Archive for Tongue and Groove

A short Pier

Okay, that was unkind. Italian actress Pier Angeli, born Anna Maria Pierangeli on this day in 1932, was five feet tall, maybe. Still, she’s gotten short shrift from The Industry; twice this century Hollywood has seen fit to have someone portray her, and both times they were showing the few months she spent as James Dean’s girlfriend. They met while she was filming The Silver Chalice in 1954, and she remembered the affair this way:

We used to go together to the California coast and stay there secretly in a cottage on a beach far away from prying eyes. We’d spend much of our time on the beach, sitting there or fooling around, just like college kids. We would talk about ourselves and our problems, about the movies and acting, about life and life after death. We had a complete understanding of each other. We were like Romeo and Juliet, together and inseparable. Sometimes on the beach we loved each other so much we just wanted to walk together into the sea holding hands because we knew then that we would always be together.

Then again, Pier married singer Vic Damone later than year, and Dean may have been a switch-hitter anyway.

Pier Angeli with The Silver Chalice

Pier Angeli with other works of art

Pier Angeli celebrates 1958

“Anema e core” means “Soul and heart,” more or less, though this 1950 song is not the one you likely know as “Heart and Soul.” Pier recorded the song in 1958 for an album simply called Italia.

And while I’d love to tell you she was celebrating her 86th birthday today, she never made it to forty: in the fall of 1971, she was found dead in her Beverly Hills home, victim of an accidental overdose of barbiturates.

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Every shot counts

There exists, somewhere in a box on the premises, a two-track mixdown (from a four-track master) of brother Paul trying to duplicate this organ riff on the family instrument. He was only partly successful, but you wouldn’t argue with his enthusiasm, inasmuch as he was only 18 and still weighed what he did as a high-school offensive lineman.

This is the riff in question:

John McElrath, who played this very riff for the Swingin’ Medallions in Greenwood, South Carolina in 1966, and at scores of public appearances thereafter, died last week at 77; he’d retired from touring, but the group is still active today.

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Originally, I figured that by her 30th birthday, Vanessa Hudgens would be a major star. It hasn’t quite happened that way; after High School Musical and various Disney Channel stuff, she seemed destined for greatness, but now I wonder. Certainly she’s worked hard enough all these years.

Vanessa Hudgens, teen starlet

Vanessa Hudgens surely can't drive like that

Vanessa Hudgens reveals the secret of smoother legs

As a singer, she did manage one gold single. “Sneakernight,” which died at #88 in 2008, wasn’t it:

Due out in August is this silly film:

So maybe her best career move is to the stage, where she’s done good work, most recently a Kennedy Center production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights this past spring:

And she’s still 29 for about six more months.


Larvae on stage

Eric Scheie passed this along, and, well, YouTube did not exist in 1963, but if it did, this song by Cut Worms would, I think, have been trending:

In terms of guitar noises, this splits the difference between Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” and Sleater-Kinney’s “Modern Girl.” But it kept pulling me back to 1963, and then I found this Carole King/Gerry Goffin cover:

Skeeter Davis, I think, would have been pleased with these Worms.

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Tube equipment

I remember hearing this on the radio in 1964 and wondering how the hell Pete Drake got those noises out of a steel guitar. It went something like this:

You play the notes on the guitar and it goes through the amplifier. I have a driver system so that you disconnect the speakers and the sound goes through the driver into a plastic tube. You put the tube in the side of your mouth then form the words with your mouth as you play them. You don’t actually say a word: The guitar is your vocal cords, and your mouth is the amplifier. It’s amplified by a microphone.

I admit, it wasn’t as much fun to watch on TV, where the secrets were given away, but the song, written by Buddy Killen and made into a hit by the Anita Kerr Singers under the pseudonym “The Little Dippers” circa 1959, does stay with you, as the title says: forever.

Drake, who died in 1988, had a gold record on his wall from exactly this tune.

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Without benefit of cast

Last time we looked in on Kira Kosarin — which was, um, yesterday — we snagged a leg shot and left it at that. After agonizing about it all night, I decided that this did her no justice. So here’s Kira, now that The Thundermans has wrapped, in a few different looks:

Kira Kosarin not quite head over heels

Kira Kosarin does a fashion layout

Kira Kosarin at the German version of the Kids' Choice Awards

Who knew there was a German version of the Kids’ Choice Awards?

