The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for the 'Music' Category

10 December
Comments Off

A Memory of Kirsty MacColl

At this time of year in the shops and on the radio there is the usual barrage of seasonal songs just to tell us (as if reminders were needed) that Christmas is getting near.  One of them, in particular, has a personal resonance for me….The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale of New York”

Recorded in 1987 it not only revitalised Kirsty’s singing career but has, ever since, been a regular Christmas favourite. Tragically this brilliant singer and gifted song writer was killed in a controversial speedboat incident in Mexico in 2000 but her work is still fondly remembered by a legion of fans.

Kirsty, the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl was born in 1959 and brought up by her mother, Jean Newlove, in the leafier part of Croydon, on the southern edge of London. During the early 70s she was a student at Monks Hill High School which is where I was teaching at the time. She was in one of my classes when she was 13/14 and I always found her a quiet, hard working girl. Bright and well informed about the world she was  polite and well mannered but never afraid to voice an opinion if she felt strongly enough about an issue.

For my sins I was earmarked to supervise one of the school’s first discos but found it a doddle because Kirsty volunteered to organise it all. Unfortunately the DJ forgot a vital piece of equipment and I was suddenly faced with the nightmare of 250 teenagers turning up with no music playing. Fortunately even then the girl had contacts so I told her to jump into my car and we raced around tracking down the right stuff. I remember her saying “No need to panic, sir, we’ll sort it out” – and we did, thanks to her.

I also recall another classic Kirsty moment when the Headmaster gave a talk to her group about the responsibilities of democracy and how vital it was that every citizen should get involved. At the end he was about to walk off without inviting any questions. Kirsty put up her hand and very politely asked a question about a recent change of rules, querying the reason for it. The Head very sharply told her it had been his decision and was not up for debate – then walked off, leaving me to dismiss the group. Ever afterwards some of us on the staff joked about that as a brilliant example of the reality of “democracy” in action.

As the years passed I kept track with Kirsty’s music which I always liked even though her politics were the total opposite of mine. So when I hear “The Fairy Tale of New York” I recall both the feisty fiery singer/song writer whose life was cut sadly short – and also the red headed 14 year old who always did her homework and knew how to rescue a school disco.

God bless you and your family, Kirsty – I’ll be drinking a pint of Shepherd Neame Spitfire Kentish Ale to your memory later

Share
25 September
Comments Off

mmmm…cool…Dave Brubeck Quartet..”Take Five”……..

While I was at uni between 1959 and 1962 when students talked about jazz they usually meant traditional Dixieland  jazz. Modern jazz didn’t have many enthusiasts because you couldn’t really dance to it. But I enjoyed it. Trad jazz was formulaic with little experimentation  whereas modern jazz was varies and innovative both in instrumentation and style.

Above all I loved the whole “cool” scene…..buttoned down shirt collars, narrow ties, neat Italian suits, the tinkle of glasses maybe and the wreaths of cigarette smoke – and nobody illustrated the essence of cool jazz better than the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Brubeck’s blocky chords, Paul Desmond’s light melodic tone and the rhythmic tightness of Joe Morello and Eugene Wright were ideally suited to experiment with the odd time signatures that became a feature of their work and Take Five (written by Desmond partly to showcase Morello’s drumming) is probably one of the best examples of that style.

Live in Belgium 1964: Dave Brubeck Quartet..Paul Desmond (alto sax), Joe Morello (drums), Eugene Wright (bass) and Dave Brubeck (piano)

 

Share
05 September
Comments Off

Down The Memory Lane Of Music – “Stay” by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs (1960)

Maurice Williams says he wrote “Stay” as a fifteen year old in 1953 after he failed to convince his girl friend of the time not to go home so quickly after a date. Seven years later he put it on a demo cut for his doo wop band The Zodiacs and hiked all around New York trying to arouse interest. Eventually it was picked up by Herald Records and re-cut and released in the Autumn of 1960. By the end of November it was top of the Billboard 100.Subsequent covers by The Four Seasons and the Hollies, amongst others as well as a placement in the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” have ensured, hopefully, a steady stream of income for Williams and a firmly established niche down Memory Lane.

Oddly enough Williams also penned another classic doo wop number “Little Darlin’”. Released in 1957 it did moderately well in the R & B charts but made little impression on the Billboard 100…unlike The Diamonds cover just a month or so later….

