Archive for Tongue and Groove

Still Miss Dynamite

Brenda Lee’s first record, in 1956, was a cover of the Hank Williams and/or Moon Mullican standard “Jambalaya”:

The label on Decca 30050 bills her as “Little” Brenda Lee, and in parentheses: “9 Years Old.” Um, no. She was already 11 when this track was cut.

Then again, they say that a lack of height contributes to the appearance of youth, and Brenda Mae Tarpley, born on this date in 1944, never climbed above about four foot nine. In 1957, she cut a tune called “Dynamite,” and she was Little Miss Dynamite thereafter. And this being December, a radio station near you is playing this 1958 recording:

To this day, this site gets visits from people wanting an explanation of “the new old-fashioned way.”

Brenda Lee, teenager

Brenda Lee, long since grown up

Brenda Lee, no longer a teenager

And a 1966 single of hers got an unexpected shout-out in 1973 — in a Dutch progressive-rock number, no less — and remains part of her set list to this day, her 74th birthday.

Brenda Lee has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. She is the only woman so honored.

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Heck, yeah

Now and then, I go through the work box and try to organize the 8300 or so tracks located thereupon, and occasionally this effort produces a question. This time it was “How the hell did I get so many Ingrid Michaelson songs?” They show up in the iTunes “Purchased” folder, so I must have bought them at some point. So I decided I should look up the lady in question, just to see if I could figure out why. I did learn that she has a degree in theater from Binghamton University, and sang with the school’s a cappella group. And she has two RIAA-certified platinum singles despite never charting higher than #37 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Ingrid Michaelson is indeed a woman in music

Ingrid Michaelson is indeed a woman

Ingrid Michaelson in a promotional tee

This latter garment was issued in 2016 to promote a single:

Which I didn’t have, so I guess I’ll have to go buy it.

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Terrors of Colorado Boulevard

Francis W. Porretto has apparently been thumbing through the old 45s once more, and briefly he settled on the genre of Car Songs, which was dominated by exactly two acts:

Car and Driving songs: The Beach Boys had hits with “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and “My 409,” while Jan and Dean scored with “Dead Man’s Curve.”

I thought at first that I should make a fuss, what with the song about the Little Old Lady being properly a Jan and Dean title — but this perhaps would have been unfair, inasmuch as while the J&D single (Liberty 55704, if you’re keeping score) had crested at Number Three, the Beach Boys did a creditable live version of the song on their late-summer concert LP, which topped the album charts.

Both organizations also put out versions of “Little Deuce Coupe,” which song has provided me with sexual euphemisms (“She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored”) and a glossary of Californisms (“I got the pink slip, daddy” is “What’s more, it’s paid for“).

But “Little Old Lady” introduced a twist on the California milieu: while anyone who grew up within the broadcast range of Los Angeles stations understood the reference to Pasadena, that leaves only the rest of the world to puzzle over it. The Italians, for one, were not having any of that:

Italian 45 sleeve for Old Ladies Seldom Power Shift

None of this quite explains Pontiac Grand Prix owners Patience Proper and Prudence Prim, members of the Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association, which outros with Jan’s “Go, granny, go” refrain.

Oh, and on Beach Boys’ Party! there’s a cover of the Regents’ “Barbara Ann.” Which Beach Boy sings lead? None of them. That’s Dean Torrance (of Jan and) up front. Now how often is a hit song sung by someone who’s not actually a member of the group? At least once more.

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A question of temperature

And nothing more, dammit:

Zooey? M.? Well done.

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Meanwhile in Jakarta

It’s not that we’ve never written about an Indonesian pop star before. In fact, we have; but it’s not easy to climb onto the radar here, awash as we are in pop stars from all over the place.

Sheryl Sheinafia Tjokro was born on this date in 1996, and was by all accounts a fairly accomplished musician in her teens. Blessed with an abundance of Teh Cute, she found herself in demand for TV and film; her most recent acting role was in The Underdogs (2017), a tale of “4 friends who tried to become famous by being Youtubers.” Like that ever works.

Sheryl Sheinafia and her guitar

Sheryl Sheinafia sitting on the stairs

Sheryl Sheinafia goes totally orange

Perhaps the high point in Sheryl Sheinafia’s life up to now was meeting John Mayer:

And I am quite fond of her 2017 single “Sweet Talk,” the video for which looks for all the world like they shot it on a smartphone:

Inevitably, this had to happen:

“Why Georgia,” indeed.

