Welcome to Awakenings

Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Quips, Quotes & Anecdotes

Today in Music History: May 8

Melodies are remembered. Often one gets stuck in the head to the point of no return! Then, there is the one claimed as 'my favorite tune', which can be hummed all day without tiring. Of course, the words strum the heartstrings bringing emotions home with smiles of happiness or tears when a sad song.

What is often missed are the quips, quotes, & anecdotes that accompany the music. There is always a story behind the story, during the story, or after.

Here are but a few tales of their own...

1954, BBC radio in the UK banned the Johnnie Ray song ‘Such a Night’ after listeners complain about its 'suggestiveness'. (Um-m-m? Was this before the Elvis pelvis?) Ray was famous for his emotional stage act, which included beating up his piano, and writhing on the floor. Ray was one of the greatest of the transition singers between the crooners and the rockers. After partially losing his hearing in a youthful accident, he began singing locally in a wild, flamboyant style, unlike any other white singer up to that time, that eventually made him an international sensation.

 1955, Tony Bennett was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with 'Stranger In Paradise'. Based on a theme from Borodin's 1888 opera - 'Prince Igor'. The song was a hit in the 1953 Broadway show 'Kismet'. The huge popularity of "Stranger in Paradise" in the UK is reflected by the fact that no less than six versions charted in 1955: Besides the chart topper by Tony Bennett, there was also the Four Aces (#6), Tony Martin (#6), Bing Crosby (#17), Don Cornell (#19), as well as an instrumental version by Eddie Calvert (#14) in the UK chart listings.
A plethora of other artists have recorded cover versions of this standard: Mose Allison, Sarah Brightman, Ray Conniff, Sammy Davis, Jr., Percy Faith, Al Hirt, Engelbert Humperdinck, Gordon MacRae, Johnny Mathis, Keely Smith, Ray Conniff, Curtis Counce, Isaac Hayes, The Ink Spots, Jack Jones, Mantovani, Martin Denny, Wes Montgomery, André Rieu, Saint Etienne, George Shearing, Sun Ra, The Supremes, and Toots Thielemans. Neil Young has performed the song live.

 1965, The filming of the promotional film for Bob Dylan’s 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' took place at the side of the Savoy Hotel in London. Actors in the background were Allen Ginsberg and Bob Neuwirth. This became one of the first 'modern' promotional film clips, the forerunner of the music video. The original clip was actually the opening segment of D. A. Pennebaker's film, Don't Look Back, a documentary on Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England. In the film, Dylan, who came up with the idea, holds up cue cards for the camera with selected words and phrases from the lyrics. The cue cards were written by Donovan, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Neuwirth and Dylan himself. While staring at the camera, he flipped the cards as the song played.

 1976, Former lead singer of the Lovin Spoonful John Sebastian went to No.1 on the US singles chart with 'Welcome Back'. Sebastian wrote this as the theme song for the ABC TV show Welcome Back, Kotter, staring Gabe Kaplan as a teacher who returns to his old school and is placed in a class of misfits known as The Sweathogs. The show was a big break for John Travolta, who played one of The Sweathogs. Viewers loved the song and related to the message about returning to the place where you laughed and your dreams were born. It became clear that there was demand for a full-length song, so Sebastian wrote a second verse and it was released as a single. Although the song does not have the word "Kotter" anywhere in the lyrics or title, the first pressings of the single were released as "Welcome Back, Kotter," to make sure everyone connected the song with the TV show.

 And the music goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times...