Kira, all of 20 years old, also has made a record. To be honest, I don’t much like it, but your mileage may vary.

And really, not everyone’s first waxing is great.

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A moment on Earth

We have here a live version of Laleh’s “En Stund på Jorden,” which originally appeared on her 2013 album Colors:

Laleh Pourkarim, thirty-six, is a Swedish singer born in Iran in 1982. Which means that this is the perfect under-the-end-credits song for A Man Called Ove, previously mentioned here.


Stuck in 11383

A “lost” recording found:

On March 6, 1963, after a long day of recording, John Coltrane packed away his saxophones. Nearby, Jimmy Garrison put away his bass, Elvin Jones left his drum set, and McCoy Tyner closed the piano. The quartet had spent hours at Van Gelder Studios, a cathedral-like studio space run by legendary sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder. As they left, Van Gelder handed them a session tape — a seven-inch mono reel of everything that had gone down that day.

Fifty-five years later, the rest of us can finally hear it, too. On June 29, Impulse! will release Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album, which is made up of takes from that day.

Two of the tracks weren’t even given titles: “Untitled Original 11383,” presumably numbered by Van Gelder, leads off the set. It’s hard to imagine this not being a hit, but Impulse!, or somebody (possibly label head Bob Thiele) managed not to pull it off the shelf, and the original tapes were eventually destroyed. The only reason we have this album today is that Coltrane kept his mono copy, and Coltrane’s wife eventually found it.

Both Directions at Once is out on 6/29 from Verve, where most of Universal Music Group’s jazz titles live.

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Je m’appelle Barbara

Actually, her name was Monique Andrée Serf; she got “Barbara” from her grandmother in old Odessa. She was born 9 June 1930 in Paris, and went into hiding when the Germans came to town. Eventually she built a reputation as an interpreter of songs by Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens, but stardom eluded her until she began writing her own material.

Barbara in black, as usual

Barbara in black, as usual

Barbara in black, as usual

Cover of Barbara's 1990 album

I am at a loss to explain that last picture, the cover art from Barbara’s 1990 album Gauguin.

One of her early originals was “Dis, quand reviendras-tu?” (“Tell me, when are you coming back?”) from 1962:

Perhaps Barbara’s biggest hit was “L’aigle noir” (“The black eagle”) from 1970. I tend to think of it as a sequel to that earlier song:

She died in 1997 from a respiratory ailment.


Close-in orbit

Rebecca Black’s six-track EP RE/BL contained four songs we sort of knew — “Foolish” and “Heart Full of Scars,” both the original mix and the Crash Cove remix of “The Great Divide” — plus two we didn’t. By a considerable margin, this is the better of the two:

And to promote this single, if single it be, she did a brief interview with the BBC. And she has, reasonably enough, a bottle of water with her; as the Beeb will, the label on the bottle has been blurred beyond recognition.

Finally, we must mention The Four, a Fox TV music competition whose second season began last night. RB, singing NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” got a pass from all three judges, though the challenge round, in which she knocked out a take on Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” got her knocked out.

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A fast learner

In 1954, Dinah Washington cut a wondrous R&B reading of the jazz standard “Teach Me Tonight”; one might argue that Dinah’s disc is what made the song, published in 1953, a jazz standard in the first place. (The Recording Academy, sensibly, added it to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.)

Fifty years after Dinah did her thing, Amy Winehouse, all of twenty-one, would demonstrate how well she’d learned Dinah’s thing:

She’d be only 35 this fall, and God only knows what miracles she might have wrought on stage by now.

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Tomorrow, right on schedule

At first, I thought she was a relative of Brazilian organist Walter Wanderley, who came up with the zippy “Summer Samba” in 1966. But no: Wanderléa Charlup Boere Salim, seventy-two today, is a singer, and while she could do the bossa nova with the best of them, she hung around long enough to become an institution.

Wanderlea's first album, from 1963

Wanderlea on stage

Wanderlea takes it easy

Her biggest hit, “Ternura” (“Somehow it got to be tomorrow”), was blown up to motion-picture size (Juventude e Ternura, 1968). It’s lovely, but elsewhere they worked in her song “Foi assim” (“It is so”), which comes closer to being a favorite in these parts.

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Topic A

Miss A, a K-pop girl group that disbanded late last year, adhered rather strictly to the tropes of the genre: the attitude we used to call “sassy” (“Shut up, boy!”), members who differed in appearance just enough for you to learn their first names, and lots and lots of leg. Their first single, 2010’s “Bad Girl, Good Girl,” exemplified these eternal verities:

In case you happened to miss the gams in question, this was the cover art of their first album, A Class:

Cover art of A Class by Miss A

I mean, it’s not like you were expecting to see a small Mercedes-Benz here, right? You might even call it ambitious.


A yardstick for lunatics

So this shows up in my Twitter timeline:

It works for me. Not only did the song in question reach Number One for that week and that week only, but the lead singer wasn’t even a member of the band. It’s like it was designed for me.

Oh, and one member of the band, guitarist Ed King, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not for this. (Two words: “Lynyrd Skynyrd.”)

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Damn your love

This guy does something you might not have thought possible: he makes music videos from real-life tunes, starring Peanuts characters.

No, really. Here, for instance, is Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”:

He has a lot of these. Most recent: “2112” by Rush. No, really. It runs, um, 21 minutes and twelve seconds.

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Jain lightning

She was born Jeanne Galice in Toulouse, but the world knows her as Jain, a nominally French singer/songwriter who is perhaps better shelved under the vague term “world music,” mostly because she did a lot of that obligatory growing-up stuff a long way from France: Dubai, the Republic of the Congo, and then Abu Dhabi, before returning home and making a career out of all these decidedly unFrench sounds she’d heard.

Jain in concert in 2015

Still from Makeba by Jain

Jain strikes a slightly surreal pose

Jain stretches a bit

Jain’s first single, “Come,” aided by a largely surreal music video, made Number One in France, selling about a quarter-million copies, and made noises elsewhere in Europe; the follow-up, “Makeba,” an ode to Miriam Makeba, made more serious sounds and presented more wacky visuals. She began to sell records in Canada and the States. The deeply silly “Dynabeat” might have been my favorite pop tune of 2017.

Yesterday there appeared the not-especially-grammatical “Alright,” along with a loud-looking lyric video. As is Jain’s wont, it’s highly danceable and not enormously cerebral:

She doesn’t really sound like a Frenchwoman in her middle twenties, and maybe that’s the whole idea.


Thank you, Elmo Glick

You might think it was the first time ever “Stand By Me” was played at a wedding. Not so:

As “Stand By Me” is now teed-up to become the #1 wedding song in the English-speaking world, at least for a time, my wife actually chose it for our wedding almost 30 years ago. It is really one of the great songs, and should be ranked well higher than the 122nd place Rolling Stone Magazine gave it. I didn’t watch the royal wedding this morning but my breakfast was interrupted by my wife screaming at me to “come see this” as “Stand by Me” was sung.

“Elmo Glick” was a pseudonym used by producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller; they got half the publishing, and Ben E. King got the other half. Both “Glick” and King, if you ask me, owe a spiritual debt to J. W. Alexander and Sam Cooke, who wrote this purely gospel number before King came up with his own take:

Cooke had by then left the Soul Stirrers; the lead here is Johnnie Taylor, who would later ask who’s making love to your old lady.

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These eyes before

It would have been nice, I think, if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had bestirred itself to induct the Moody Blues while original flutist Ray Thomas was still alive — he died in January at seventy-six — but at least they’re there now, something rather a lot of us had been hoping for.

The night of 14 April, Graeme Edge (technically the one “original” member, who was with the Moodies from their founding), Justin Hayward and John Lodge (who came on board in 1966), and a handful of sidemen appeared at the Hall to perform “Nights in White Satin,” the stripped-down 45 version as opposed to the orchestrally-sweetened version on Days of Future Passed, though Edge did recite the Late Lament (“Breathe deep the gathering gloom”) at the beginning. Edge had written it, though Mike Pinder had recorded the original narration; Edge once quipped that Pinder, thanks to alcohol and nicotine, always sounded like a much older man.

