September Songs

One of my most cherished, technically challenging, recording studio projects, ever, transpired on this very day in 2002. I owed my project’s success, in part, to being under the creative influence of…

Jose Feliciano: 8-time Grammy Award winner / musician / singer / composer
Sir George Martin: record producer / trailblazing, recording studio wizard / 5th Beatle
Mike O’Brien: DJ / poet / critical thinker (wellknown to Michigan’s 60s Era hippies)

To tell you my story, I need to tell you their stories…

Mike O’Brien had worked in an era where FM jocks were free to program their own music… free to speak their own minds, too. Both his musical and ideological tastes were frequently in tune with my own. Unbeknownst to him, he’d even played a minor role in my choosing broadcast arts as my college major.

He worked the 6 to 9 p.m., M-F gig and, along about 8:55 each night, concluded his broadcasts by playing two Jose Feliciano covers of Lennon / McCartney compositions… the instrumental Here, There and Everywhere [HTE] followed by the vocal In My Life [IML] (both of these tracks culled from the same album… titled Feliciano!).

His DJ MO: With HTE faded low, he’d [1] open up the talk-over mic to deliver his heartfelt, spoken interpretation of IML’s lyrics, [2] wish his listeners a goodnight, and [3] cross-fade / segue to track, fully, thru IML. In time… for reasons unknown… he stopped playing HTE. Perhaps he’d accidentally damaged / rendered un-listenable one of the record library’s, vinyl album copies?

Within two years… again, for reasons unknown… on a late September, Friday evening, O’Brien aired his farewell broadcast. Fortuitously, I had my monaural Sony TC-100 tape recorder rolling… a device (about the size of a Classic Star Trek tricorder) that boasted a fairly respectable frequency range of 50 – 10,000 hertz. Not bad, considering the snail’s pace tape speed of  4.7625 centimeters per second / 1.875 inches per second! Additionally, since I had also purchased that era’s state-of-the-art, Scotch brand, blank cassettes, I was assured sound quality par excellence.

Fast forwarding to 1995… with my own vinyl copy of Feliciano! now stylus damaged / rendered un-listenable, I was thrilled to discover an available CD reissue. However… one OH NO moment did reveal itself during the initial playback. AGAIN…for reasons unknown… reasons that defied all reason… In My Life’s ending had been radically shortened.

It was within that same era that the three surviving Beatles, courtesy of a recording studio, high tech exhumation, had been reunited with their old bandmate, the late John Lennon! How bittersweet that must’ve felt. Although the longtime Beatles producer, George Martin, had not been in charge, undoubtedly, his flair for trailblazing studio wizardry had rubbed off on co-producers Jeff Lynne and JPGR. Their project had resulted in the first new Beatles studio recordings since the band broke up in 1970… namely… Real Love and Free As A Bird. None of this would’ve been possible without Lennon’s home demo cassettes, which, ultimately, breathed new life into his old recordings. All in all, the word extraordinary does come to mind.

Fast forewarding to this day in 2002… It was while reminiscing about those long gone FM radio days of 1970, that it suddenly occurred to me that I possessed all the source material, audio gear and know-how necessary to produce an extraordinary recording of my own. As I brainstormed the procedure, it kinda / sorta felt like I was treading upon Sir George’s hallowed turf.

My Mission: To recreate / restore / enhance the last five minutes of Mike O’Brien’s final broadcast and simultaneously restore the musical measures missing from the Feliciano! CD reissue. The individual parts of the source material could all be played off each other… wind up complementing each other.

My DJ MO: engage my audio mixer to [1] playback the monaural cassette where O’Brien recites the IML poem while mixing in the absent HTE track (at a decibel level he would’ve chosen), [2] wait for O’Brien to cross-fade to IML, [3] at that point, seamlessly cross-fade my synchronized CD copy of IML (to eliminate the FM hiss / static, improve the signal to noise ratio and expand the frequency range), [4] execute a second seamless cross-fade back to the monaural cassette to restore the CD’s missing, song concluding measures and [5] utilize the finished master to burn a CD copy.

My Results: Sound-wise… my sector of the universe was, once more, in balance… everything back in its proper place! There were even a few hints of the very FM hiss / static, which accompanied O’Brien’s last show… so long ago. And somehow, even extraneous noise made it seem all the more real! Project-wise… all in all, the word extraordinary does come to mind.

My wish: For you to hear My Results. However, at present, that wish is not possible to fulfill. Even so… it’s still possible for us to get Jose Feliciano’s cover of In My Life into our lives. Play Back and Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Blur’s Clear View of Real Life ~ Sunday Song Series

Our Sunday Song Series, Week #44 selection (aptly titled Sunday Sunday), features alternative rock band Blur’s 1993 musical interpretation of traditional, Sunday activities. While some might deem drawing upon a slice of real life yawn-worthy, who, among us, would not also find such a thematic “hook” relatable?

Of course, some of us will be able to free associate Blur / Beatles comparisons considering how this track features [1] a musical arrangement reminiscent of the genius and sensibilities of the late Sir George Martin and [2] a storylined, frenzied videography evocative of the late Alun Owen… the gifted, imaginative screenwriter renown for A Hard Day’s Night.

Or, are my drawn parallels broad-brushed and/or overly charitable? If so, I guess we could chalk that up to my [1] now eyeballing far more days in my rearview mirror than on the road ahead, [2] wishful thinking that time travel could take us back to those magical, mystical Beatles yesterdays and [3] belief in Quantum Theory that suggests possible crossovers into alternative timelines… i.e., to points, somewhere in the vast Multiverse, where John Lennon had never been assassinated and George Harrison had not smoked himself into an early grave… where Owen and Martin, too, now enjoy a substantially enhanced longevity.

Don’t let me be misunderstood, either. Broaching such Beatles similarities is not to, in any way, detract from Blur’s own considerable body of work, created by singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/singer Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. One must never blur Blur’s own, stand on their own eight feet, noteworthy talents.

If Blur blurring Beatles boundary lines occurs unintentionally, they could hardly be faulted for being under the Fab Four’s influence. I mean… one needn’t even be a musician to experience something so unavoidable.

Even if Blur’s blending occurs by design, it would be still be Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree clearly paying homage to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. And who, among us, could not wholeheartedly offer up our “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” to such a sentiment?

And while we’re on the subject, why not say, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” to our next Sunday Song, too? You are cordially invited back here… seven days from now…

 

 

 

 

Try DownPlaying This

The Beatles’ 1964 Stateside Tour involving their February 7th arrival in NYC (at the newly christened JFK International Airport) and appearance on Ed Sullivan’s nationally televised variety show (on the 9th) could not have been better timed.

Americans, still in deep mourning following the 11/22/1963 assassination of our youngest, ever, 35th President… John F. Kennedy… desperately needed a reminder that life could go on.

To all horrified by that grotesque gun violence… especially this (then) 9-year-young boy and my contemporaries… John, Paul, George and Ringo were the embodiment of youthful exuberance. While their prime-time TV debut showcased their unique interpretation of rock ’n’ roll… one eventually becoming the soundtrack of life for an entire generation… something even more significant was in play… namely… how their raucous energy / high decibel music was the perfect Rx for blowing away that lingering, pervasive, suffocating, Dealey Plaza stench.

So… why the need to rehash this nearly 56-year-old tragedy?

Because of the swamp monster, who has been masquerading as the 45th president. Even though he is alive and (physically) well… well…

Ever since the orderly transition of power to that disorderly doofus, We… America’s critical thinkers… have been mourning the 01/20/2017 death of the presidency… the death of democracy, decency, intellectualism, logic, liberty, peace and genuine patriotism… the death of joy, itself.

From that day forward… uh… better make that backward… We have been in deep mourning… in desperate need of a lifeline. But, where to go to find that?

My reader(s)… just when I had begun to suspect those DC Washington Woes had indelibly stained my mood… my entire outlook on life… a deep shade of blue… somehow… someway… on some entirely different plane of consciousness… I wound up free associating the power of music… its stain remover / curative capabilities. Lo and behold, the Fab Four came to mind.

True, I could not step into a time machine to re-witness the birth of the Beatles. But, the next best, equivalent was well within reach… my access to CDs representing JPGR’s entire, recording studio produced discography.

Last week… I decided to PB that massive, Beatles soundtrack in chronological order. No sooner had Sir Paul’s 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 counted in I Saw Her Standing There than I felt my much needed grin begin… followed, a scant nanosecond later, by my buoyant mood… those lofty spirits persisting while tracking (at a clip of one or more CDs per day) until I polished off all 13 Beatles albums plus the two Past Masters volumes. And there were a couple of bonus tracks, too… namely… Free as a Bird and Real Love (McCartney, Harrison and Starr’s 1995 collaboration / overdub of their tracks with the late Lennon’s two previously recorded vocal tracks).

Even upon completion of my musical adventure last Friday, I could still revel in the fact that this was far from over. Hence, my spending the better portion of this week listening to these bonus Beatles albums… [1] Star-Club Live! in Hamburg, Germany 1962, [2] Live at the BBC, [3] Yellow Submarine Songtrack, [4] 1! [5] Let It Be Naked / Fly on the Wall and [6] LOVE.

My parting recommendation… should you ever find yourself feeling down about anything, try taking your fave recording artist / band out for a spin. Once that smile returns to your face, I’m sure you’ll concur that the healing power of music can never be downplayed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could this be the Perfect Song for Imperfect Times?

As a virtual DJ on the www, I’m here to plug the perfect song for our imperfect times… Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2! This catchy little ditty (a.k.a. the Funeral March) does have crossover appeal, too! It could be a Billboard EZ Listening chart topper! A night-clubber’s let’s fall in love, dance floor fave! The ultimate sports arena, pregame tune that’ll get fans off their asses and standing to salute the flag… AND MORE!

By now, some of you may be asking…

“Hey, hold your horses Mr. DJ, don’t they already play that ‘oh-say-can-you-see’ thingie?”

So true! So true! BUT… if all goes wrong… we’ll soon be needing to replace the Star Spangled Banner. Hey, don’t blame me, it’s not my fault. I voted for Hillary! So, just who should we point the (middle) finger at?

Well, in case you haven’t kept up with the front page news, Bad Vlad Putin and You-Know-Who’s Helsinki Summit is now one week off! You’ve just gotta know… or at least suspect… that this is the venue where they’ll be colluding to finalize their wretched plot to overthrow America… to bump off and bury Lady Liberty.

Hence, the all too real need for Chopin’s Funeral March. What better tune to play once that Russian puppeteer and his puppet… once that Russian ventriloquist and his dummy deep-six America.

Now, don’t look so glum… maybe we can even persuade pianist Sir Elton John to play at Lady Libby’s memorial service? Of course, from that point forward… no… strike that… from that point backward… long sigh… it’ll all be downhill.

But hey… let’s turn our frowns upside down! This is where the crossover appeal aspects to Piano Sonata No. 2 really start to kick in… full force! Considering this dirge’s Putinesque, dreary, Dark Ages, dystopian “feel”, it could easily catch on as the new national anthem for The-Nation-Formerly-Known-As-America!

Of course, wherever / whenever this dirge winds up getting played… be it on your home or workplace device… be it spun by some nightclub disk-jockey… be it blasting over a sports arena’s loudspeakers… be it tracking out on the late Lady Libby’s graveside boombox… this tune is practically screaming out for some lyrics.

I mean… doncha think it’d be kinda-sorta lazy and lame… at times even insensitive… to just hum or whistle along? Even orchestrating this with a kazoo and/or harmonica section could never do it full justice! And let’s not forget that Sir Elton is the consummate vocalist, too!

Perhaps some of you WordPress wordsmiths, poets and songwriters… who are able channel the spirit of Francis Scott Key… could step up to home plate? Yes? No? Maybe?

I can almost hear you objecting…

“Hey man… this is YOUR premise! Why should you make US do all the heavy lifting? Compose your own damned lyrics!”

Uh… so sorry. I’ve become so geeked about this track, I momentarily failed to realize how unfair of me it would be to put you on the spot like that… and on such short notice, too! Hell I cannot even offer you any monetary compensation!

I can almost hear you asking…

“Why are you making such a fuss over an 1840 Chopin composition?”

Well, here’s why. Now, while I’d never blame the messenger, NPR’s All Things Considered… it’s the Trumpian messages / stories, which they have little choice but to report, which have been rendering me disgusted, disconsolate and disillusioned. So much so, that one afternoon, this past week, I just had to sit down. My piano bench being handy, I parked my butt there. Slumping over in woe-is-me mode, I cradled my head in my crossed over forearms… just in time to hear the fake prez’s soundbite featuring his gleeful outburst / announcement of his intent to “rob the judicial cradle”… i.e., just to ensure his handpicked wretched SCOTUS judge’s decisions could lay waste to my homeland for the next 40 to 50 years!

Now, be your “political party hat” hued blue, red or purple, to smell such extreme partisanship stench anywhere near the Supreme Court bench should disgust you! The mere notion of that sure as hell disgusts me!

Shortly thereafter, once my nauseous feelings subsided a bit, something totally unexpected happened. My limp body shot upright into a sitting position. The heat from the brightly glowing, metaphorical lightbulb hovering over my noggin was almost palpable. The voice in my head was now offering up what I believed to be a brilliant suggestion.

“Hey Tom, what this endless barrage of bad news is sorely lacking is you coming up with a clever way to marginalize it.”

Free association (and the fact that I was already seated at my piano) did the rest. I then brainstormed along the following lines. “Hmmm… how about an editorial comment / musical statement… to reflect your mood? Naturally, it’d have to be loaded with minor chords! But, what oh what should I play? As I positioned my ten fingers on my piano keyboard… EUREKA… in a flash, Chopin came to mind. I’d transform Piano Sonata No. 2‘s first eleven notes into a riff. By the time NPR aired (out) the next DC disaster, I played that dirge and actually found myself chuckling! But laughter? Why laughter I wondered?

I then realized that, subconsciously, I’d been channeling the schtick of my newest keyboard hero… Jon Batiste. For the benefit of my international readers, I’ll briefly mention that Batiste is frontman for Stay Human… Stephan Colbert’s Late Show house band. During many a show opening Colbert monologue, Batiste’s keyboard comedic timing is just as flawless and funny as the wisecracking Colbert’s routine. Both the scripted and improvisational performances… indeed the genius… of both of these super-talents truly compliments one another. True, I’ve yet to hear Batiste play this Chopin riff… but it would not surprise me were he to… someday… do so. Additionally, I do plan to continue my own musical accompaniment of the bad news stories which are sure to follow… as the days drag on and On and ON!

Suffice to say, I’ve only partially explained away my chuckling. But, the following two quotations might help complete this layperson’s introspective, psychoanalysis… as well as complete this post…

Said Erma Bombeck

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

Said John Lennon and Paul McCartney in a lyrical couplet…

“And though the news was rather sad. Well I just had to laugh.”

Folks… I’m only human. There’s no telling how a steady diet of head-on pain, tragedy, hurt and sad news will impact this caring soul… impact any caring soul. Now… more than ever before…maintaining my / our sense of humor is a literal life or death matter. Forgive me for permitting my sarcasm and gallows humor to kick in. In venting both in this post I can only hope I’ve prevented my body and/or sanity from kicking off.

 

 

McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke ~ Vid of the Day

On a cold, wintry Sunday evening, February 9, 1964, I was amongst the estimated 73 Million TV viewers on hand to ear and eyewitness the Stateside Birth of the Beatles… courtesy of the “CBS Delivery Room’s” “Ol’ Doc” Ed Sullivan.

To have been there almost from the dawn’s earliest light of JPGR’s brilliant musical careers, is what played a significant role in my forming an instantaneous, nearly lifelong, long-distance, musical mind meld. As for that approximately 12-year age gap between us? It didn’t really matter… the rapport we were building was inevitable.

All of their music that was to follow… recorded both as bandmates and solo artists… dominated… still dominates… the soundtrack to my life. Since I’m familiar with every tune the Fab 4 ever commercially released, I can attest to the fact that there’s not one turkey (cold or otherwise LOL) to be found throughout that entire discography.

Transitioning to the Vid of the Day… My first order of biz is to thank CBS Late Late Show star James Corden for presenting and participating in such innovative, quality, TV programming. In comparison, many competing TV networks’ shows aired in the wee hours are not much more than 4-watt “nightlights”. Hell, I’ve even seen some overnight, music infomercials that dim those “nightlights”… put them to shame. But, I digress. Getting back on track…

In this video we find singer / songwriter / performer Sir Paul McCartney still at the top of his game… at the Mt. Everest apex… providing ample proof that age 76 is the new 26 (btw… my best, belated Happy Birthday wishes to Sir Paul — dob 06/18/1942). To continue to hear him delivering his trademark clever / playful / cheeky / dry wit… his uniquely-Beatle banter… easily elicits smiles and laughs. To ear and eyewitness him rocking on as if he’s still that young Liverpool Lad debuting on the Ed Sullivan Show is nothing short of a rejuvenating experience.

As for the affable ex-Beatle and chat show host’s actual interview / conversation, one can sense the strengthening mind-meld and rapport with each passing syllable. Like life itself, Sir Paul and James’ conversation touches base with a wide range of emotions. Their mutual, genuine feelings of joy flow… as do their shared tears of sorrow. For those who have chosen to read this prior to viewing, I’ll avoid relating both the specifics and concurrent need to issue spoiler alerts. Suffice to say… these real life moments are what breathe even more life into this autobiographical sketch / music video… virtually add that missing third dimension to our flat screens.

Perhaps this is just my sentimentality talking, but, to merely categorize Paul McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke as a Vid of the Day just doesn’t seem to cut it.

How about re-titling it to read: The Feel Good Vid of the Century… of the Millennium!

Oh… to hell with all the wordplay… if you haven’t yet done so… just play and enjoy the video! Don’t allow that 23:42 PB time to be of any concern to you. As soon as McCartney and Corden start rockin’ and rollin’… once the tunes are rockin’ and the car is rollin’… you’ll tap into that Sixties spirit, the time will surely fly by… and then… by video’s end…

You may even catch yourself “grousing”… “Oh NO! Over so soon?”

 

BlogCast: Tom’s Top 20 Countdown “2” Christmas: Song 4

Throughout 2017… as has been the case from time immemorial… too many of the good people of our world have been and still are being treated badly. And if there never, before, was a more perfect example of an understatement, you’ve just finished reading it.

As a human being and a humane blogger, who hardly ever holds his political and social commentary “cards” close to his chest… hardly ever pastes on a “poker face”… rather than giving into the temptation to elaborate further re our world in turmoil… in this rare instance, I’ll be “folding”. Even more amazingly… I’ll even be attempting to turn my frown upside down. So, just what is it that just might get me… hopefully you, too… smiling?

Today’s BlogCast feature track… that good ol’, hold nothing back, feel good, sing-along, toe-tapping, hand clapping music… namely… Chicago’s performance of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.

The only thing “bad” about this track is its too short runtime. But that problem can easily be overcome.

Since one can never smile too much, I’m also providing you… my listeners / readers… the opportunity to keep (y)our mood soaring and flying high. How so?

By following the links and giving a listen to five other recording artists who’ve turned in some great performances. Listen to one or to ‘em all… that’s for you to decide. Personally, I’ll be running down the entire…

 

Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree Menu

Brenda Lee (B.L. was the original vocalist to commit this tune to vinyl)
LeAnn Rimes (Country Music Superstar turns in her fine rendition)
Brian Setzer Orchestra (Ex Stray Cats rocker turned Big Band Cool Cat)
Fab Forever (Beatles Tribute Band performs their I Saw Her Standing There mashup)
Fab Four (Beatles Tribute Band performs their Got To Get You Into My Life mashup)

BONUS TRACK (A Feel Good Non-Holiday Tune)

Sir Paul McCartney (P.M.’s Got To Get You Into My Life, KICK ASS LIVE Performance)

 

I now thank you for your listenership and cordially invite you back for the remainder of my Top 20 Countdown “2” Christmas… where I’ll be presenting select holiday classics… one-a-day… from now until we reach #1 on the 25th.

You’re also cordially invited to click back here for my regular monthly BlogCast… one that typically features anywhere from 3 to 5 songs that, when segued, transform everything into an appealing theme… this program slated to hit the www “airwaves” on Sunday, December 24, 2017.

Till next time…

 

Keep on Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree!

Or anywhere else you may opt to Partay!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

FYI, my past musical presentations are archived within my BlogCast and music categories.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, don’t forget to like, follow, share and comment.

 

November BlogCast ~ Feast Your Ears on 5 Fab-4 Covers!

Welcome to my Thanksgiving Day BlogCast. My thanks to The Northmen for their too brief rendition / arrangement of Over the River and Through the Woods. Now, admittedly, while I am musically knowledgeable, finding other tunes tailor-made for this American holiday did prove to be a bit of a challenge. I realized that I was rapidly getting lost… deep in “those woods” as it were… and would need to come up with a new BlogCast theme.

So, free associating my thoughts wound up going along these lines…

Hmmm… Thanksgiving… what am I thankful for? Well I am thankful to my late, loving parents for having gone into debt to purchase a piano and pay for my music lessons and… hmmm… I am thankful that I had been born at just the right time to have eye and ear witnessed the birth of the Beatles and… hmmm… that band did provide the soundtrack to nearly my entire life and… hmmm… I do include dozens of Beatles songs in my keyboard repertoire and… well… that’s when everything suddenly fell into place!

Why not devote my entire monthly show to the Fab Four? However…

I then realized that this, too, could prove problematic. You see, mainly due to copyright issues, Beatles videos are too frequently yanked from YouTube. Yet, not being one to give up easily, I did find a cool way to circumvent this issue… namely… feature both big name and not so famous musicians’ superb covers of Beatles tracks.

About the only other comment I can add, here, is that the songwriting genius of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, as presented below, is not only timeless, it also leaves their compositions wide open to interpretation by a diverse community of musicians… all of which you will notice immediately as you click onto each of those play buttons.

So… the time has arrived to feast your ears and eyes on these music videos and have a Happy Turkey Day!

 

Stevie Wonder ~ We Can Work It Out

(Oh, BTW… Paul McCartney is in the audience)

Annarin ~ Revolution

Amy Winehouse ~ All My Lovin’

Santana ~ While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Phil Collins / George Martin ~ Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End

 

If you LIKE what you heard here this day, click back here for my next BlogCast on Sunday, December 24, 2017.

Past programs are archived in my BlogCast and Music categories.