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A bit on the small side

Back at the beginning of the decade, Chris Heron was writing pony-inspired stuff with titles like “Scootaloo’s Dream” and “Fluttershy’s Garden.” (They’re up on YouTube still, albeit unlisted.) His particular strength, it seems to me, has always been quiet, reflective, but not necessarily ambient music; he’s now billing himself as a film/videogame composer, and that’s as good a niche for him as anything else. [This link has embedded audio, but it’s really gorgeous embedded audio.]

Heron’s most recent release is a six-track EP titled Masks.


Doo-bie doo-doo

Frank Sinatra got an actual #1 hit with “Strangers in the Night”:

Strangers in the Night on a Reprise 45

Says on the label “From the Universal-International Film A Man Could Get Killed,” and so it is. But it had a wholly different title in the film:

Whatever the title, the Chairman didn’t actually like the song: “a piece of shit” and “the worst fucking song that I have ever heard,” he said.


The song disdains the name

A couple of years ago, I put together a twin-spin of two records that were in fact the same song: After the Fire’s version of Falco’s “Der Kommissar,” and Laura Branigan’s “Deep in the Dark” — identical melodies, utterly different lyrics. Nothing wrong with that so long as everyone who’s supposed to get paid gets paid.

Sometimes it goes beyond that. Tommy Hunt, on his own after a stint with the Flamingos (“I Only Have Eyes For You”) cut this lovely little number for Scepter, under the direction of producer Luther Dixon; it stayed in the vault for many years, finally emerging as a classic of what the Brits call “Northern Soul.”

It was, in fact, a Northern Soul compilation that landed that recording on my shelf. And about half a bar into it, I said to myself, “Self, you already have this, don’t you?”

Well, sort of:

Apart from that organ riff, it’s the same instrumental background, under the direction of producer Luther Dixon for Wand, a Scepter subsidiary. As a Chuck Jackson hit, it reached #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1962.

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Goody, goody gumdrops

Be it resolved:

I am not in a position to evaluate this claim. Fortunately, we have the 1910 Fruitgum Company to take it on:

Poor old Mr. Jensen was not available for comment.

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One of our finer pickers

It’s a measure of something that roughly half the online tributes to the late, great Roy Clark will toss in a reference to Charles Aznavour’s “Hier encore,” known to us Statesiders as “Yesterday, When I Was Young,” somehow a #19 pop hit for Roy in 1969. But Aznavour’s been gone himself for only six weeks or so, and the word “overkill” keeps flashing in front of my eyes. So we’ll move up a year or so, to Roy’s 1970 album I Never Picked Cotton — and what kind of cotton-picking title, as Brian Davis might say, is that? — and a couple of singles, neither of which were pop hits. (The higher-charting of the two stopped at #90.)

Both of those tunes were irresistibly jaunty, enough to pull your mind away from that Aznavourian wallow.

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And not a Z between them

In the P. T. Barnum sort-of-biopic The Greatest Showman, Zac Efron and Zendaya duetted on “Rewrite the Stars,” a new love song loosely based on all the old love songs; Zac’s character is singing to Zendaya’s that somehow, some way, they were supposed to be together.

Matt Bloyd and Rebecca Black have one common experience: they were both Artists on Fox’s The Four, and after winning the right to continue, they were defeated in a Challenge Round. Is that enough for them to sing “Rewrite the Stars”?

The answer may not be a Z, but it’s definitely a Y.


Hobson’s pick

“Yes or Yes” was released on Monday by the Korean girl group Twice; in 48 hours it scored about 36 million YouTube views. It’s the lead single from a seven-track EP, the group’s seventh extended-play effort.

We bring you this in case you thought we’d only mention Twice once.

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Swiftly replaced

Now that Taylor Swift has graduated to the ranks of Big and Powerful Media Presence, there’s an opening for a tuneful youngster, and I can see that opening being filled by Canadian singer Jadyn Rylee, who is, I think, just about twelve. She sounds like this:

This song resets several tropes in purely Canadian terms: Tofino Beach on Vancouver Island is one of the few places in the Great White North where palm trees will actually grow. and the Dempster Highway starts halfway up the Yukon Territory on the way to the Arctic Circle.

Then again, Taylor Swift wouldn’t have covered a Metallica song:

That’s Sina, whom we’ve mentioned before, on the drums; this track and two others by Jadyn appear on last fall’s Your Song Book compilation.