Hayward, who wrote “Nights in White Satin,” has lost some, but by no means all, of his voice, and if he was at all going through the motions, he didn’t sound like it. And kudos to whatever keyboard man they hired to emulate Pinder’s Mellotron.


Stay just a little bit longer

And having basked in that fine, fine, superfine stuff by the Surfrajettes, my wandering attentions turned to the middle 1960s and the distinctly different Continental Co-Ets, a (1) surf/garage band from Fulda, Minnesota (2) made up of four — later five — high-school girls. The legendary IGL (“Iowa/Great Lakes”) label issued one Co-Ets single, the A-side of which was a facile Mean Girls kiss-off called “I Don’t Love You No More” which would have fit right into a 1965 Kinks set.

On the flip, though, was an instrumental called “Medley of Junk,” and you know most of it already:

And yes, it really runs 2:47.

The Co-Ets cut one more single, “Let’s Live for the Present,” which didn’t emerge from the vault until 1994; its B-side is a weirdly spectral cover of the standard “Ebb Tide,” slowed down to two-thirds Martin Denny speed.

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Little lady Surfrajettes

CoverTwo weeks ago, I said something about the Surfrajettes, closing with a mention of their three-song EP, obtained from Hi-Tide Records of Freehold, New Jersey, itself rather glee-inducing since (1) I have a friend — we go back almost two decades — in Freehold, New Jersey and (2) the band is from Toronto, which suggests more than local fame.

If $6 seems a tad on the high side for three songs totaling a little over six minutes, well, it’s not like I never put out two bucks for a single before. (Surf music tends to be short and sweet anyway: perhaps the definitive surf instrumental, “Pipeline” by the Chantays, checks in, per the label, at a mere 2:12.) And it’s a real, pressed CD with a proper label; none of this CD-R stuff.

For your listening and wiping-out pleasure, here’s a live version of track 1, “Cha Cha Heels.”

It wanders all the way out to 2:30 or so.


You won’t sleep through this

Perhaps the least likely track on Jeff Beck’s 2010 album Emotion & Commotion was a version of “Nessun dorma” from Turandot, in which the voice of the Unknown Prince is replaced by the cry of the Famous Guitarist. It went over well enough for Beck to add it to his live set:

No princess would dare resist.

(Via Adso of Melk.)


Beyond uptown

Way beyond. But still sorta funky, y’know?

Okay, it’s definitely off center, but truth be told, that don’t bother me at all.

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She does not shrink

This is one heck of a way to make your feature film debut:

Poster for American Violet, 2008

Nicole Beharie’s first role was deadly serious: she played a single mom in Texas whom the local district attorney was anxious to put away on drug charges, despite a complete lack of evidence against her. The film industry was put on notice: you need a fairly young African-American woman who can handle roles both fierce and frivolous, this is the name to know. If you saw 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic, you saw Nicole as Rachel, Jackie’s wife; if you watched Sleepy Hollow, sort of based on the old Washington Irving story, you saw Nicole as Abbie Mills, Sheriff’s Lieutenant.

Nicole Beharie is not quite up against a wall

Nicole Beharie against a stormy backdrop

Nicole Beharie against another stormy backdrop

We will not be responsible if you start dreaming about her.

And while she primarily studied drama at Julliard, she also can sing:

In that 2013 film, My Last Day Without You, she sings that song and four others.

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Simple, and not so simple

In an era where it’s generally regarded as mandatory to throw as much stuff into a music video as is humanly possible, singer/songwriter Kina Grannis comes up with an ultra-simple concept that nonetheless makes you wonder how the heck she did that:

Which is not to say she’s immune to gee-whiz techno tricks. Nine years ago, she put 288,000 jelly beans to work:

It took two years to complete all that animation.

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English singer Adele Laurie Blue Adkins has released three albums: 19, 21 and 25. You might think she’d have a new one out this year, but so far, nothing. (Adele’s 30th birthday is today; Brian Ibbott did a three-set Coverville cover story for her earlier this week.) Then again, she has said: “There will be no new music until it’s good enough and I’m ready.”

Nor is she overly concerned with her appearance: “I’ve always been a size 14 to 16. I don’t care about clothes, I’d rather spend my money on cigarettes and booze.” That said, once in a while she’ll dress up a bit:

Cover of Adele's Chasing Pavements single

Adele at the 2012 BRIT Awards

Adele at the 2013 Grammy Awards

And I’ve learned to trust her judgment. “Cold Shoulder,” a track from 19, was co-written by the reliable Sacha Skarbek, who’s assisted on big hits by James Blunt and Miley Cyrus, and was produced by the legendary Mark Ronson with more than a hint of his trademark uptown funk.

Somehow, “Cold Shoulder” is her lowest-charting single to date.


Nobody saw this coming

Brian J. put out some coin of the realm for Snapshot, the third album by country singer Sylvia, perhaps mostly forgotten these days, though her 1982 single “Nobody,” which crossed over to the pop charts, gets occasional airplay now and then. Of course, Brian remembered her. From 2013:

If “pretty woman on the cover” were the only criterion, though, I’d own a lot more Sylvia albums today.

Her most recent is It’s All in the Family, from, um, 2016. And it was her ability to sound a bit poppy, I suspect, that suggested she should do one of those fancy-schmancy music videos like they used to have on the MTV; her “The Matador” was the first video on CMT that wasn’t just the band playing in front of three cameras. It goes like this:

Yeah, it’s pure 1981. You’ll get over it.

And from 2016, here’s “Do Not Cry For Me”:

Not that you’d notice, but she’s now 61 years old.

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Perhaps they should wear a warning

While it’s too early to say that surf music is rapidly sweeping through blogdom, I’m a firm believer in “When in doubt, predict that the trend will continue.” Aided and abetted by some mysterious algorithm deep within the halls of YouTube, I’m happy to present Toronto’s very own Surfrajettes, playing a song you probably associate with Britney Spears:

The band has released a three-song EP on the Hi-Tide label. I’ll report on it when it gets here.


Sand in your shoes

The Friar turned up an interesting surf version of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and if perhaps it might have benefited from more cowbell, it was still more than satisfactorily gnarly. Having asserted once or twice that almost any song can be rendered surfily, I bring you a cover of “I’m Not in Love” by UK surf act Don’s Mobile Barbers:

There exists a compilation album called Beyond the Sea: The Surf Instrumental Bands of the World Fearlessly Extend Their Repertoire, which includes that 10cc tune plus several less likely melodies, including this take on Serge Gainsbourg’s “Je t’aime Moi Non Plus” by the redoubtable Kahuna Kawentzman:

Other volumes in this series followed, I am told.

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Would that we could wake him

Kurt Hugo Schneider, three years ago, produced a “360 Video” (VR bits via Google Jump) for Avicii:

Shot in a single afternoon, said Schneider.

Now Avicii is gone, and Schneider pays tribute with this lovely acoustic version of “Wake Me Up”:

Schneider, incidentally, is amazingly prolific; whoever was maintaining his Wikipedia page gave up in late 2015.


Chants occurrence

Something old is something new again:

The estate of George Harrison has launched a new record label, HariSongs, that will focus on Indian classical and world music. The label was launched in partnership with Craft Recordings and will cull releases from the Harrison family archives, including the former Beatle’s collaborations with some of the most famous Indian musicians.

The label’s first two projects will be reissues of two recently out-of-print records: Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan’s In Concert 1972 and Shankar’s collaboration with Harrison, Chants of India. Both albums are available to stream and download as of Friday, April 27th.

Chants of India originally arrived in 1997 via Angel Records. Harrison produced the album, which Shankar recorded in Madras, India and Henley-on-Thames in the United Kingdom. The project found Shankar drawing inspiration from sacred Sanskrit texts, including the Vedas and Upanishads. The audio for this reissue was sourced and remastered from the original digital master tapes.

Also from 1997, this brief clip featuring both Shankar and Harrison explaining what was going on with Chants of India:

Both recordings, in digital format only, are available from