a series of Holly Hobbie features for Nickelodeon, and at nine, she was the motion-capture model for “Hero Girl” Nona Gaye in The Polar Express.
That first mixtape, In Case We Die, featured a romantic number called “This Feeling”:
Her album Joyride, her third, is due this year; one track (“No Drama”) has been released so far. She’s twenty-five years old today.
The two most transcendent minutes of Kill Bill, Vol. 1:
“Woo Hoo” originated in Richmond, Virginia, where Boo Walker and the Rockets were playing some fierce rockabilly licks, mostly improvised by the band. In 1959, renamed “The Rock-A-Teens,” they auditioned for George McGraw of local label Duran Records, which issued “Woo Hoo,” a tune credited to McGraw. Roulette picked it up for national distribution and got it to #16; an album followed, but the group was not long for this world.
Quentin Tarantino said that he’d first heard the 188.8.131.52’s on CD in a clothing store in Tokyo, and was sufficiently smitten — and sufficiently rushed — to offer to buy the store’s copy of the disc. He was turned down. He upped his offer to twice the retail price, and left with the disc in hand. The scene in the House of Blue Leaves features three songs by the 184.108.40.206’s, though only “Woo Hoo” appears on the Kill Bill, Vol. 1 soundtrack album. Perhaps in deference to Tarantino’s known, um, preferences, the three women perform without shoes.