Category Archives: Friday Cocktail Hour

Angel Eyes

Since I wrote about demons yesterday, it only seems fair to write about angels even if demons are more fun.

There are several songs titled Angel Eyes. I’m talking about the 1946 torch song written by Matt Dennis and Earl Brent. We specialize in torch songs during the Friday Cocktail Hour, after all. I’ve always thought that sad songs are the best songs. This is a time for sad songs, y’all.

First up is Nat King Cole with a version arranged and conducted by the great Billy May:

Friday Cocktail Hour regular Ella Fitzgerald often said that Angel Eyes was her favorite song. She proves it here:

The brilliant and irascible New Orleans pianist James Booker recorded an instrumental take on Angel Eyes in 1982:

The Chairman of the Board often closed his live shows with Angel Eyes, which he called the “ultimate saloon song.” The last line suited his sense of drama, “Excuse me while I disappear.”

Here’s the original studio recording arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle.

I made a big deal out of Sinatra performing Angel Eyes so here’s a live version from 1974. His voice cracks but the introduction is hilarious:

At the beginning, I mentioned other songs of the same title. Here’s my favorite of the bunch:

Hiatt’s Angel Eyes was also covered by the Jeff Healey Band but it’s not torchy enough for the Friday Cocktail Hour. But this totally unrelated song is torchier than hell in a prog-rock kinda way:

I still miss John Wetton.

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a drink and relax. Excuse me while I disappear.

Miss Otis Regrets

As a songwriter, Cole Porter was not known for his social conscience. Miss Otis Regrets is an exceptional exception to that rule.

Cole Porter composed this song in 1934. Miss Otis the heroine of the piece is unable to lunch because she was accused of murder then lynched. That’s pretty strong stuff coming from the man who wrote Anything Goes.

We have four versions that are posted in chronological order. The first one comes from Ethel Waters in 1934:

Miss Otis is one of the highlights of Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook:

I’ve never understood why Bryan Ferry didn’t become THE rock star who sings standards, but that crown went to Rod Stewart who doesn’t have the voice for it. His rasp is more suited for blues, R&B, and rock but life can be strange.

Here’s Ferry’s take on Miss Otis from 1999:

Finally, a Hammond B-3 heavy version from Van Morrison:

Van also has a voice made to sing standards

Have a drink. Relax. It’s the Friday Cocktail Hour. Cheers.

The Man That Got Away

It’s Friday afternoon so it’s torch song time. Raise your glass to Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin who wrote this wonderful song for the equally wonderful Judy Garland-James Mason-George Cukor version of A Star Is Born.

I’ve already posted the clip from the movie multiple times, so we begin with Judy Garland live at Carnegie Hall:

You don’t hear as much about Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Harold Arlen Songbook as you should. It’s one of the best of the series featuring arrangements by the great Billy May.

Who among us can forget Sammy Awards? Sammy gender swaps gal for man despite the listing below.

Finally, some West Coast cool jazz with Cal Tjader:

That’s it for today. Have a drink or three. Bottoms up. Cheers.

The last word goes to Dean, Sammy, and Frank. I had no idea until recently how Rat Pack toons there were out there. Here’s another one.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


In the last Songs For The Pandemic post, I wrote about my hatred of cigarette smoke. That does not, however, extend to the classic Jerome Kern-Otto Harbach tune, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

There are oodles of outstanding versions of this 1933 song. Here are five of them; beginning with the great Billy Eckstein who had the deepest voice in human history.

Billy Eckstein and Sarah Vaughan went way back. They met while both were in Earl Fatha Hines’ big band. Eckstein formed his own band and asked Sarah to join. She did. They worked together many times over the years but this recording of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is all Sarah.

The Platters hit number one on the pop charts with their doo wop version:

Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry loves standards as much as I do. He recorded Smoke Gets In Your Eyes for his 1974 solo album, Another Time, Another Place:

Finally, an instrumental interpretation by the great Clifford Brown with a little help from arranger/conductor Neil Hefti:

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a belt of your favorite adult beverage but whatever you do, keep the smoke out of your eyes.

What’s New?

Another Friday, another torch song. This week’s entry, What’s New?, was originally an instrumental composed in 1939 by Bob Haggart; Johnny Burke’s lyrics were commissioned by the music publisher. In this case, the egg came before the chicken or something like that.

The first version of this song I ever heard was by Frank Sinatra. Anyone surprised? I would hope not.

Linda Ronstadt was one of the biggest stars of the 1970’s. She was also a risk taker as illustrated by her work at the peak of her stardom with Nelson Riddle who also arranged and conducted the Sinatra version above.

Finally, the great Dexter Gordon takes the tune back to its roots with an instrumental version.

We have a new closing meme. I think you know who they are:

Willow Weep For Me

We continue our willowy musical theme today. The good news is that Willow Weep For Me isn’t about death but it’s still a sad song.

Willow Weep For Me was written in 1932 by Ann Ronell. There was some resistance to publishing the song; more likely than not based on gender. They were nuts. It’s been recorded and performed dozens of time over the years. That’s what they call an enduring classic.

As always, the first version I heard of this song was Frank Sinatra’s. The man had a way with a ballad.

The next willowy weeper comes from the 1957 album Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson. It’s a masterpiece melding Louis’ classic style with Oscar’s modern sensibility. Check it out. It’s to die for.

This 1967 version was arranged and conducted by the great Billy May.

Finally, the most recent rendition dating from 1995.

Why Was I Born?

A bat shit crazy week such as this calls for a torch song. It doesn’t get torchier than Why Was I Born?

It was written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein for the 1929 musical Sweet Adeline. The show had a corny title but Why Was I Born? is anything but corny.

The first version I ever heard came from Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Jerome Kern Songbook, which I think is the most underrated album in that series:

Another Friday Cocktail Hour regular, Billie Holiday, recorded the Kern classic with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra in 1937:

Lena Horne sang Why Was I Born? in the 1946 Kern biopic Till The Clouds Roll By:

Jazz musicians love Jerome Kern’s sophisticated and tricky melodies. Here are two instrumental versions of Why Was I Born? by some folks you might have heard of:

Finally, there’s often a joker in the musical deck. In this case, it’s an Iggy Pop song of the same title, which was written for the horror flick Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. To say that it has an emphatically different vibe and sound is an understatement.

See you next week. Cheers.

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out

I’m feeling less cranky than this morning BUT I’m in the mood for some old school blues. It doesn’t get much bluer than Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.

It was written in 1923 by Jimmy Cox and popularized by the great Bessie Smith in 1929. BTW, if you’ve never seen the 2015 HBO biopic, Bessie, with Queen Latifah and Michael K Williams check it out. I give it 3 1/2 stars.

We begin with Bessie Smith:

Nina Simone recorded the song for her 1965 album Pastel Blues:

The first time I ever heard Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out was on Layla. It remains my personal favorite.

What’s a Friday cocktail hour without some lagniappe? That was a rhetorical question answered by this John Lennon tune with a similar title from Walls and Bridges. Just substitute loves for knows and Bob’s your uncle. Bob’s identity remains unclear.

See you next Friday. Cheers.

As Time Goes By

The drinking songs are largely in our rear view mirror. We’ve moved on to a focus on the Great American Songbook, Tin Pan Alley, and all that jazz. I somehow doubt that Frank, Dino, and Sammy would object.

Dr. A and I watched Casablanca for the umpteenth time last night. You might have guessed that from the Victor Laszlo closer from this morning’s post.

As Time Goes By was written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld long before it was featured in Casablanca. It has subsequently been recorded by a wide variety of artists. Here’s a sampler:






Friday Cocktail Hour: Whiskey You’re The Devil

Ever since I started this feature, I planned for it to transition away from the Songs Of The Pandemic. It’s here to stay; eventually we’ll even skip the drinking songs thing but not just yet.

While I love the song Whiskey You’re The Devil, I don’t agree with its message. Vodka is the devil. That’s why I call it Russian Death Juice.

Whiskey You’re The Devil is an Irish song and it doesn’t get more Irish than the Clancy brothers or the Pogues.

Friday Cocktail Hour: John Barleycorn

Let’s cross the pond for some bibulous folk music. Rumor has it that the Brits like to tipple even with all the pubs closed. At least I hope they’re still closed. I know some Thatcherites are getting antsy. Freedom, man.

We’re going to keep it simple this week and post multiple versions of the same song. It’s known as both John Barleycorn and John Barleycorn Must Die.

In case you’re wondering who the hell John Barleycorn is:

The character of John Barleycorn in the song is a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering indignities, attacks and death that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

It’s hard to be a metaphor but John Barleycorn has borne it with grace for centuries.

We begin with two of the finest recent practitioners of traditional folk music, Martin Carthy, and the late Dave Swarbrick:

Martin Carthy is one of the leading members of the Waterson-Carthy family. It has various branches and tributaries including his wife Norma Waterson and his fiddler daughter, Eliza Carthy. The next bit of Barleycorn comes from the Imagined Village album and features Paul Weller along with the odd Carthy and a more modern sound starting with the second verse:

Up next, a John Barleycorn I’d never heard until today. It’s a typically tricky Tull arrangement featuring the Greek singer George Dalaras:

John Barleycorn sung with a Greek accent? Now I’ve heard everything.

Finally, you didn’t think I’d skip the Traffic version, did you? It was the first rendition of John Barleycorn I heard as a wee laddie:

The last word goes to cartoon Frank, Dino, and Sammy:

Friday Cocktail Hour: I Ain’t Drunk

We made it through another week more or less in one piece. Some New Orleans businesses are dipping their toes into the reopening. I’ll be on the inactive list until phase 2. I may not have the Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues but I’m cautious.

The Friday cocktail hour has arrived. We have three toe-tapping tippling tunes for your listening pleasure.

First, Albert Collins Ain’t Drunk, he’s just drinking. Thanks for clarifying that Iceman. This song is hot enough to melt your ice cubes.

This is in the nature of a rejoinder to the happy drunk in the first tune. The songs have one thing in common: a great guitarist. In this case, Robin Trower.

Finally, a song from Van Morrison’s Marin County period:

Cheers. Bottons up.

The last word goes to the Cartoon Rat Pack.

Friday Cocktail Hour: Drinking Again

Unless you’re a teetotaler or recovering alcoholic, the pandemic has either driven you to drink or you’re resisting its siren call. We’re lucky: we never run out of whiskey because people bring it as tribute during Carnival. Dr A makes the odd white wine run and I’m trying to limit my intake since booze lowers one’s immune system. We did, however, have Mint Juleps on un-Derby Day. I’m cautious, not a killjoy.

Drinking Again is a boozy torch song written by Johnny Mercer and Doris Tauber. Mercer was known as a drinking man as to Doris I’ve never kept taubers on her. Ouch. That was so bad it hurt.

We have three versions of this liquid tune for your cocktail hour listening pleasure: Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, and Frank Sinatra whose best friend’s initials were JD:

On with the music.

The last word goes to the cartoon Rat Pack:

Friday Cocktail Hour

What’s a pandemic without a cocktail hour? My virtual version of that ritual involves posting songs about drinking and booze every Friday at Five O’clock sharp.

Since I don’t want to be accused of encouraging my readers to get drunk, we’ll begin this sub-feature of Songs For The Pandemic with tunes that discourage y’all from getting soused, blotto or what have you.

I realize that sounds like no fun at all, but it is. Trust me. Our first selection, Alcohol, was written by Ray Davies for the great 1971 Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies. Here’s the original studio recording and a boozy live version. I mean sober:

The second tune was written by Richard Thompson at around the same time. We have two versions of Down Where The Drunkards Roll one by Richard and Linda Thompson and another by the songwriter all by himself:

I originally planned to post the Los Lobos cover of Drunkards, but it’s been deleted from the YouTube. In lieu of that, a more celebratory drinking song:

The last word goes to Frank, Dino, and Sammy in boozy toon form: