Category Archives: Music

Saturday Odds & Sods: Fortunate Son

Target by Jasper Johns.

John Fogerty wrote this week’s theme song in 1969 for Creedence’s Willy and the Poor Boys album. It’s an unusual protest song in that its protagonist is a soldier lashing out at the rich kids for whom he’s fighting.  Fogerty recently enjoined the Trump campaign from playing it at their rallies. They don’t get the irony: Donald Trump is precisely the sort of Fortunate Son that’s lambasted in the song.

We have three versions of Fortunate Son for your listening pleasure: the CCR original, John Fogerty live, and Fogerty live with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

I have “It aint me. It ain’t me” stuck in my head. Let’s dislodge it with this Dylan cover by Bryan Ferry:

Now that we’ve been mellowed out by Ferry’s silken tones, lets languidly jump to the break if such a thing is possible.

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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.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: It Ain’t Easy

I began this journey with the post in which I published an old letter to the editor by Linda Coney. I used Three Dog Night’s version of Mama Told Me Not To Come as a framing device. The song comes from It Ain’t Easy; its cover features a gaudy Sixties room with gaudy wallpaper. I was hooked and decided to use it in this space.

Little did I know that the original album artwork had been rejected because it was so controversial. Three Dog Night? Controversial? Who knew?

It Ain’t Easy was supposed to be The Wizards Of Orange. The cover featured Three Dog Night naked but with the naughty bits obscured. The original cover later resurfaced on a CD reissue.

I’d never heard of this mishigas. Obviously, I need to brush up on my pop-rock trivia.

We begin with the gaudy room cover:

Here’s the naked cover:

That’s so orange that I want a mimosa. Chuck Negron naked has driven me to drink but not a Negroni.

The album is not quite as juicy as that story but it’s a good one. Here it is via Spotify:

 

And When I Die

It’s been awhile since I wrote a Songs For The Pandemic post. I’ve been trying to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and stop messing with Mr. In-Between. This return is down to Linkmeister who reminded his social media followers of the great Laura Nyro song that’s the focus of this post. Other than his unfortunate Dodger fandom, he’s a good man.

Laura Nyro wrote And When I Die when she was 17 years old. It was first recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966 followed by Ms. Nyro’s version the next year. Perhaps the best-known interpretation is by Blood, Sweat & Tears. More recently, it was covered by Billy Childs, Alison Krauss, and Jerry Douglas for a 2014 Nyro tribute album. FYI, she was born Laura Nigro. The name change was a wise one.

We have the aforementioned versions of this classic tune for your listening pleasure:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wang Dang Doodle

Brownstones by Jacob Lawrence.

We’re not playing hurricane dodgeball this week in New Orleans. It had to happen. In fact, we’re experiencing what some observers insist on calling a “cold front” but I call a cool front. As always, it’s likely to lead to an orgy of overdressing by locals desperate to wear non-summer clothes. My coats will remain in the closet. I might, however, be daring and wear a long-sleeved shirt. That’s as rad as I’m gonna get for now. It will be back in the eighties next week.

Willie Dixon wrote Wang Dang Doodle some time in 1959 or 1960. The chronology is almost as fuzzy as with this week’s Friday Cocktail Hour tune. Here’s how the songwriter described what the title of  this rollicking song means:

 In his autobiography, Dixon explained that the phrase “wang dang doodle” “meant a good time, especially if the guy came in from the South. A wang dang meant having a ball and a lot of dancing, they called it a rocking style so that’s what it meant to wang dang doodle”

We have four versions of Wang Dang Doodle for your listening pleasure: the original recording by Howlin’ Wolf, Koko Taylor’s hit version, the Pointer Sisters, and the good old Grateful Dead who performed the song 96+ times. All night long, all night long.

Now that we’ve pitched a wang dang doodle, let’s jump to the break.

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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.

Tweet Of The Day: Mama Told Me To Not Come

My friend James Karst worked at the Picayune for many years. One of his specialties is digging up obscure items from the newspaper’s morgue. This one is a doozy:

In case you can’t read Linda Coney’s letter in the tweet, here it is in all its dubious glory:

So much for Judge Coney’s claim to be open-minded about Roe v. Wade. She learned her views at her mother’s knee.

I’m not going to belabor the obvious pun in the post title other than quoting the song: “That ain’t the way to have fun, son.”

