BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” (Mack the Knife)


“Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” was written by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera). It was first performed in Berlin in 1928. Lotte Lenya, Weill’s wife, sang the song in the original production and in the 1954 Broadway revival (with English lyrics by Marc Blitzstein).

Of course, we know the song better as “Mack the Knife.” Louis Armstrong was the first to record it, in 1956. Lotte Lenya was in the studio when he did, and he spontaneously used her name as one of Mack’s victims at the end of the song. Bobby Darin did Armstrong’s version in 1959, and that version is probably the best-known. Ella Fitzgerald recorded her first version live in 1960 for the album Ella in Berlin. She drew a blank on the lyrics after the first verse, so she improvised lyrics and scat-sang her way through the rest of it. That version won a Grammy.

None of the previous versions of the song are in this Battle, by the way. I picked a couple of versions that I had never heard prior to my putting together. Let’s get to them now.

CONTESTANT #1: Dee Snider

Twisted Sister’s lead singer recorded a version of the song for his 2012 project, Dee Does Broadway. Coming soon to a theater near you (evidently), featuring Clay Aiken, Patti LuPone, Cyndi Lauper, and Bebe Neuwirth.

CONTESTANT #2: Dave Van Ronk

This version is from 1967, from his album Live at Sir George Williams University.

So those are our contestants for round. Which version do you prefer, the big band/metal version by Dee Snider, or the folk version by Dave Van Ronk? If you can’t answer that, then which version annoys you least? Whatever you base your vote on, this would be the time to express your preference, and, if you wish, jot down a few reasons why.

And when you’ve finished voting here, many of the following blogs are doing their own Battle of the Bands today. How about dropping in on them?

Tossing It Out
Far Away Series
StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands
Your Daily Dose
Mike’s Ramblings
Curious as a Cathy
DC Relief – Battle of the Bands
This Belle Rocks
Book Lover
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Shady Dell Music & Memories
Debbie D. at The Doglady’s Den
Angels Bark
Jingle Jangle Jungle
Women: We Shall Overcome
Cherdo on the Flipside

Results will be announced next Wednesday, July 8.

One Year, and Counting

Today marks one year of blogging daily. I started during last July’s Ultimate Blog Challenge, and I’ve been going ever since.

I’ve really been having a blast doing this. I’ve enjoyed participating in blogging challenges like the A to Z Challenge, the Battle of the Bands, A Round of Words in 80 Days, Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, and Mama Kat’s Pretty Much Famous Writers’ Workshop. I’ve enjoyed coming up with ideas for my daily posts, and especially the comments I get from you, my readers. Thank you for reading and for leaving your comments. It’s what makes this worthwhile.

Now, in case you’re wondering if all of this is leading up to me saying, “It’s been a slice, but I’m outta here,” let me assure you, you don’t get rid of me that easily. But I didn’t want this occasion to pass without thanking you for your support, and to let you know that the Battle of the Bands follows shortly…


#TwoForTuesday: The Searchers


Another Merseybeat band, The Searchers took their name from the John Wayne movie of the same name. They were originally a skiffle group founded by John McNally and Mike Pender in 1959, and had most of their success with covers of other bands’ tunes, including the two we feature today.

The first song is a remake of Jackie DeShannon’s “Needles and Pins.” It went to #1 in the UK and #13 in the US in 1964 and was on their album, Meet the Searchers.

The second song was their first hit in the UK, “Sweets for my Sweet.” A remake of the Drifters’ 1961 song, it reached #1 in the UK but didn’t chart in the US.

They also had hits with “Sugar and Spice,” written by producer Tony Hatch (later covered by Chicago’s The Cryan Shames), and a cover of the Clovers’ “Love Potion No. 9.” In 1985 Mike Pender left the band after a farewell tour, and eventually formed “Mike Pender’s Searchers.” Both bands are currently active. Each band has a website, the original band here and the Mike Pender version here.

The Searchers, your Two for Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Small Appliances Drive Me Crazy

Have you ever had one small appliance that seems like it’s possessed? We had a coffeemaker that always seemed to be causing us trouble. Well, me, anyway. I always managed to forget to put water into it, or coffee grounds, and on at least several occasions I managed to run it without putting the pot into it, resulting in coffee all over the counter and the floor. I think we’ve solved our problems with it once and for all.

Standard procedure is that I set the coffee up the night before, and Mary, who gets up before I do, turns it on and, when it’s finished, pours some for both of us and puts the rest into a Thermos. This morning, Mary wakes me up with the news that the coffeemaker is broken. Now, I figure, we didn’t spend a lot of money for it, and the life of a coffemaker is generally directly proportional to the amount paid for it. So, I figure it’s probably time for a new one. She was going to be over near the Target anyway, so we decide to get a new one. No problem, right?

She gets home from running her errands, which included a stop at Starbucks to get a couple of cups of coffee. We have our coffee, and by now it’s close to eleven, so we decide to go to Chili’s for lunch. (Try the lunch double cheeseburger if you go. It’s fantastic.) When we got home, I was anxious to try the new coffeemaker. I set it up, and, as they recommend, run clear water through it the first time. That finishes, and I start a new pot of coffee. Since the fresh grounds were still in the old coffeemaker, I get them out of there and pour them into the basket of the new one.

That’s when I realize that a part was missing. In this case, it was the cover for the coffee basket, which has a plunger that gets pushed down when everything is in place and completes the circuit so that the coffeemaker runs. It was sitting next to it, waiting to be put into place. Which I had forgotten to do.

I tell this to Mary, who asks me what we should do about the old coffeemaker and the new one. I thought about it, and I remembered that Target was a real pain about returns, especially if it isn’t in unopened condition, and I thought about all the times I managed to forget one thing or another and ended up with no coffee or coffee all over the floor.

So the upshot is, the new one is set for tomorrow, and the old one goes to the basement, for when the new one goes on the fritz and needs to be discarded. Maybe when (and if) it’s pressed back into service, it’ll behave itself.

Anyway, with all the coffeepot business and such, I never wrote today’s blog post. Now I have…

The Week That Was, Last weekend of June

The Week That Was

Hello again, and welcome to The Week That Was, a summary of the posts and some of the comments I got on them this past Monday through Saturday. This was a good week, with plenty of visitors, comments, and more than enough spam. Here’s what we talked about:

  • On Monday, I announced the winner of my most recent Battle of the Bands. Jason Donovan beat Neil Sedaka in Battle “Rhythm of the Rain” by a landslide. Not unlike the 2014 Atlanta Braves, Neil took a mighty swing and missed by a foot on this song.
  • Two for Tuesday featured The Yardbirds, the British Invasion band that spawned the careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Eventually, the band morphed into Led Zeppelin.
  • On Wednesday, we discussed some recent (as in within the last four years) research that suggests the brain needs sleep so it can clean out all of the toxic waste products that resulted from normal brain activity during the day. There’s a good chance that a buildup of those toxins could result in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, so preventing them might be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep. I think everyone should make getting a good night’s sleep a priority, regardless. From the comments, it sounded as though people are generally sleeping well, unless something is preventing them from doing so.
  • Thursday, in response to a prompt given for Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writers’ Workshop, I created a playlist of a dozen songs that reminded me of summer. A lot of people liked Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” the best, and it holds a few good memories for me as well, having come out during my sophomore year of high school. Damien Riley likes the guitar at the beginning of Seals and Crofts’s “Summer Breeze,” and I can hardly disagree with him there. Mama Kat herself was distressed that Taylor Swift wasn’t represented. I checked, and all the songs I featured were older than Ms. Swift.
  • We returned to the subject of sleep on Friday, when we discussed the work of Virginia Tech historian Roger Ekirch, author of the book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. His research on the topic of what night meant to people from the Middle Ages forward includes the revelation that, given a world where it’s dark 14 hours a day, people tend to sleep in two four-hour chunks (bi-phasic sleep), gettin up for a couple of hours between phases and reading, writing, ruminating, talking with their bedmates or even the neighbors. The paradigm of spending eight hours in one stretch sleeping is a relatively new one, consistent with the general availability of artificial light. I started reading it the good doctor’s book over the weekend, and it’s a slow read, but a fascinating one.
  • Yesterday’s Stream of Consciousness entry was prompted by the word “some,” a word repeated often in the first verse of The Dramatics’ “Whatcha See is Watcha Get,” their hit record from 1971, when I was a freshman at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

I have a few things planned for this week: Two For Tuesday will feature another British Invasion artist, Wednesday is July 1st and thus time for another Battle of the Bands, and all the regular features. I will also mention that this Wednesday, God willing and the creek don’t rise, will mark my first anniversary of blogging daily here on The Sound of One Hand Typing. We’ll probably have a celebration of some sort then. See you this week!


The prompt for today is “some” or “sum.” I hear the word “some,” I think this song by The Dramatics, from 1971…

This song came out during my freshman year of high school. I was going to St.┬áIgnatius College Prep, one of the better high schools in the city (maybe because I went there). The University of Illinois-Chicago Circle Campus was through the undeveloped area behind the school, and we learned fairly soon that, if you took the Congress or Douglas line from the subway downtown, you could save yourself ten cents a day. That was fifty cents a week, the price of a pack of cigarettes in 1971. Hearing the song brings me back to those days…


This is another Stream of Consciousness Saturday entry. SoCS is hosted by Linda Hill at her blog. There, you’ll find a list of all of this week’s participants (in the comments) and the rules. Hope you join us!

It’s Only Natural

The other day, I talked about how the brain flushes all of the toxic material that’s a by-product of thinking and functioning during the day, and the role sleep plays in the process. Basically, the brain cleans itself out while you’re asleep because it’s busy using its energy to think during the day, and it can’t handle both the cleanup and the thinking at the same time.


While I was reading up on sleep, I heard about Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech and author of the book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. I got the book (well, the Kindle version) and am looking forward to reading it.

One of the things he discusses in the book is how sleep patterns have changed since the Industrial Revolution. He makes the case that, before electricity and artificial light was generally available, people who couldn’t afford candles would go to bed when it got dark and get up at sunrise, but wouldn’t sleep the entire time. Instead, they would sleep in two four-hour chunks, waking up after the first four hours and spending an hour or two reading, thinking, praying, talking to their bedmate, having sex, etc. before going back to sleep. Contrast that to now, when artificial light, TV, work, and the Internet keep us awake longer and force us to get our eight hours of sleep all at one time. He maintains that bi-phasic sleep, where the eight hours of sleep is divided into two parts, is likely more natural than a single eight-hour block. Experiments that deprive people of light for up to fourteen hours at a time for a period of a month or more result in people falling into a bi-phasic pattern.

The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. One of the times that the Liturgy of the Hours is said is at 3 AM (“Matins”). No doubt, it was set in place to coincide with this waking up in the middle of the night. When I was in the hospital after my stroke, it always seemed to be the time when someone would show up to do something. I’m thinking specifically of the especially perky phlebotomist who would show up, put on every light in the room, and want to engage me in conversation as he drew my blood. (If you’re sick, the worst place to be is in the hospital.)

So, the next time you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, maybe it’s not insomnia. Maybe it’s the way nature intended it.

Do you wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for an hour or more? What do you do during that time?

A Thursday Ten Playlist: Twelve Summer Songs


Another one of those weeks where The Thursday Ten and Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop intersect!

This week’s prompt:

Create a summer playlist and share it.

That’s right up my alley! I’m always crawling around YouTube, pulling songs together for blog entries, and sharing them.

There are literally hundreds of lists online that answer the question, “what are some of the most popular songs for summer?” And, while I looked at a couple, I had two-thirds of this assembled before I even looked at them.

Practically all of these songs were from the 1960’s and 1970’s, and they more or less fell into chronological order. I included one from the 1980’s (Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69”) so I didn’t come off as a complete old fogey (although you know darn well that’s what I am).

So, here’s the playlist. There were so many, and each one led me to another song or two, and by the time I was through, I had about fifty songs. I got it down to twelve, though. The list of songs, including what year they came out and their final chart position in the US, is under the YouTube frame. Enjoy!

# Song Artist Year Chart
1 Summertime (from “Porgy And Bess”) Billy Stewart 1966 #7 (R&B), #10 (Pop)
2 In the Summertime Mungo Jerry 1970 #3
3 Hot Fun in the Summertime Sly and the Family Stone 1969 #2 (Hot 100), #3 (R&B)
4 Summer in the City Lovin’ Spoonful 1966 #1
5 Sunny Afternoon The Kinks 1966 #14
6 See You In September The Happenings 1966 #3
7 We’ll Sing in the Sunshine Gale Garnett 1964 #4 (pop), #1 (AC)
8 A Summer Song Chad and Jeremy 1964 #7
9 Summer Breeze Seals and Crofts 1972 #6 (pop), #4 (AC)
10 Summertime Blues Blue Cheer 1968 #14
11 School’s Out Alice Cooper 1972 #7
12 Summer of ’69 Bryan Adams 1985 #1

And there’s your Thursday Ten (plus two) for June 25, 2015.

Cleaning Up Your Brain

Back when I started working in what we called at the time “electronic data processing,” “EDP” for short, application systems didn’t stay up 24/7 like they do now. There were some that did, but they were the exception, not the rule. Typically, after everyone went home for the night, an application would be shut down, and the operations staff would run “batch processing and maintenance.” Jobs would be run to back up the databases and files, programs would run to see if any transactions needed to be completed, to report on what happened throughout the day, and to reorganize the files and databases, so that when people showed up for work the next morning, everything would be ready for them.

This is how the brain functions when you go to sleep. While you’re off in Dreamland, your brain is busy connecting the new information you picked up during the day with information that had been there before, building new associations, and, most importantly, taking out the garbage. I read an article from 2013 on the BBC’s website that says a US team has learned that the brain uses the downtime that sleep provides to flush the damaged proteins that have accumulated during the day as a result of mental activity.

The team was studying the glymphatic system, the brain’s waste removal system analogous to the lymphatic system, in mice, and found that it is ten times more active while the mice were asleep. Cells in the brain shrink during sleep, increasing the interstitial space and allowing more fluid in to wash away the damaged proteins that have built up. Sleep time allows the brain to focus its energy on this important task; during the day, that energy is reserved for mental activity. Studies suggest that diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, where brain cells are destroyed, might be directly related to the buildup of toxic material in the brain.

I haven’t seen any followup articles to this, but if all of this is true, and the brain does all of this while you’re asleep, it suggests that getting a good night’s sleep might be part of the key to preventing degenerative diseases of the brain, as well as being important to physiological and psychological well-being. Which we all knew intuitively, but it’s always good to get confirmation.

What do you think of all of this? And how’d you sleep last night?

#TwoForTuesday: The Yardbirds


Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page all got their start with The Yardbirds and went on to rock ‘n’ roll fame and fortune. The core of the band was Keith Relf (vocals and harmonica), Chris Dreja (initially rhythm guitar, then bass), and Jim McCarty (drums and backing vocals). As did many British bands from that era, they started off covering blues numbers, gradually moving into popular music. Clapton, who recorded their first major hit, “For Your Love,” left the band the day the single was released (March 25, 1965), unhappy with the direction the band was moving in. They asked Jimmy Page, who declined and recommended Jeff Beck. In early 1966, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith departed. Jimmy Page joined initially to play bass while Chris Dreja learned the instrument; when Dreja took over on bass, Page and Beck both played lead guitar until Beck left later that year.

Our first song today is “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” Jeff Beck played lead and bass guitar on this track, which also included Relf, Dreja, and McCarty. Original bassist Samwell-Smith gets a vocal credit on this song. It reached #10 in the UK and #13 in the US in 1966. (The flip side was “Jeff’s Boogie,” an instrumental almost identical to Chuck Berry’s “Guitar Boogie.”)

Our second song is “Evil-Hearted You.” It wasn’t released in the US, but rose to #3 in the UK in 1965.

The band split up in 1968, with Page and Dreja wanting to stay with heavier rock music and Relf and McCarty moving more in the direction of folk and classical music. They recruited Robert Plant to do vocals, who recommended drummer John Bonham. When Dreja left to pursue a career in photography, they called on bass and keyboard player John Paul Jones, and the band was then rechristened Led Zeppelin.

McCarty, Dreja, and Samwell-Smith reunited as the Yardbirds in the early 1980’s for a “British Invasion” tour, and in 1992 McCarty, prompted by manager Peter Barton, reformed the Yardbirds, after the original band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band has two websites, one for the UK and the other for the US.

The Yardbirds, your Two for Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

John Holton's blog


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