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Front stabbers

In 1972, the O’Jays told us about the Back Stabbers, who “smile in your face, all the time they want to take your place.”

Today, the O’Jays tell us that you can get stabbed from other directions as well:

The Gamble/Huff machine long having faded into history, this song was written by Angelo Morris and R&B legend Betty Wright. The Last Word album is due in February.

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Happiness is a new turntable

Timed to appear for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ White Album, here’s a White Turntable:

Turntable from The Beatles Store in Japan

Five hundred of them, each individually numbered (of course). Price is quoted in yen; right now it’s up over $2000.


For all you Luvvers out there

Nineteen sixty-four, and we’re watching Ready Steady Go:

“Shout,” the single, was credited to Lulu and the Luvvers, and thereafter no one referred to the wee Scottish lass as Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie. (Even “wee” was at least slightly arguable; I remember at least one set of liner notes claiming she was 5’2″ or so, which was a stretch by an inch, or perhaps by 2.54 cm.) The Luvvers were an actual band, but they had little reason to go on being an actual band after Lulu went solo and changed labels.

Lulu resplendent in green

Lulu after giving up her bangs

Lulu on British TV in 2018

This last photo dates from March. March 2018. (Today, she turns 70.)

“Faith in You” was the lead single from Making Life Rhyme, the 2015 album that brought Lulu back to Decca Records, fifty-one years after her debut.

Roger Green, whose sense of chronology is even more highly developed than mine, has a bio and a bunch of song links in this week’s Music Throwback.

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He did the mash

The plumbers were summoned to Surlywood this week, there being truly damp stuff accumulating in normally dry areas of the bathroom. Some of this Brian J. tale seemed relevant:

Now, I have a small auger that fits on my drill and has a couple feet of cable in it, but it’s a long way to go to the south side of the house, so we called for a plumber to come out and run a real auger into the plumbing.

I have thought about getting a real auger, at least a real consumer auger, but they run hundreds of dollars. When I was in college, the legendary Swedish mechanic (who shamed me into reading literature for fun) owned one, so my father could borrow it when he had a clog. But it’s hundreds of dollars in expense that might not pay out if I don’t get enough clogged drains (or have enough friends to borrow it from my while it clutters up a part of my garage).

The combination of “Brian” and “auger” resounded inside my head, and eventually the resonances turned themselves into this:

“Happiness Is Just Around the Bend” turned up on a 1973 album by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express; the Main Ingredient, led in those days by Cuba Gooding, turned Auger’s jazz-rock into something funkier for ’74.

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Everybody said it was a shame

It’s a traditional, albeit hazardous, food of southern Appalachia:

The leaves and stems of very young plants can both be eaten, but must be cooked, usually boiled three times in fresh water each time. The leaves have a taste similar to spinach; the stems taste similar to asparagus. To prepare stems, harvest young stalks prior to chambered pith formation, carefully peel the purple skin away, then chop the stalk up and fry in meal like okra. Traditionally, poke leaves are boiled, drained, boiled again, then fatback is added and cooked some more to add flavor. Poisonings occur from failure to drain the water from the leaves at least once. Preferably they should be boiled, drained, and water replaced two or more times.

Still, you’re not eating this stuff unless that’s all you can get. Tony Joe White told us so:

Recorded in 1968, “Polk Salad Annie” took the better part of a year to catch on: it topped out at #8 in 1969. Singers began combing through White’s catalogue for possible covers, and arguably Brook Benton had the greatest success:

And I’m not quite sure which is weirder: the fact that White wrote a song called “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Babies,” or that he got Waylon Jennings to sing with him on it.

And Tony Joe White hung in there until the age of seventy-five. I’m guessing that a childhood diet of pokeweed was not at all a factor.

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Question marked

“Ever since I first heard that song,” says Francis W. Porretto, “I’ve wondered: ‘Why ninety-six tears? What would have happened on Tear #97?’ It appears we’ll never know.”

I’ve always figured that “96” was meant to stand in for some otherwise-indescribable number. It is a finite number, though, so it’s possible to go higher.

A lot higher.

You may remember Dickey Lee for a teenage death song called “Patches,” about a desperate girl who throws herself in the dirty old river that flows by the coalyard in Old Shantytown.

Or, if you should so desire, you can split the difference.