Instead, I’ll give the last word to Three Dog Night. Wilson Pickett, and the man who wrote the song, Randy Newman.

Three Dog Night put Not To Come in parenthesis. I’m sticking with Randy Newman’s take. He wrote the damn song, dammit.

FYI, Newman never released the song as a single hence the omission in the featured image. Mama told me to add that.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Last Time Around

Buffalo Springfield were like a comet: briefly sighted, never forgotten. 1968’s Last Time Around is their last official studio album before Stills, Young, Furay, and Messina went on to other projects and greater glory.

I’ve always loved this cover because it perfectly captures Neil Young’s restless spirit. He’s always looking for the next challenge, which is what makes him a difficult band mate and a great solo artist.

I couldn’t find any artwork credits but suffice it to say that it’s swell:

Thanks to Sgt. Pepper and We’re Only In It For The Money, everyone in those days was into photo montages. This one was on the back cover:

Here’s the whole damn album:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Delta Lady

Hummingbirds by Walter Anderson.

It’s been an unduly stressful week in New Orleans. For the sixth time this hurricane season, we were in the cone of uncertainty. My friend Chef Chris DeBarr calls it “hurricane dodgeball.”

Hurricane Delta obeyed what could be called Adrastos’ First Rule Of Hurricane Forecasting: If there’s a bull’s eye on New Orleans 4 or 5 days before a storm hits, it will not come here. It happened again. It’s pure luck but it beats the hell outta the alternative. Delta is following an eerily similar path to Hurricane Laura, alas. Best wishes to everyone in Southwestern Louisiana.

All is not gloom and doom in the New Orleans area. In suburban Pearl River, a man saw a Catholic priest having sex with two women. In the church. On the altar. The scene was being recorded. Instead of beating off like a proper pervert, the peeper called the cops. One could call this an altercation. But were they doing it dog collar style?

This story is funny because it involves consenting adults, which makes it an anomaly for the Catholic church. It turns out the women were rough trade. There’s been a raging dispute as to the plural spelling of dominatrix. Some say dominatrices but I’m sticking with dominatrixes because X is a funnier letter than C.

I’m feeling terse this week, so this will be a relatively short Saturday Odds & Sods. We will dispense with our second act altogether. I’m worn out from all the presidential* acting up so one less act sounds good to me.

This week’s theme song was written by Leon Russell in 1969. It was first recorded by Joe Cocker but I’m still putting Leon’s version first. I don’t want to trip over his beard or some such shit. Of course, both Leon and Joe are no longer with us.

We have three versions of Delta Lady for your listening pleasure: Leon Russell, Joe Cocker live with Leon Russell, and a mostly instrumental version by the great Rick Wakeman. It’s unclear if his cape attended the session.

One reason for the avian Walter Anderson featured image is that Leon Russell also wrote a song called Hummingbird:

Let’s fly or hover to the break. There may be pollen on the other side. Achoo.

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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.

Saturday Odds & Sods: For What It’s Worth

Flying Eyeball by Rick Griffin.

Some call it fake fall, I call it a tease. Whatever you call it, the weather has been mild and temperate all week. I’m not going to say more about it because I don’t want to jinx it.

The city of New Orleans is entering Phase 3.1. They’re loosening more pandemic-related restrictions since we did not have a major post Labor Day spike. I thought we would, but I was wrong. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last. Punditting is risky business. I’m still not going inside bars or restaurants but I’m hoping more of them will be able to survive. Let my people go-cup. You’ll have to read 2020 Fatigue at Bayou Brief to get the reference.

Stephen Stills wrote this week’s theme song in 1966. It’s the protest song’s protest song. It was originally written about clashes between hippies and cops on the Sunset Strip, but it’s become a universal protest song. It’s still relevant in 2020.

We have four versions of For What It’s Worth for your listening pleasure: the Buffalo Springfield original; CSN live with Tom Petty; Keb Mo, and Billy Porter with Stephen Stills from this year’s DNC.

Now that battle lines have been drawn, let’s jump to the break.

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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.

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington née Ruth Lee Jones had a short, tragic life.  She was married 8 time and was a prolific recording artist until her death in 1963 at the age of 39. Sounds like a blues singer to me, y’all.

I’ve picked two album covers from 1962 and 1963 respectively that depict two sides of The Queen:

Here’s Back To The Blues via Spotify:

 

 

It Came From The Comments

I’ve never done this before but here’s a comment so good that it deserves its own post. It comes from the most recent Saturday Odds & Sods post and was written by my old friend Mike Shapiro:

Ooh a chance for my favorite Anne Murray story! In 1974 Schaefer Beer sponsored a summer concert series in NYC’s Central Park. One week it was supposed to be Boz Scaggs headlining, Anne Murray middle, and Brewer and Shipley opening (honestly can you get more 1974 than that line up). At the last minute Boz Scaggs pulled out and the producers had to scramble to find another act. They decided on a local guy and his band who happened to be available, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The producers bumped Murray to headliner and told Springsteen he’d be the middle act. Springsteen’s manager, the notorious Mike Appel, went to Murray’s manager and said you need to let Bruce headline. Murray’s manager was incredulous. Murray had two #1 hits and Springsteen was nothing but a songwriter with a band. Appel tried to reason with him, saying if this was Toronto or even someplace in the Midwest he’d be right, but this was NYC and you don’t want your client going on AFTER Bruce in NYC. The compromise they settled on was Murray would still go on last, but Bruce would get to do his full 80 minute show.

Bruce then went directly to Anne Murray and repeated how she didn’t want to go on after him, but she blew him off as some cocky New Jersey bastard (her words according to legend). So the night of the concert 5000 people cram into the makeshift venue built for the concert, suffer through Brewer and Shipley, go wild when the E Streeters hit the stage, and when Anne Murray walks on stage she discovers the crowd has now dwindled down to less than a thousand people. Appel and Springsteen had been right, you follow Springsteen at your own risk.

This reminds me of similar stories about Jimi Hendrix and The Monkees in 1967, I like The Monkees but how the hell can you follow Jimi Hendrix or Bruce Springsteen?

The last word goes to The Boss with an early NYC performance of Jungleland at Avery Fisher Hall in the same year the E Street Band blew Anne Murray off the stage:

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Won’t See Me

Masks by James Ensor.

It’s been cool all week in New Orleans. It’s unclear if Fall has fallen or it’s a cruel hoax. My money is on the latter. The heat doesn’t usually break here until sometime in October. The good news is that we’re not under threat of a tropical system. It feels odd not to be checking the spaghetti tracks every few hours but that’s another autumnal augury. End of obligatory weather-related opening passage.

This week’s theme song comes from one of my favorite Beatles albums, Rubber Soul. It was one of the first albums I ever owned. When my father saw the cover he said, “Those are the ugliest women I ever saw.”

To this day I’m uncertain whether or not Lou was joking. The only one who would have made an ugly woman was the drummer. Sorry, Ringo.

You Won’t See Me is a Macca song, but it’s credited to Lennon & McCartney as were all the pair’s songs. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have three versions of You Won’t See Me for your listening pleasure: The Beatles original, and covers by Bryan Ferry and Canadian songbird, Anne Murray.

I never expected to post an Anne Murray song at First Draft, but I might as well go big and post her monster hit from 1970:

Let’s spread our tiny wings and fly away to the break.

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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.

Malaka Of The Week: Van Morrison

It’s been a long time since I wrote a malaka of the week post. The last of approximately 250 was on May 29, 2019. It’s not that there’s less malakatude in the world. If anything, there’s a surfeit of malakatude. Many posts started off as MOTW but then a clever title occurred to me. I’ve decided to resist the temptation to name this post after the album above and stick to my guns. And that is why Van Morrison is malaka of the week.

I’ve been listening to Van Morrison for most of my life. He’s a brilliant singer-songwriter but I’ve always known that he was an asshole, creep, and malaka. I made the mistake of being a “stage door Johnny” after a Morrison show when I was a young whippersnapper because my date wanted to meet him. He was awful. He refused to sign autographs or engage in any way with anyone. His drunken mantra was, “I don’t sign fucking autographs so piss off.” That’s an exact quote. It was seared into my brain as it was directed at my date. She blew smoke in his face in response.

Despite that and seeing erratic concert performances, I still like his music. How can I give up Tupelo Honey just because its creator is a sourpuss?

Somewhere in my archives, I have a Van the Man bootleg called I Don’t Play Those Fucking Songs Any More. It consists of Van cussing out his fans from the stage. Asked to play Brown Eyed Girl Van’s response was, “What is this? Your fucking wedding? Piss off, wanker.”

I need to search for it. It’s somewhere in my home office, which is beyond cluttered. I am not a clean desk guy. Anyone surprised?

That long meandering introduction leads us to the latest example of Morrisonian malakatude:

Van Morrison accuses the U.K. government of “taking our freedom” in three new songs bashing the worldwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In “No More Lockdown,” the most on-the-nose of the three tracks, Morrison plainly lays out his thoughts: “No more lockdown/No more government overreach/No more fascist bullies/Disturbing our peace/No more taking of our freedom/And our God-given rights/Pretending it’s for our safety/When it’s really to enslave.”

In another song, according to the BBC, Morrison references a widely shared Facebook post of a screenshot from the U.K. government’s website, stating that “Covid-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the U.K.” While it is true that Covid-19 currently does not meet the criteria for an HCID in the U.K., it is still highly infectious the world over, with a possibility of a second national lockdown in the U.K. on the horizon, according to the BBC.

The reason that the British government is downplaying the pandemic is because of Trumpy Prime Minister and past malaka of the week, Boris Johnson. Now that the Labour Party has a credible leader, Boris is under immense pressure to take it more seriously. He has a hard time with serious.

The best response to Van the Man’s egregious malakatude comes from Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Robin Swann, who paraphrases one of Morrison’s album titles:

He accuses Morrison of “a smear on all those involved in the public health response to a virus that has taken lives on a massive scale. His words will give great comfort to the conspiracy theorists – the tin foil hat brigade who crusade against masks and vaccines and think this is all a huge global plot to remove freedoms.”

“He’s chosen to attack attempts to protect the old and vulnerable in our society. It’s all bizarre and irresponsible. I only hope no one takes him seriously. He’s no guru, no teacher,” the last line a reference to Morrison’s 1986 album No Guru, No Method, No Teacher.

Van Morrison turned 75 not long before he began attacking “Fascist bullies” who want him to wear a mask. This is, of course, hypocrisy worthy of Lindsey Graham or Mitch McConnell. And that is why Van Morrison is malaka of the week.

The last word goes to (who else?) Van Morrison with an ironically titled song from the No Guru, No Method, No Teacher album:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Back Together Again

The album title is somewhat ironic. Guitarist Larry Coryell and Drummer Alphonse Mouzon played together in The Eleventh House, which broke up a mere two years earlier. This 1977 album is Jazz fusion at its brashest and loudest.

The cover was designed by Bob Defrin who was then the design honcho at Atlantic Records. He went on to work with AC/DC for many years designing their album covers and stage sets. Talk about brash and loud.

I almost eggspected Vincent Price as Egghead to show up.

Here’s the whole damn album via Spotify.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wasted On The Way

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso.

New Orleans dodged a wet and windy bullet earlier this week. Hurricane Sally dumped two feet of rain in some areas on the Florida-Alabama border. I don’t guilty for being relieved. If I were Poseidon, I’d send all tropical systems out to sea. I do, however, feel bad for folks in the affected areas. They got slammed by that evil bitch Sally. Blow ill wind, blow.

I had put this feature to bed and tucked it in when I learned of Justice Ginsburg’s death. I wish everyone would dial their predictions back. It’s unclear what impact RBG’s death will have on the election. I also wish that those who admire Justice Ginsburg would show more respect for her passing, especially since it’s Rosh Hashanah. There was, however, a moment of unintentional levity when the crowd outside the Supreme Court started singing Amazing Grace. It’s a Christian hymn, y’all. I’ll have more on Ginsburg’s passing on Monday.

In some ways, this week’s theme song matches the featured image. Three Musicians = Crosby, Stills & Nash. Graham Nash wrote Wasted On The Way for CSN’s  1982 Daylight Again album. Eagle Timothy B. Schmitt added harmony vocals making that Four Musicians. So much for the Picasso analogy. Oh well, it was imperfect to begin with.

We have two versions of Wasted On The Way for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version without Timothy B. Schmitt. Go, Team Picasso.

Stills’ intro to the live version is poignant. I rarely do poignant but sometimes the mood strikes me.

Before we jump to the break, a Neil Young song from the Buffalo Springfield days:

Holy Wall Of Sound-style production, Batman.

Time to take the plunge. See you on the other side.

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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.