The Friday Cocktail Hour began as a place for torch songs, the sadder the better. I’ve expanded that remit to bring a bit of joy into our lives as the pandemic slowly recedes. This week’s song is particularly joyful.
For the second consecutive week, we feature the work of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. They wrote it for the 1933 movie of the same name. That would be Let’s Fall In Love. It’s an old movie I’ve never seen. There has to be at least one, right?
We begin with the first version I ever heard. It comes from one of my all-time favorite albums recorded by two sweet and noble souls.
Anita O’Day brings some sultry Irish soul to a song written by two Jewish guys.
The featured image is of the Cab Calloway big band in its heyday. Cab was a larger-than-life character and performer who would have insisted that I mention him before moving on to the song itself.
I’ve Got The World On A String was written in 1932 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for the Cotton Club series. It was, of course, the legendary Harlem night spot at which Black performers played to all-white audiences. The Cotton Club was also the subject of an ill-fated 1984 movie by Francis Coppola.
It’s time to stop stringing you along and play some music. We begin (where else?) with the great Cab Calloway:
I’ve Got The World On A String was something of an underrecorded song until Sinatra pulled the string. Where Francis Albert led others were sure to follow.
I’m not in Paris but it’s April. That’s why I picked April In Paris by Vernon Duke and Yip Harburg as this week’s selection. It was written in 1932 for a Broadway musical that nobody’s ever heard of so we’ll skip the name. The song, however, is memorable.
We begin this week’s promenade down memory lane with Ella & Louis:
It’s vocalese time with Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan:
Skylark was written in 1941 by Hoagy Carmichael and Friday Cocktail Hour semi-regular Johnny Mercer. The featured image captures Ginger and Johhny Mercer on the town with Hoagy and Ruth Carmichael. Hoagy appears to be feeling no pain. Party on Hoagy. Party on, Johnny.
Carmichael based the music on a Bix Beiderbecke cornet improvisation. Mercer struggled with the lyrics for nearly a year before striking gold. It was worth the effort: It’s a great song and one of my personal favorites.
My Peninsula homey Bing Crosby had the first radio hit with Skylark:
I shouldn’t play favorites but Ella Fitzgerald’s version *is* my favorite. What can I tell ya?
One of the best things about First Draft is interacting with our readers. Sometimes we take requests. Longtime reader Carroll A suggested Lush Life for this feature. It’s a helluva idea so I’m making it so or some such Trekky shit.
Long before Billy Strayhorn joined forces with Duke Ellington, he wrote Lush Life. It came slowly and was written between 1933 and 1936. It was not recorded until 1948 but that opened the floodgates: it has been recorded 450+ times since then.
We begin out of order with the version suggested by Carroll. You can’t go wrong with John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman:
I Thought About You was written in 1939 by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer. I’m not sure whether to call it a train tune or a wistful love song. It’s a bit of both and since we specialize in wistful tunes on Fridays it’s a good fit.
I’ve said before that all Friday Cocktail Hour roads lead to Sinatra. Let’s amend that and say that all trains lead to Francis Albert as well. I guess that makes Nelson Riddle the conductor in both meanings of the word.
This 1956 recording features some swell trumpet tooting by Harry “Sweets” Edison.
Lady Day’s voice was nearly shot by the time she recorded this Van Heusen-Mercer classic, but her phrasing was intact. And with Billie Holiday it was all about the phrasing.
I somehow doubt that Nancy Wilson wore that frilly yellow dress when she cut this record. It does, however, bring a bit of sunshine to the proceedings.
Here’s the lyricist with an interpretation of his own song:
Finally, a 21st Century version from Loudon Wainwright III with Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks:
What would a Friday Cocktail Hour be without some jazz instrumentals? This week, Miles Davis followed by Branford Marsalis.
That’s it for now. Pour yourself a double and toast the end of another week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
In Other Words was written in 1953 by Bart Howard as a ballad. In 1963, Peggy Lee suggested that it be retitled Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) to keep up with the space age times. Who in their right mind wouldn’t listen to Miss Peggy Lee?
Kaye Ballard was best-known as a comic actress with a notably large mouth. She was the first to record the song under its original title.
Peggy Lee changed the title, not the tempo:
Easily the best-known version came from the Frank Sinatra-Count Basie-Quincy Jones team. Quincy is the one who turned it into an up-tempo song. The album title summed it up best, It Might As Well Be Swing:
Sinatra re-recorded Fly Me To The Moon in 1994 with his Brazilian buddy, Antonio Carlos Jobim:
Bobby Womack souled up Bart Howard’s tune in 1968:
Finally, a 21st Century recording by one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, Smokey Robinson:
What would a Friday Cocktail Hour be without an instrumental rendition of the week’s song? This time around we have two: Ray Brown with Benny Carter followed by the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown on bass.
That was bassically a Ray Brown fest. I should apologize for that base pun, but I won’t. It could have been worse: I nearly made a Count Basie pun as well.
Stock line time: Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson?
That’s it for this week. I hope everyone recognizes both cool cats in the featured image meme thing: Bill Basie and Frank Sinatra. If not, major demerits to you.
I will, however, still let you pour a shot and toast the end of the week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
Body and Soul is one of the oldest songs I’ve used in this feature. It was written in 1930 by Johnny Green and a cast of a thousand lyricists. I’m kidding: the lyrics are by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton. It was originally a show tune but soon became a beloved standard.
The first version I ever heard was by Billie Holiday. That’s as good a place to start as any:
Louis Prima grew up in the French Quarter when it was an Italian neighborhood. He cut the song with his then wife Keely Smith:
Anita O’Day. Say no more.
I’d never heard Jackie Wilson’s take on Body and Soul before. He’s backed by a full orchestra and sings his heart out. Of course, he always sang his heart out.
Time to get Sassy with Sarah Vaughan and a star-studded edition of the Oscar Peterson Quartet:
As Tony Bennett’s voice grew raspier and more limited in range, he turned to recording duets. I think you recognize the chick with the heavy black eyeliner.
Finally, what would a Friday Cocktail Hour be without a jazz instrumental version of this week’s song? John Coltrane. Say no more. I should stop saying say no more so much. Say no more.
That’s all for this week. Pour yourself a stiff one and toast the end of this frigid week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
Since Team Trump is mounting its defense, I thought we all needed an early cocktail. I know I do. I’m sitting through the whole damn thing, after all.
You’re probably wondering where Frank, Dino, and Sammy are this wintry day. Even Rat Packers need a day off. Besides, how could I resist posting Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Bill Paxton from HBO’s show about fictional Mormon polygamists, Big Love. If you’ve never seen the show, you’re probably wondering why: God Only Knows was its theme song until they foolishly changed it. Bad producers.
God Only Knows was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher for the Beach Boys classic 1966 album, Pet Sounds. It’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I’ve never heard a bad version of it as you’ll learn as you work your way through this post. Make that drink your way.
We begin at the beginning: the Beach Boys with Carl Wilson on lead vocals.
As a session man, Glenn Campbell played on Pet Sounds. In 1977, he took a stab at God Only Knows.
David Bowie loved God Only Knows so much that he recorded it:
The most unusual version is by Marilyn Scott. She funkified the Wilson-Asher classic:
Dixie Chick Natalie Maines recorded a version for the Big Love series finale:
Here’s the songwriter himself: Brian Wilson live with The Corrs.
Finally, the weirdest version of all. Carl Wilson singing his signature song at a friend’s event in 1992:
That was proof positive that God Only Knows is a foolproof song. It’s a pity that Carl didn’t don a chef’s hat for the occasion.
That’s all for this week. Have an early cocktail and toast the House managers. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
Cole Porter wrote In The Still Of The Night in 1937 for the Nelson Eddy movie musical Rosalie. Despite that dubious origin it’s still a great song.
The song has been recorded nearly 300 times over the past 84 years. I’m not sure if that makes it an evergreen or a chestnut. I’ll let you decide as long as you don’t roast me over an open fire.
All Friday Cocktail Hour roads lead to Ella Fitzgerald. She gets the first word:
One of Porter’s own favorite interpretations was by the great Billy Eckstine:
It’s Sammy Time:
I haven’t featured the swinging stylings of Jo Stafford before in this feature. It’s time to rectify that omission:
Rosemary Clooney had been around the block and back by the time she recorded this small-group version in 1982:
I made a Mel Tormé joke at the top of the post. Here’s the Velvet Fog’s take on this Porter classic:
Here’s a 21st Century version from my homey, Aaron Neville:
What would a Friday Cocktail be without an instrumental version of this week’s song?
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson? I can’t say it enough.
That’s all for this Friday. Pour yourself a shot of your favorite adult beverage and toast the end of another work week. Do it even if you’re not working. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
Irvin Berlin spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between Broadway and Hollywood. Let’s Face The Music and Dance was written for the 1936 Astaire-Rogers movie, Follow The Fleet. Hey, sailor.