Share
30 April
Comments Off

Be My Baby (The Ronettes)…..Half A Century Ago But It Still Sets My Pulse Racing…..

Recorded half a century ago – and it still knocks the socks off most of the stuff being pumped out today. Phil Spector might not be the person you would want to spend the night with but he was a musical genius – as for the Ronettes – wow – they…smouldered…..

Ronnie was the lead, backed by her older sister Estelle and her cousin Nedra….the beehives, the dark eye shadow, the tight dresses – they weren’t the girls you would take home to your mum (well, that was the image)

DP: The Ronettes have been described as the first bad girls of rock. How did you get that reputation?

NTR: It wasn’t that we were bad, it was just that we were the ones with the big beehives. We developed our hairstyle, the beehive, the dark eye makeup … We set the mode for the big hair, we set the mode for the dark eye makeup. Then, we were dancers, too. So we wore a lot of dresses that had a slit on the side. In the ’60s, a lot of the dresses were very tapered down at the leg. We had to have a slit for dancing. We were the first to do the shaking, with the fringe. We had the outfits that had the fringe. Also, our songs sang to boys, where other girl groups sang about boys.

Fame didn’t bring happiness to Estelle or, initially, to Ronnie. Nedra was more fortunate and looks back on those days with perspective. In 2007 the girls were reunited on stage for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame though Estelle was too fragile to sing and only came on afterwards to thank the audience. Just two years later she died in tragic circumstances.

But, whatever the highs and lows of life we can still lock into our memories that magical moment in 1963 when the world was ours….

The Ronettes - Nedra, Ronnie & Estelle

The Ronettes – Nedra, Ronnie & Estelle

Share
15 March
Comments Off

The Greatest Rock Riff EVAH!!!!!!

It’s camp. it’s loud and it’s got the greatest rock riff EVAH!!!!!

I get up, and nothing gets me down.
You got it tough. I’ve seen the toughest around.
And I know, baby, just how you feel.
You’ve got to roll with the punches to get to what’s real
Oh, can’t you see me standing here?
I’ve got my back against the record machine
I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen.
Oh, can’t you see what I mean?

Share
22 December
Comments Off

The Most Beautiful Of All Carols: “The Holly & The Ivy”

One of the most beautiful and loved of English carols, “The Holly and the Ivy” is said by some to spring from a centuries old tradition in England’s villages where groups of men and women would compete against each other in a midwinter singing contest.

Three plants remained green throughout the winter of an English village – holly, ivy and mistletoe – and so they would be used to garland the church at Christmas time. In the singing contest men would sing the praises of the holly, women would laud the ivy and the good natured rivalry would then be resolved under the mistletoe.

The fact that the carol speaks mainly of holly would suggest it is descended from the song of the men!!!

A timeless, haunting melody that intertwines the symbolism of the nativity with the eternal rhythms of English rural life and the bond of love between woman and man…..

1. The holly and the ivy,
Now both are full well grown.
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

Chorus
Oh, the rising of the sun,
The running of the deer.
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the quire.

2. The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Savior.

Chorus

3. The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

Chorus

4. The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas day in the morn.

Chorus

5. The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

Chorus

6. The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,4
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

Chorus

[7. The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

Chorus

Share
17 December
Comments Off

A Carol For Christmas – “I Saw Three Ships”

Such a jolly, boisterous carol – and sung here as, perhaps, it might have been originally intended. We don’t know when it was composed or who wrote it but it first appeared in print in the 17th century and maybe came from the county of Derbyshire in England. Some say it is a variant of “Greensleeves” but others more doubtful. The reference to three ships sailing into Bethlehem is odd but remember that in older times most people portrayed the stories of the Bible against their own local background…..

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Share
10 December
Comments Off

Barbershop Singing – Now That’s What I Call Talent……

A barbershop quartet and “Auld Lang Syne”…..perfection…

Share
02 October
Comments Off

A Song To Remember..”GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY”

An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat
He’s riding hard to catch that herd, but he ain’t caught ‘em yet
‘Cause they’ve got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire As they ride on hear their cry

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil’s herd, across these endless skies

Would a song about the punishment for sin come out of the modern music industry? I doubt it but those terrifying lyrics have a resonance that might make even the most urbanised record company executive or Hollywood icon hesitate before snorting that next line of coke…

There are many versions of this classic cowboy song, written in 1948 by Stan Jones, working then as a Park Ranger in Death Valley. It took Jones into a prolific song writing career in Hollywood, a career sadly terminated by his untimely death in 1963, aged 49.

The biggest selling version was by Vaughn Monroe in 1949 but it’s the voice of Johnny Cash that, to me, really brings out the true nature of the song as a warning of the consequences of not changing your ways – a message that probably always hit home to The Man in Black as he reflected on his own stormy life.

Actually it was Burl Ives who made the original recording but Monroe rushed to get his own version out first.

However, the Ives version has a more folksy intimate feel that seems better suited to the tale that Jones heard as a twelve year old in Arizona…..

An impressionable 12 year old rode to the top of an Arizona hill one afternoon with an old Cowboy friend to check a windmill. A big storm was building and they needed to lock the blades down before the wind hit. When finished, they paused to watch the clouds darken and spread across the sky. As lightning flashed, the Cowboy told the boy to watch closely and he would see the devil’s herd, their eyes red and hooves flashing, stampede ahead of phantom horsemen. The Cowboy warned the youth that if he didn’t watch himself, he would someday be up there with them, chasing steers for all eternity. The terrified boy jumped on his horse and took off for the the safety of home.

“they paused to watch the clouds darken and spread across the sky”……reminds me of my favourite Maynard Dixon painting…..

Share
25 September
Comments Off

“Honky Tonk”..Bill Doggett Combo 1956 – Two Of The Greatest Guitar And Sax Solos Ever?

I’m in my 70s and remember skating round to this at Brixton Roller Rink (long gone) when I was a teenager, trying to impress the girls – and someone else was also probably checking out the talent at the same time across the ocean…

I’m 68 and this is my favorite R’ n R’ instrumental of all time. Reminds me of Bond’s Ice Cream parlor back in 1957 in Cedar Grove, NJ where I spent more time than I did in my own home.

Plonking around on an acoustic guitar at home trying to copy the guitar solo (and failing miserably) I remember thinking if you can play guitar like this then you can call yourself a guitarist…

So, anyone remember “Honky Tonk” by the Bill Doggett combo? It was a massive hit in 1956 but seems to have fallen down the memory hole which is a pity because, in my opinion, it contains not one but two of the greatest instrumental solos ever – Billy Butler on guitar followed by Clifford Scott on tenor sax. Never tire of listening to them and every time I get that tingle at the back of my neck.

Of course you’ll never find it on any “great guitar solo” lists since those lists usually assume that rock music only began in 1965. Why? Because that’s when “rock journalists” appeared so increasingly the first decade of rock and roll is just forgotten….

“Honky Tonk” was conceived by Clifford Scott and Billy Butler (who played guitar in Doggett’s combo) in an informal hotel room jam session before a dance in Lima, Ohio. That night, on stage and without rehearsal, Butler told Bill Doggett and drummer Shep Shepherd to “just play a shuffle” and when they got through the people started to applaud. They wouldn’t get off the dance floor, they just continued to stand there and appalud “more, more, more..”. So they did it again, played some other tunes and had an intermission, and when they came back the audience started yelling “We wanna hear that tune!”. And they didn’t even have a name for it. When the band got back to New York, they set up a recording session with a studio down on 31st Street. The engineer turned the machine on, he goes out to take a smoke – he wasn’t regulating the controls, he wasn’t doing anything – and Doggett’s band went on and just played. When they started to stop, he said “Keep it up!”, which they did and that’s how it became a two-sided record. “Honky Tonk”, parts 1 & 2, went to # 2 on the pop charts and # 1 on the R&B charts in 1956. Writing credit goes to B. Doggett, S. Shepherd, C. Scott and B. Butler.

BTW…if you fancy trying that Billy Butler solo you might find this useful…

Share
8 visitors online now
1 guests, 7 bots, 0 members
Max visitors today: 18 at 11:08 am GMT
This month: 57 at 10-21-2014 10:17 am BST
This year: 65 at 09-16-2014 03:13 am BST
All time: 264 at 05-31-2011 04:37 pm BST
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: