Category Archives: Friday Cocktail Hour

Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry

 

Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry is so torchy that it’s opening stanza uses the T word:

The torch I carry is handsome
It’s worth its heartache in ransom
And when that twilight steals
I know how the lady in the harbor feels

It was written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn  in 1944 for the musical Glad To See You, which bombed in Boston and never made it to Broadway. The songwriters were later heavily associated with Frank Sinatra as is this song.

We begin with Sinatra with a version from the “sad clown” album, Only The Lonely.

Sarah Vaughan’s version is dominated by Ernie Freeman on the electronic organ. As always Sassy’s interpretation is, well, sassy.

I’ve neglected Carmen McRae in this feature thus far. That ends today.

Frank’s favorite sidekick also hung his tears out to dry with this sax-heavy version:

Finally, what would the Friday Cocktail hour be without a jazz instrumental interpretation of this week’s song. This one features the torchy trumpet stylings of Wynton Marsalis:

That’s it for this week. Dry your tears and pour yourself a drink. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want you to do. Never argue with them.

I’d Rather Go Blind

It’s time for another soul torch song. I’d Rather Go Blind is a straight-forward tune with a tangled authorship story. Etta James said that she got the idea from her friend Ellington Jordan when she visited him in prison. The song is credited to Jordan, Miss Etta, and her then boyfriend doo-wop singer Billy Foster. Who wrote what when remains a minor mystery. The power of the song is not mysterious.

We begin at the beginning, not the beguine, with Etta James:

Beyonce played Etta James in the swell 2008 movie Cadillac Records:

Here’s Warren Haynes, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks performing I’d Rather Go Blind at the White House:

Finally, Rod Stewart with some wonderful playing by his Faces band mates Ron Wood and Ian McLagan:

That’s all for this week. Pour yourself a drink and toast the end of another weird week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.

I Can’t Stop Loving You

I realized that I haven’t done any country torch songs in this space. It’s time to rectify that omission with a much loved, oft-recorded mid-tempo ballad.

I Can’t Stop Loving You was written by Don Gibson in 1957. He sat down to write a “lost love ballad” and came up with a classic.

We begin at the beginning with Don Gibson and the Jordanaires on backing vocals.

Kitty Wells was one of the ultimate country torch singers, so naturally she recorded Gibson’s song:

Ray Charles had the biggest hit of all: reaching number one on the pop charts for five weeks. No wonder the Genius loved this song.

It wouldn’t be the Friday Cocktail hour without the Chairman of the Board. Frank cut this track with Bill Basie and Quincy Jones in 1964:

Van Morrison may be a malaka but he’s a helluva singer. This version features The Chieftains as his backing band. By all accounts, they are not malakas.

What’s the Friday Cocktail Hour without a jazz instrumental? This time it’s Duke Ellington:

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself your favorite adult beverage and toast the end of a long, crazy week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would have wanted. Never argue with them.

It Makes No Difference

 

I’m stretching the Friday Cocktail Hour’s boundaries to the limit by posting a rock torch song. What are Sammy, Dean, and Frank gonna do? Come back from the grave and kick my ass? I’ll take my chances.

Robbie Robertson wrote It Makes No Difference for The Band’s 1975 album Northern Lights-Southern Cross. It’s a deceptively simple tune sung beautifully by Rick Danko. Few singers did sad and plaintive as well as Rick,

We have two versions by The Band for your listening pleasure: the studio original and Rick and Robbie killing it at The Last Waltz.

Another singer who knew his way around a sad song was the late, great Solomon Burke:

That was a short one so pour yourself a double to celebrate the end of another taxing week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.

 

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long

It’s time for another soul torch song. It was written in 1965 by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler of the Impressions. Butler would eventually become a politician in his native Chicago. That’s what was cooking in Cook County.

We begin with the Otis Redding original. Nobody sang with more passion than Otis.

Otis liked the Rolling Stones’ cover of I’ve Been Loving You Too Long so much that he covered Satisfaction:

Speaking of impassioned singers, ladies and gentleman, Tina Tuner:

A more recent version of I’ve Been Loving You Too Long was cut by Car Power in 2008.

We have to stop now. Pour yourself a drink and toast the end of another difficult week.. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want you to do. Never argue with them, y’all.

Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good)

This week’s edition is dedicated to those in Alabama and Florida who took it in the chin from Hurricane Sally.

Ill Wind was written in 1934 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for The Cotton Club Parade. It’s a sad song with lyrics and a melody that fit our troubled times. It *was* written during the First Great Depression, after all.

We begin with a 1955 version from the patron saint of the Friday Cocktail Hour:

Next up, a late career version from Lady Day featuring some stellar guitar picking by the great Barney Kessell:

Sax great Ben Webster blew on Billie’s Ill Wind, then recorded it the next year:

Lonette McKee performed Ill Wind in the troubled 1984 film, The Cotton Club:

Finally, an appropriately bluesy instrumental interpretation by jazz guitarists Larry Coryell and Emily Remler:

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a drink and toast those who survived Hurricanes Sally and Laura. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want you to do. Never argue with them, y’all.

I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)

I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) was composed in 1941 by Duke Ellington with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. It’s been covered many times over the years and is one of Duke’s most beloved compositions. It suits my mood on this pandemicky Friday. Is that a word? Maybe not; it sounds a bit too much like Mantle, Dolenz, or Mouse…

We begin with an instrumental version from the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. The standout is Johnny Hodges on sax.

Next up Friday Cocktail Hour regular Ella Fitzgerald backed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra:

As one would expect, Sinatra’s version is epic.

I heard Dianne Reeves’ fabulous 1987 interpretation for the first time last week.

It’s time to go avant garde on your asses with some Monk; Thelonious, not Adrian:

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a beverage and unwind after another frenetic news week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them, y’all.

When Something Is Wrong With My Baby

 

The torch song tradition was not a casualty of the British Invasion.  It was carried on by many songwriters and singers, especially in the world of soul music. Stax-Volt-Atlantic-Memphis soul music to be precise. I’m expanding the parameters of the Friday Cocktail Hour to include a sad, sad soul song.

When Something Is Wrong With My Baby was written in 1967 by the brilliant songwriting team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. For the uninitiated, Isaac Hayes was indeed the Shaft guy.

This torchy soul classic was first recorded by Sam and Dave:

There are many fine interpretations of this song but I’m still recovering from watching Trump’s speech,  so I’m going to keep this short. Our next take on Something Is Wrong With My Baby comes from Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville:

Let’s bring things full circle with a version by Friday Cocktail hour regular Billy Eckstine:

That’s it for now. Pour yourself a drink and toast the end of another week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want:

Friday Cocktail Hour: Smile

Assembling this post made me think of my favorite cousin. We lost her this year. One bond we shared was a love of movies, especially old ones. In fact, she’s the one who introduced me to so many classic films that I’ve lost track. One of them was Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Chaplin wrote the melody that became Smile in 1936 for Modern Times. The lyrics were written in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. They were inspired by lines and themes from Chaplin’s movie. Smile is a bittersweet song that tries to convince you that everything will be okay as long as you smile. Perhaps that’s why Joe and Kamala are so smiley.

As with last week’s tune, Nat King Cole was the first artist to record Smile. He did the Little Tramp proud:

Judy Garland used to feature Smile in her act. The opening verse summed up her woes and her attempts to rise above them:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
For you

Here’s Judy on a Sunday night singing it to a grateful nation:

Smile has been recorded many times over the years. One of my favorites is by the long, tall Texan himself, Lyle Lovett:

Eric Clapton used Smile as the opening number on his 1974 comeback tour. The comeback was from the heroin addiction that nearly cost him his life:

What’s the Friday Cocktail Hour without a instrumental version by a Jazz great? This time around, my favorite pianist, Oscar Peterson.

Finally, some musical lagniappe with another song titled Smile. In this case, it was written by Gary Louris and was the title track of a 2000 album by The Jayhawks:

I usually call Smile The Jayhawks’ Sgt. Pepper because of the Beatlesque songs and lush arrangements. The strings on their Smile slay me every time. “Chin up, chin up.”

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a drink before walking into the sunset with Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard.

Friday Cocktail Hour: Blue Gardenia

My love of torch songs and film noir converge this week. The song Blue Gardenia was introduced by Nat King Cole in the 1953 movie of that title. It’s a Fritz Lang film with a helluva cast including Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Ann Southern, Raymond Burr, George Reeves, and Nat King Cole.

The song was written for the movie by Lester Lee and Bob Russell. It’s a much loved and oft performed torch song.

We begin with the original version as recorded by the unforgettable Nat King Cole and the incomparable Nelson Riddle:

Blue Gardenia became something of a signature song for the great Dinah Washington:

Here’s an uptempo big band version from Tito Puente and Woody Herman:

Pour yourself a drink and toast the end of the week. Cheers from Richard Conte, Nat King Cole, and Anne Baxter:

 

They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Rat Pack Cocktail Hour

With George and Ira Gershwin’s They Can’t Take That Away From Me, we move from the realm of the pure torch song to wistfulness world. It was introduced in the Astaire-Rogers movie Shall We Dance. In that 1937 classic, Fred and Ginger do not dance after or during the number. Heresy. They did so in their 1949 reunion flick. The Barkleys Of Broadway, which is where we begin:

The song is often identified with Sinatra, especially after Bill Zehme’s book. The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’ was published in 1997. That’s why we present two versions by Old Blue Eyes:

 

What would the Friday Cocktail Hour be without an instrumental by a Jazz great?

Both Billie and Ella recorded swell versions of this song. I flipped a coin and it landed on Ella. The next coin toss will go to Lady Day:

Finally, the oddest and quirkiest version of They Can’t Take That Away From Me. It comes from Brian Wilson who reimagined it as a bouncy Beach Boys tune:

Pour yourself a drink and toast the end of a grueling week. Cheers from Bogie, Betty, and Frank:

Cocktail Hour Closer

 

 

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: