#TwoForTuesday: The Moody Blues

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The Moody Blues started out doing R&B, but veered into the symphonic rock area with 1967’s Days of Future Passed, a concept album that was an “orchestral song cycle about a typical working day,” Wikipedia tells us. It was performed with the London Festival Orchestra and featured keyboardist Mike Pinder on Mellotron (the first time many of us heard one), and more or less flowed from one song to the next, making it hard to know where to drop the needle. Since then, they became one of the key progressive rock bands.

Our first song is “Question,” from the 1970 album A Question of Balance. It reached #2 on the UK Singles chart and #21 on the Hot 100 that year. With my money from my eighth-grade graduation, I bought a stereo system and a few singles, this among them. A friend of mine and I used to play this one together, he on the piano, I on the guitar. Between this and The Who’s “Pinball Wizard,” I must have broken a thousand high “E” strings. Probably should have used a lighter-gauge pick or had some work done on the saddle of my guitar, maybe even played this in open-C tuning as guitarist and composer Justin Hayward did.

Our second tune is “I’m Just A Singer (In a Rock ‘n’ Roll band),” from Seventh Sojourn, their eighth album (naturally). This was written by bass player John Lodge> Keyboardist Mike Pinder used the Chamberlin, a keyboard similar to the Mellotron, on this and other songs from the album, and although flautist Ray Thomas is shown in the video playing a baritone sax, the sound is actually coming from the keyboard. It reached #36 on the UK Singles chart and #12 on the Hot 100.

Drummer Graeme Edge, Hayward, and Lodge still tour as the Moody Blues. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to getting them into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; it’s a closed group, probably because it attracted a lot of spam. The band also has a Facebook page, and they’re on Twitter, and have a website.

The Moody Blues, your Two for Tuesday, February 9, 2016.

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Huh?

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This is another week where I have no idea what I’m doing. Here’s the theme…

Our theme for Monday’s Music Moves Me is picked by our Spotlight Dancer, and she is a new gal “DisneyImagineer” the theme she has chosen is one tune regarding Football (Superbowl) and the rest of the tunes COUNTRY! So rock to the beat of your own drum!

 

I don’t know any football-related songs, and while I like country music, my taste is somewhat dated: I like a lot of the older stuff, the kind you saw on Hee Haw back in the Sixties. I had been tempted to just chuck the theme for this week, but I figured that wouldn’t be sporting of me. So, I did the best I could.

  1. El Paso – Marty Robbins: Recorded in 1959, it was a #1 hit on the Pop and Country charts in 1960. It won a Grammy for Best Country and Western Song in 1961.
  2. If You Got The Money (I’ve Got The Time) – Lefty Frizzell: This was a two-sided hit (with “I Love You A Thousand Ways”) in 1950. It was #1 on the Most Played C&W Jukebox Records chart for three weeks and peaked at #2 on the C&W Best Seller list.
  3. The Happiest Girl In The Whole USA – Donna Fargo: Was a #1 hit on the Country chart, #11 on the Hot 100, and #7 on the Easy Listening chart in 1972. Billboard ranked it the #55 song of 1972, and it earned Fargo a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female in 1973. She wrote it, and it’s her signature song.
  4. Streets of Bakersfield – Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam: Buck Owens was one of the key players of the “Bakersfield Sound,” which arose as a reaction to the “countrypolitan” sound of the early 1960’s. Dwight Yoakam grew up listening to Buck and adopted the sound for his career. The two of them recorded this in 1988 and it reached #1 on the Country chart that year. That’s Clint Black (who bears a strong resemblance to Roy Rogers) and Naomi Judd (I think) introducing the song.
  5. Walkin’ After Midnight – Patsy Cline: I love this woman’s voice, a result of a bout of rheumatic fever when she was 13. This song reached #2 on the Country chart and #12 on the Hot 100 in 1957.
  6. Good Ol’ Mountain Dew – Grandpa Jones: Grandpa Jones was an expert at the “frailing” style of banjo playing (strumming rather than picking), and was an excellent singer and a funny man besides.
  7. He Stopped Loving Her Today – George Jones: His best-known song, it reached #1 in the US and #2 in Canada in 1980. George had a long and successful career, both as a solo act and as part of a duet with Tammy Wynette.
  8. Hello Darling – Conway Twitty: A #1 for him in 1970. Conway (real name Harold Lloyd Jenkins) started out as a Rock & Roll singer, but always wanted to do country. The world is grateful.
  9. (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden – Lynn Anderson: This song was written by Atlanta’s own Joe South and originally done by Marietta, Georgia’s own Billy Joe Royal in 1967, but Lynn Anderson’s version, from 1970, is probably the best known. It reached #1 on the Billboard Country chart, #3 on the Hot 100, and reached #1 on the pop and country charts issued by Cash Box and Record World.
  10. The Super Bowl Shuffle – The Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew: From 30 years ago, when the Bears were in Super Bowl XX. Hey, you said you wanted a song about the Super Bowl…

So there’s my best attempt at this one. Next week is a freebie, so you’re going to get what I was going to do this week…

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Stacy, and Naila Moon, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


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The Super Bowl Sunday Week That Was

The Week That Was is sponsored this week by Swanson TV Dinners. Just heat and serve!

They always seemed to take much longer than 25 minutes in the oven. I don’t know if the problem was the oven or us trying to cook three of them at once.

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MONDAY

  • Monday’s Music Moves Me featured Acoustic Alchemy. X-Mas Dolly and Colette both seemed to enjoy the music. As I told Colette, there’s plenty more on YouTube.
  • The Battle of the Bands was “Tito Puente vs. Al Jarreau in Battle ‘Take Five’.” The winner was Tito Puente, with a score of 8 to 3, with one abstention, which I announced on Friday. Arlee remarked that “no one has any business vocalizing ‘Take Five’>” Surprisingly, there are lyrics, evidently also written by Paul Desmond. Very few people have done the vocal, though. Probably just as well, although I think Bobby McFerrin could do an excellent a capella version. Of course, I had to check YouTube, and didn’t find Bobby singing it, but found this gem, with Chick Corea and Bobby playing the song on the piano.
  • Monday was also Question of the Month day. I appreciate those of you who said I did the right thing by ending a codependent relationship. It was hard for me to do, but ultimately it worked out for the best.

TUESDAY

  • Two for Tuesday featured the music of Pink Floyd, another great progressive rock band from the ’60’s and ’70’s. Michele is a big fan of theirs, saying she especially likes their 1977 album Animals, especially the songs “Pigs” and “Sheep.” Wikipedia says this about the album: “it provides a scathing critique of the social-political conditions of late 1970s Britain, and presents a marked change in musical style from their earlier work.” Sounds like a great album, for sure.

WEDNESDAY

  • Wednesdays for Mary (which Mary has asked me to rename back to “Wednesdays for my Wife” because she likes the alliteration) was the story of one of us contracting a fungal infection on his head because he wore a toilet plunger as a hat, not, as Mom suspected, because the barber we were going to infected him. Yes, it was a gross story. Boys do stuff like that.
  • I used a photo joke featuring Tarder Sauce, a/k/a Grumpy Cat, for One-Liner Wednesday. Many of you will be going to Super Bowl parties this afternoon and evening. Have fun, and watch out for drivers who have had too much to drink. As for me, the Super Bowl is merely an indication that Spring Training starts in two weeks.

THURSDAY

  • I got back to doing Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, for which the prompt was “friendly,” and wrote about restaurants like Friendly’s, and Stuckey’s, and Perkins, which are a step up from the fast-food joints but not quite at the level of TGI Friday’s or Applebee’s. Hangry Fork said that he uses recommendations on Yelp to choose mom-and-pop restaurants, which is a good way to do it, now that there’s Yelp. In the pre-Yelp days, we would get in the car and drive around until we found a restaurant that looked reasonably safe good and eat there, or eat at the hotel, or even use the phone book to find a place, or order a pizza. Back in the pre-smartphone days, the phone book was a treasure trove of information for the business traveler.

FRIDAY

  • Friday was National Weather Persons’ Day, so the theme of The Friday Five was songs about weather. Uncle Jack reminded me of a couple of songs I hadn’t thought of any of the times I’ve done a weather-related playlist, the standard “Stormy Weather” and “Singin’ In The Rain,” from the movie of the same name starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. He and I both really like the scene of Gene singin’ and dancin’ in the rain, and I’m sure many of you do, too. Ed recommended John Fausett’s website, where he has a number of weather-related songs.

SATURDAY

  • The Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt was “finger,” and I typed my entry on my Kindle Fire using the WordPress app using one finger. I’ll have to experiment with it some more, but it turned out all right for my first time. I talked mostly about my experience at the 2003 National Guitar Workshop, where my instructor recommended I learn to make music without wrestling with the guitar. Damien, who plays guitar, said he got started by playing chords and doing bass runs that he was hearing. That’s a much better approach than I took, which was to take lessons from someone who taught me using Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Method, which I hated and didn’t practice. I think I learned more in the month after I stopped taking lessons than I did in the year I took them.

Oh, and I also wrote an article for the A to Z Challenge blog about making it easier for people to comment on your blog, a necessary component of the upcoming challenge. Have you signed up for it yet?

That’s it for this week. Thanks to everyone who commented, here, on the FM blog, and on Facebook. Next week, all the regular features and maybe a surprise or two. See you then!

Guitar and Life (#socs)

I’m writing this on my Kindle Fire as we wait in the church parking lot before Mass. Nothing like typing with one finger.

I might have told this story before: long before the stroke, I attended the National Guitar Workshop. My instructor gave each of us some individual advice. For just about everyone, his advice was something specific to a facet of playing the guitar (work on II-V-I progressions, pentatonic scales, etc.), but for me, the advice was to “make the music come from somewhere besides your hands, fingers, and arms.” He told me I looked like I was wrestling with it. It dawned on me that I was exhausted after about half an hour because I was fighting with it, trying to make it look easy. By the end of a session my arms were cramping and my fingers were stiff.

I think I learned to play that way because the person I took lessons from originally liked to make me ill-at-ease, and I was trying so hard not to make mistakes. Even after I quit taking lessons (about six months later than I should have), I always felt defensive about my playing, at least in front of others. I could jam like a wild man in my room, but in front of others I was useless.

I decided I would take the approach where I’d forget there was anyone else there. I’d keep my ears open, but as far as I was concerned the music I was hearing was coming from a record. And it worked.

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Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda Hill at her blog: http://lindaghill.com/2016/02/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-616

I hope this works…

The Friday Five: Songs about Weather

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When I looked at Instagram today, I learned it was National Weather Persons’ Day. I started thinking of all the weather people I knew, and was going to list all of them, but every time I thought of one, that led me to several others, and pretty soon I had to abandon that idea, or you’d be sitting here reading names of weather people. Instead, I chose to put together a short list of some of my favorite songs that feature weather terms in the title. You’ll note there are no songs about rain in the list; I have a long playlist with songs about rain, which you can hear here. I also have a playlist for summer, and another for songs mentioning “sun” in the title. Anyway, here’s this week’s playlist.

  1. Warm Front – Billy Joe Walker Jr.: In addition to being a songwriter and record producer, Billy Joe is a session guitarist who has seven New Age albums to his credit. This is the title track from his sixth, the only one that made the New Age chart. Sad, too; he’s an excellent guitarist.
  2. Windy and Warm – Doc Watson: Speaking of excellent guitarists, Arthel “Doc” Watson was one of the best finger- and pick-style guitarists in country and bluegrass music. This one by John D. Loudermilk is a classic and one of the first songs guitar players trying fingerstyle learn.
  3. Suzy Snowflake – Rosemary Clooney: This usually comes up around Christmas, and I usually share the stop-action cartoon version that was created in the 1950’s by Centaur Productions, which I yank out of the vault every Christmas. Here’s a different version by the lovely Ms. Clooney, who had a beautiful voice.
  4. Autumn Leaves – Joe Pass: One of the better solo jazz guitar players in his day, Joe backed a number of singers, including Ella Fitzgerald. He’s also known among guitarists for his instructional videos and books.
  5. Sunny – Bobby Hebb: Bobby wrote and recorded this song after his brother, who was called “Sunny,” was murdered. A beautiful and uplifting way to remember a beloved brother.

So, that’s your Friday Five for February 5, 2016. What are some of your favorite weather-related songs?

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Take Five” Results

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

 

Last week’s battle asked whether Tito Puente and his Orchestra or Al Jarreau did a better version of Paul Desmond’s 5/4 jazz classic “Take Five.” The results are in, and here’s how you voted:

Tito Puente: 8
Al Jarreau: 3
Abstain: 1

The consensus seemed to be that Al’s version, with the scat singing and syncopation, took some time to get used to, and at least one person had a hard time listening to the end. The people who liked the vocal really liked it. Both are excellent performances. The one abstention was from Ally, who said she had no opinion because she was “a Brubeck sort of girl.” I think we can all agree the definitive version was by the Brubeck Quartet. But that’s part of the fun of doing this: hearing different versions of classic songs and choosing which you like better.

Congratulations to Tito Puente and a pat on the back to Al Jarreau. Be back here in ten days for the next Battle of the Bands!

Writer’s Workshop: Friendly’s

 

I haven’t participated in this for a couple of weeks. The prompts haven’t appealed to me, and I’ve been inundating you, the readers, with plenty of posts anyway. But I told myself I would get back to doing these.

One of Mama Kat’s prompts for today is this one:

Write a blog post inspired by the word: Friendly

 

I saw this one and all I could think of was Friendly’s, the restaurant chain.

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I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at Friendly’s. I might have eaten at Stuckey’s, though.

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And I know I’ve eaten at Perkins

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And Howard Johnson’s, and Bakers Square, and a lot of other chain restaurants like that.

I mention this because I used to like to go to restaurants like that when I was traveling on business. There are nights that you don’t want to eat at McDonald’s or Burger King or one of the other fast-food places, and you don’t feel like sitting in a big chain restaurant like TGI Friday’s or Chili’s or Carrabba’s or something like that. Places like the ones I mentioned are right in between the two. Not fancy, but you don’t have to unwrap your dinner, either. When you’re eating by yourself, you want to feel comfortable sitting in the restaurant and reading the paper or a book, or doing crossword puzzles or sudoku. Doing that at a real restaurant just doesn’t feel right, and fast-food places are usually full of kids and noisy and the furniture is uncomfortable. Plus, you can get a real breakfast for dinner if you want. Not just an Egg McMuffin or a Breakfast Burrito. You can get bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, toast, you name it. Sure, you could go to IHOP or Waffle House for those, but the real advantage of going to the casual-dining places I mentioned is they have pie.

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Of course, what’s even better are the local casual restaurants. We used to have lots of them in Chicago. Open 24 hours, breakfast served anytime, a full range of desserts, and the coffee is always good.

I remember one trip I was on, to Burlington, Iowa. I don’t think I ate for three days. I was at the client site at 6 AM, work through lunch, and wouldn’t get back to the hotel until 10 at night, and I’d just crash. Finally, I decided I had to eat, so I went into one of those places at 10:30 at night, and I ordered half of what they had on the menu. Patty melt with fries, a bowl of chili, salad bar, and I told the waiter to bring coffee and just keep bringing it. I was STARVED.

You eat like that, and people start watching and pretty soon you become the entertainment. I didn’t care, I hadn’t eaten in three days. When the guy comes with the check, he said, “Will there be anything else?” And I said “What do you have for dessert?” I practically had to pick the guy up off the floor…

Wednesdays for Mary: There’s A Fungus Among Us

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DISCLAIMER
These stories are as I remember them. They’re probably different from what really happened, and different from the way other family members remember them. Your mileage may vary.

 

Haircuts were always a source of contention when we were kids. English was not the first language of most of the barbers in the neighborhood, and when you tried to explain to any of them how you wanted your hair cut, they would listen carefully, then do what they were going to do, anyway. Often that meant getting a boot camp haircut, and none of us wanted that, especially not in the late 1960’s. We wanted to leave it long enough to look hip, cool, and groovy (like I said, the 1960’s), but not so long that we’d be thrown out of school.

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One day, I discovered a barber at the end of Glenwood Avenue who not only spoke English but who would actually listen and leave some hair on your head. When I came home after my first haircut at this new place, Mom liked it. Soon, the three of us were getting our hair cut by him. We were happy, Mom was happy, the nuns at school were happy, everyone was happy.

That is, until the day, not long after a recent haircut, one of us started complaining about an itchy head. Mom looked, and discovered, much to her horror, he had a large seeping wound on his scalp. A trip to the doctor revealed that he had contracted a fungal infection, and had to smear this awful medication on it until it went away.

Mom was furious. We were ordered never to go to that barber again, and Mom did what she always did when she was upset about something: she started calling her sisters and telling them the whole story, knowing that they would stoke her anger and prepare her for the next phase, which was probably calling a lawyer and suing the pants off the barber on Glenwood Avenue. Never mind that the other two showed no ill effects from having their hair cut at the same time by the same barber. Never mind that the barber was duly licensed by the City of Chicago, had passed an inspection by the Chicago Board of Health, was a member of the Barbers’ Union, and used all of the same precautions and protocols that every other barber in the neighborhood, and probably every other barber in the world, used to ensure nothing like this would happen to any of his clients. Clearly, he had willfully, and with malice aforethought, given one of the Holton boys a fungal infection, and, as God was her witness, she would make him pay.

The first sister she called was Alice. Alice lived the closest of any of her sisters, and, because she had four young girls, was home most of the day. When we were let out of school early (specifically on Wednesday afternoons, when the Catholic kids from the public schools in the neighborhood came to St. Ignatius for religious instruction), we would go to Alice’s and wait until Mom got out of school, because Mom didn’t trust us by ourselves. Mom started telling her the story, and Alice stopped her. “Uh, Bunny? Before you go any further, you should probably know something.”

Alice told Mom that the Holton boy in question, trying to entertain his young cousins, chose to do so by wearing the toilet plunger on his head like a hat.

So much for the lawsuit. But we never went back to the barber on Glenwood.

#TwoForTuesday: Pink Floyd

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Pink Floyd has been around since the 1960’s, but we weren’t generally aware of them or their music until 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, their eighth studio album, entered heavy rotation on AM Top 40 and mainstream FM rock stations in Chicago. Before that, their music was played on college stations and some radio shows that featured free-form and psychedelic music. It was like the floodgates opening; suddenly everyone was talking about them, and the iconic prism on the album jacket began showing up on posters in North Shore teenagers’ bedrooms. It spoke to us, telling stories of greed, mental illness, the passage of time, and conflict, all mixed in with music not many of us had heard before.

Our first song is “Money,” from that album. This was their first single to hit the charts in the US, reaching #10 on the Cash Box survey and #13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1973.

Pink Floyd released The Wall, their eleventh studio album, in 1979. More of a rock opera than most of their previous albums, it was edgier than its predecessors with a much harsher tone. The album featured their only #1 US single, “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2,” and became the soundtrack for 1982’s Pink Floyd – The Wall, starring Bob Geldof. Here is “Another Brick In The Wall” from that film.

The band split up in 1994, and, other than a brief reunion in 2005, didn’t reform until 2012. 2014’s The Endless River is their final studio album, at least for now. They have a website, of course.

Pink Floyd, your Two for Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

Music, Musings, Memoir, and Madness

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