Let’s Face The Music and Dance was under-recorded until the mid-Fifties when it emerged as a classic. It has some dark undertones that rendered it less commercially palatable than most Berlin tunes. That’s one reason I like it so much.
We begin with Friday Cocktail Hour fixture Ella Fitzgerald:
Anita O’Day is another one of my favorite jazz singers. Here’s her take on this terpsichorean classic:
The Chairman of the Board somehow missed this tune on his Come Dance With Me concept album. This version is from an album with a deeply silly title, Ring-a-Ding-Ding:
Diahann Carroll was best known as an actress but she could belt it out with the best of them:
One of the most influential versions of Let’s Face The Music and Dance was recorded by Nat King Cole in 1964:
Finally, Diana Krall puts the boss in Bossa Nova:
That’s all for this week. Pour yourself a belt and toast the end of another week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
People are often surprised when they learn I like the Eagles. They’re widely considered uncool. I’m not cool now but I used to be. Of course, I was cool when Glenn, Don, and the gang were uncool. Coolness can be tricky.
I selected Lyin’ Eyes for this week’s Friday Cocktail Hour as a sort of perverse tribute to the Impeached Insult Comedian’s departure from office. Who’s a bigger liar than Donald Trump? In a word: nobody.
Lyin’ Eyes is perhaps my favorite Eagles song. It was written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey for 1975’s One Of These Nights album. It features one of Frey’s finest lead vocals.
Are you ready to take a trip to the cheating side of town?
We begin with the Eagles original album version. I have no use for the hit single version as it omits an entire verse.
Kenny Rankin cut a mellow version of Lyin’ Eyes in 1980:
Jack Jones was a saloon singer in the tradition of the Rat Pack. FYI, his father Allan was in A Night At The Opera:
In 2012, the great Buck Owens recorded an album of Eagles tunes. On it, he took a trip to the cheating side of town:
Finally, in 2016, jazz singer Gwen Hughes put a chick spin on the Henley-Frey classic:
That’s it for this week. Raise a glass and toast the end of the Trump regime. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
It’s time for this feature to return to its roots with a 1927 song by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. I was worried that Frank, Dino, and Sammy would haunt me if I posted a rock song this week. Who needs angry Rat Packers after them?
My Heart Stood Sill has been recorded 178 times according to Secondhand Songs. I leave the counting to them.
We begin with Friday Cocktail Hour regular, Ella Fitzgerald:
Cool Jazz icon Chet Baker recorded the song in 1958. It features a sweet trumpet solo from the Chetster:
Sinatra cut a lush orchestral version in 1963:
I did not know that the Supremes had recorded an album of Motownized Rodgers & Hart songs. Instead of dissenting I concur with the up-tempo arrangement:
Next up, Joe Williams and George Shearing with a quieter take on Rodgers and Hart:
The most recent version out there is by James Taylor from his 2020 album American Standard:
What would a Friday Cocktail Hour post be without a jazz instrumental version of the week’s song? This time around we have two:
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson? I can’t say it enough.
That concludes this week’s edition of the Friday Cocktail Hour. Pour yourself an adult beverage and toast the end of the Trump era. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
This is an unusual Friday Cocktail Hour entry. The song is a classic but it’s not a standard that has been widely covered. Instead, it’s a message to the Impeached Insult Comedian that we’re sick of his shit and ready for him to go.
Get Out Of This House was written by Shawn Colvin for her 1996 album, A Few Small Repairs. It received a Grammy nomination for best female pop performance. It’s a rip snorting breakup song.
We have two versions of the song: the studio original and Shawn live.
That’s it for this edition. Let’s toast the end of an error. Sinatra may have supported some Republican candidates late in life, but he knew and loathed Donald Trump. Pour yourself a shot of JD. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would have wanted. Never argue with them.
I considered posting a hangover song but decided to start the new year out in a classier fashion. What’s classier than George Harrison and the Beatles? Not a damn thing.
Because of the holiday, we’re having our second consecutive early Cocktail Hour: “Hair of the dog and all that rot, eh wot.”
Uh oh, I sound like Bertie Wooster. Not a good look. I’d rather be Jeeves and say “Indeed, sir.”
George Harrison wrote Something for Abbey Road, and it became an instant classic. It was the sort of song that allowed some of our Cocktail Hour regulars to say, “I don’t like that rock and roll shit but the Beatles are okay.”
We begin with the Beatles original:
Miss Peggy Lee knew a good ballad when she heard one:
The Chairman of the Board had a grudging respect for the Beatles even if he thought their hair was too damn long:
Lou Rawls often performed Something in a medley with Feeling Good:
You haven’t lived until you’ve heard James Brown’s version of Something:
Next up, a countrypolitan version from Johnny Paycheck:
Here’s George’s old pal Macca and some bloke named Eric:
Finally, what would a Friday Cocktail Hour be without a jazz instrumental?
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Count Basie?
That’s it for this edition. It’s time to toast the end of one of the worst years in recent memory. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
The Friday Cocktail Hour comes early on Christmas Day. We want to catch Santa before he’s hungover, after all. Besides, Santa Donald has driven us to drink with his unpardonable pardons. I hope he gets coal in his stocking.
Mel Tormé and Bob Weiss wrote The Christmas Song on a boiling hot day in the summer of 1945. The two were trying to stay cool by thinking of winter. It’s unclear if that worked but the song certainly does.
Last Saturday, reader Christflora shared a link to a story from the News From Me blog about the Velvet Fog and some carolers. There’s always a good story when Mel Tormé is involved.
We begin with the songwriter himself.
Nat King Cole was the first to record The Christmas Song. Here he is in toon form:
The first version I ever heard of this song was by the patron saint of the Friday Cocktail Hour;
A nice jazzy interpretation by the great Ella Fitzgerald:
Finally, a 21st Century cover by Aimee Mann:
That’s it for the first Christmas day edition of the Friday Cocktail. I hope everyone had a Merry Xmas. Time to spike some eggnog with Jack Daniel’s. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
This week’s entry is inspired by the marvelous HBO documentary, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart. I’ll be reviewing it in tomorrow’s Saturday post. In the documentary, Barry Gibb calls To Love Somebody the best song he’s ever written. That’s saying a lot.
Barry and Robin Gibb wrote To Love Somebody in 1967 for their first internationally released album, Bee Gees 1st. This wistful tune became a hit in both the UK and US and the Bee Gees were on their way.
We begin (where else?) with the Bee Gees original:
One of the earliest covers was by the great jazz singer Nina Simone:
Janis Joplin recorded the Gibb’s song for her first solo album:
The Flying Burrito Brothers countrified To Love Somebody turning it into a “tears in your beer” weeper:
Rod Stewart cut Barry and Robin’s song with Booker T and The MGs. It doesn’t get more soulful than that:
Rita Marley reggae-fied the song. It’s reportedly one of Barry Gibb’s favorite covers:
Finally, Little Milton with a bluesy interpretation of To Love Somebody:
That’s it for this week. Raise your glass and toast the end of another week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
This week’s entry is one of the most recorded songs of the post-Rat Pack era. According to the indespenaible site, Second Hand Songs, it’s been recorded 344 times thus far.
Kris Kristofferson wrote and recorded Help Me Make It Through The Night in 1969. The first big hit version was recorded by Sammi Smith in 1970 but I’m skipping it because there are so many more interesting interpretations. Kristofferson’s lyrics and melody lend themselves to a variety of genres from country to soul to rock to pop to folk.
We begin with the songwriter’s original studio version:
Soul singer Percy Sledge recorded one of the earliest versions of the song:
The great country torch singer Kitty Wells also cut an early cover:
The folks at Motown knew a great ballad when they heard one:
Next up is Friday Cocktail Hour regular Bryan Ferry:
All of those versions were recorded in the 1970’s. Let’s do a time jump to 1999 with New Orleans’ own Davell Crawford:
The 21st Century is represented by X’s John Doe:
What’s a Friday Cocktail Hour without a jazz instrumental version?
I hope this week’s entry will help you make it through this and many more nights. It’s time to raise your glass and toast the end of another week. It’s what Bogie, Betty and Frank would want. Never argue with them.
This week’s entry is an R&B classic. It was written in 1964 by Alfred Briggs and Deadric Malone and first recorded by the great Bobby Blue Bland.
Share Your Love With Me is a wistful song with a melody that lends itself to different interpretations. That’s the essence of the Friday Cocktail Hour.
We begin with Bobby Blue Bland:
Our second version was recorded in 1970 by the Queen of Soul. Say no more.
Moondog Matinee is The Band’s most underrated record because it’s a “covers” album. That makes it sound as if they copied other artist’s interpretations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Their version of Share Your Love With Me features a plaintive vocal by Richard Manuel. It broke my heart the first time I heard it. It still does.
Van Morrison may be a creep and a malaka but he’s also a great singer.
That’s all for this week. Pour yourself a belt and toast the end of another weird news week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.