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Have a Ko Ko and a smile

You might not think this remake of a 1966 Pakistani pop tune was all that scandalous.

But you would be wrong:

Last week the hugely popular live music TV show Coke Studio reworked a beloved classic “Ko Ko Korina,” considered the first true pop song in Pakistan.

The video was posted on YouTube and it was at that point we all found out how angry this had made people. Rage usually reserved only for religion, politics and cricket came down upon the Ko Ko Korina cover — with a vengeance.

Things became truly surreal when Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari weighed in to describe it as a “massacre” of the classic song, questioning how producers had allowed this to happen.

How grave an offense?

Rafay Mahmood, cultural journalist at the Express Tribune newspaper, said it was as if Ed Sheeran had covered Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and botched it.

The grievously offended would definitely prefer you remember the song this way.

And just for the sheer heck of it, once again here’s Momina Mustehsan, name-brand Pakistani pop singer and possessor of two degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, with a recent Coca-Cola commercial:


But tomorrow may rain

The MonaLisa Twins take on McCartney’s “I’ll Follow the Sun”:

According to Paul, “I wrote that in my front parlour in Forthlin Road. I was about 16.” This would be about 1958; there exists an early version, circa 1960, occasionally bootlegged.

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The bottom of the top comes up with a Top Ten list seemingly every single day, and this one from this summer past, ostensibly listing the 10 Worst #1 Songs (on the Billboard Hot 100) might have been the most controversial, with 47 percent of user thumbs pointed decidedly downward:

Yes, I paid actual coin of the realm for a few of these. I can think of lots of other tracks that hit Numero Uno despite a total lack of merit, and so can you. And just to correct someone’s misapprehension: “Seville,” in this context, equals “Bagdasarian.”

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She belonged

English singer Kathy Kirby, born on this date in 1938, gave off a distinct air of “What if Marilyn Monroe could actually sing?” Same shock of wheaten hair, same pin-up curvature, but seriously high-quality pipes, sort of a Brit version of Doris Day. In fact, Kathy’s biggest hit, in late 1963, was a Doris Day cover, an amped-up version of “Secret Love”:

“Secret Love” made #4 on the official UK charts, helped by pristine Peter Sullivan production and guitar work by Jimmy Page. In 1965, she took “I Belong” to the Eurovision Song Contest, where it came second to the entry from Luxembourg; after that, the hits dried uo, but she continued as a television personality.

Kathy Kirby, singing pinup

Cover of Kathy Kirby's Vol. 2 EP, 1964

Kathy Kirby, sitting just offstage

None of Kathy’s hits made it across the Atlantic, but her late-1965 flop “The Way of Love” got some American airplay and landed at #88 in Billboard:

Most of us who bought it back then, I suspect, found it on the 1967 London/Parrot Records compilation The Greatest Hits from England.

Kathy Kirby went into seclusion after retiring from show biz, and died, reportedly of a heart attack, in 2011. She was seventy-two.

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The Copyright of Spring

Yuja Wang sends her regrets:

Sacre causes scandal, AGAIN! Just like at the premiere in 1913, when catcalls and near-riot conditions erupted, Stravinsky’s iconic work is still causing tidal waves of controversy over a century later. My colleague Martin Grubinger and I have been notified that the Stravinsky estate will not allow our upcoming performance of Sacre in the adapted version in Europe, due to a potential infringement of copyright. We are very disappointed to learn this news, but have to respect their wishes. Unfortunately this means we have to cancel our upcoming performances in Dortmund and Luxembourg. The concerts in Ann Arbor and at Carnegie Hall in New York will go on as planned. We both deeply regret the position of the Estate and Publishers, but look forward to performing together in North America very soon.

For those keeping score:

Stravinsky continued to revise the work, and in 1943 rewrote the “Sacrificial Dance.” In 1948 Boosey & Hawkes issued a corrected version of the 1929 score (B&H 16333), although Stravinsky’s substantial 1943 amendment of the “Sacrificial Dance” was not incorporated into the new version and remained unperformed, to the composer’s disappointment. He considered it “much easier to play … and superior in balance and sonority” to the earlier versions. A less musical motive for the revisions and corrected editions was copyright law. The composer had left Galaxy Music Corporation (agents for Editions Russe de la Musique, the original publisher) for Associated Music Publishers at the time, and orchestras would be reluctant to pay a second rental charge from two publishers to match the full work and the revised “Sacrificial Dance”; moreover, the revised dance could only be published in America. The 1948 score provided copyright protection to the work in America, where it had lapsed, but Boosey (who acquired the Editions Russe catalogue) did not have the rights to the revised finale.

And presumably still doesn’t, seven decades later.

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The Greater Foo Theory

Foo Fighters in Kansas City last week, and Dave Grohl brings a ten-year-old boy on stage:

An amazing event, and Grohl’s closing remarks are at least half teasing. I think.

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Talk about Inna

The last time we looked in on Romanian pop singer Inna, she was haunted by a Photoshop dialog box. But that was seven years ago; now, at 32, she’s probably Romania’s biggest pop star, and she’s added a ™ to her name. In ten years she’s released five albums, none of which made much noise in the States.

Inna on the port side

Inna and a friend go for a walk

Inna takes it easy

That fifth album, Nirvana, came out last year. This was the first single therefrom (not including those two 15-second ad slots):

Not especially cerebral, but you can definitely dance to it.

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All through the town

I couldn’t quite decide which of these two covers of the popular kids’ song “The Wheels on the Bus” was more perverse, so you get both of them. From 2002, a ray of light from Mad Donna:

And from 2016, darkish metal from Leo Moracchioli:

Take your pick.

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The master and the student

Gary Graffman with Yuja Wang October 2018

Over the years I’ve picked up the occasional album by pianist Gary Graffman, many of which were recorded in the 1960s and were therefore available at popular prices in the 1980s. He might still be recording today, were it not for this:

In 1977, he sprained the ring finger of his right hand. Because of this injury he began re-fingering some passages for that hand in such a way as to avoid using the affected finger. Unfortunately, this altered technique exacerbated the injury rather than ameliorating it, ultimately forcing him to stop using his right hand altogether by around 1979.

In 1980, he joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he’d studied decades before under Isabelle Vengerova; he was subsequently named director, and later President. He left the administrative posts in 2006, but continues to teach.

Yesterday being his 90th birthday, he got a visit from one of his prize students, the Chinese pianist Yuja Wang, who studied with him from 2003 to 2008.

This is one of the Graffman recordings in my collection: Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, recorded with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1964.

In exactly that sleeve, I might add.

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Program notes

I have never quite figured out the scheme by which the local classical-music station schedules individual works, though they seem to do more baroque stuff during morning drive. This is not, of course, universal:

I wonder: could a person’s musical preferences be set by the state of their mind? As in, people like me who are inclined to be jangled and anxious, we dislike loud, atonal, and variable-tempo or too-fast music? And maybe people who tend to be more the thrill-seeking type prefer fast music? I don’t know. But I do know there are some pieces of music that do me a discomfort and I have groaned audibly when Sirius XM comes on in my car and it’s one of the clashier Stravinsky pieces or even Schoenberg and it also seems to me that one of the hosts on there tends to play them during afternoon drive-time and I am like WHYYY do you play anxious music at a time when a lot of your listeners are likely to be anxious?

Well, let’s see. This is today’s schedule on KUCO-FM, 4:30 to 6 pm:

  • Sullivan: Cello Concerto in D
  • Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen
  • Weiss: Lute Suite No. 13 in D
  • Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonata in E, K. 20
  • Lindpaintner: Sinfonia Concertante in B-Flat for Wind Quintet & Orchestra
  • DeYoung: Babe

Yes, that’s Dennis DeYoung, with a Styx song rearranged for string orchestra. It will definitely sneak up on you:

Future classics, no?

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Lyrics Illustrated

A picture, it is said, is worth a thousand words. How much of a picture do you need for a popular song, which probably has fewer than a thousand words? I have no idea. Fortunately, someone does:

Take some of music’s best known lyrics, combine them with a retro-inspired aesthetic, sprinkle in some humour and finally add a pinch of enigma.

The results are the intriguing pieces of art by San Francisco-based graphic designer Katrina McHugh.

The 37-year-old takes songs referencing nature from artists as diverse as Otis Redding and Snoop Dogg, and has illustrated them as infographics.

An example, from the works of Bill Withers:

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone

“It’s incredible how much nature is in music, when you’re listening out for it,” McHugh tells BBC News. “I think people like tying an emotion or something non-physical to a real, physical property.

“I love the idea of how nature is a constant and how, even after 500 years, people can still connect to the same idea.”


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