Beach Boys, The Who, Jan and Dean (not forgetting The Regents) : Barbara Ann

Keen readers of The Jukebox will recall that in a previous Post (featuring the song, ‘Do You Want to Dance?) I revealed that my exhaustive researches in; theology,the classics, the canon of great literature, modern psychology and neuroscience had led me to the inescapable conclusion that there were only five essential questions to be asked, and answered, in Life.

I can now tell you, prior to the publication of, ‘The 5 questions every life must answer‘ that one of these is … ‘What’s your Name?’

Who am I? Who are You?

Names are very powerful signifiers.

More powerful and mysterious in their effects on our lives than we generally allow.

At some point in my mid teens I became, ‘Thom’ instead of ‘Thomas’ or, ‘Tom’ (I would never, never, allow, ‘Tommy’) to differentiate myself from all the other Toms – as well as the Dicks and Harrys.

By insisting on a particular spelling of my name I was establishing a particular identity for myself.

An identity to embrace and challenge the world with.

Of course, in the world of the creative arts changes of name are common to signal a move from the private into the public and commercial realms.

There was a particular moment in time when someone asked the young Robert Zimmerman what his name was and after a micro second of hesitation the reply came, ‘Bob Dylan’ and a legend began.

In the realm of romance the question, ‘What’s your Name?’ starts that crazy carousel spinning, spinning, spinning.

As the wonderful Don and Juan, in their Doo-Wop classic from 1962 observed the thought behind the question is frequently : ‘Do I stand a chance with you?’.

Once you’re aboard the carousel you’ll find that the name of your beloved will take on sacred properties and hearing your own name spoken by them will constitute a new christening.

So, here’s a Post about a song that celebrates a particular name with abounding Joy.

Not forgetting to mention the power of familial love and discord, car crashes, comas, the collision of music genres, fate and happenstance, huckstering marketing and genius goofing off.

Or, to put it another way as The Regents first sang (and I defy you not to sing along, I’ll hold down the bass, you take the falsetto) :

‘Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann’

Image result for the regents doo wop group images

‘Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann (take my hand)

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

You’ve got me rockin’ and a -rollin’

Rockin’ and a reelin’

Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann’

Yowzah! Yowzah! Yowzah!

That’ll have you dancing ’til a quarter to three and then some.

I think we can agree the brothers Fassert and The Regents did Barbara Ann proud.

Mighty proud.

How The Regents came to have a top 20 hit with the song is a saga in itself.

Originally in 1957 they were The Monterays and included among their members Ernie Moresca who went on to Rock ‘n Roll immortality through writing, ‘The Wanderer’ for Dion.

Ernie dropped out and they became The Regents (they may also have been briefly known as The Desires).

They then recorded a series of unreleased demos in New York recording studios in 1958 (one of these, significantly for our story, was Regent Studios).

Core members were Guy Villari on lead (whose preferred cigarette brand was Regent), Sal Cuomo (first tenor), Tony Gravanga (baritone and Sax), Donnie Jacobucci (baritone) and Chuck Fassert (second tenor).

During one of their 1 hour demo sessions they spent 50 minutes running down a ballad, written by Guy Villari, called, ‘A Teenager’s Love’ and wondered what to do with their precious remaining 10 minutes of studio time.

What about that song written by Chuck’s kid brother Fred about their kid sister, ‘Barbara Ann’ – it was always a kick to warm up to and who knows maybe people would like it even if it was basically just the repetition of her name over and over again!

So in 10 minutes it was wrapped up and a waiting world … heard not a whisper of it as 50 or more Record Labels said, Barbara Ann – no thanks!

And, that is where the story might have ended.

But, as fate would have it, in 1961 it happened that Donnie Jacobucci’s younger brother, Eddie, joined a group called The Consorts who were looking for material to record.

Eddie remembered, ‘Barbara Ann’ and taught it to his fellow Consorts who then cut their own version.

This was brought to the attention of Lou Cichetti of the Cousins Record Shop and Label. Sharp eared Lou also listened to the Regents demo which had been brought in by the original songwriter,Fred Fassert.

Lou was in no doubt which was the superior version (Fred was a winner either way) and promptly decided to issue The Regents version in March 1961.

This necessitated their urgent resurrection once the tune sped to Number One in the New York region after being heavily played on the radio.

Lou, aware that the record needed national distribution, leased it to Roulette/Gee who pushed it all the way to Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

So, the fruit of 10 minutes work paid off handsomely – though it took 3 years to do so!

The Regents would only have one more hit, ‘Runaround’ in September 1961 but, ‘Barbara Ann’ would never die!

Once a song, particularly a Doo Wop song, got wide radio play hordes of young singers thought – we could do that!

Among those tuning in to, ‘Barbara Ann’ were two California High School buddies, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence.

Jan and Dean found that their voices had a pleasing blend and that Dean had a knack for capturing multi part vocal arrangements on tape (which would later bring him to the attention of and to collaborate with another California native more than somewhat obsessed with multi part vocal arrangements – one Brian Wilson).

Their career benefited from the patronage of Herb Alpert and Lou Adler and Dean’s astute insights into song structures and song genres.

He quickly picked up how well their Doo Wop chops would fit with the burgeoning Surf Music scene.

It also didn’t hurt that they had a clean cut tanned handsomeness that looked real swell on record covers and posters ripe for the bedroom walls of teenage girls all over the nation.

Surf City, in 1963 was the first Surf song to ride all the way to the top of the Hot 100 while the succeeding, ‘Drag City’, ‘The Little Old Lady from Pasadena’ and the prophetic, ‘Dead Man’s Curve’ (Jan Berry had a terrible car crash in April 1966 sustaining serous head injuries which left him in a coma for 2 months) carved out a secure place in history for the duo.

In 1962 they had laid down their take on, ‘Barbara Ann’ which they no doubt sang when they shared stages with the Beach Boys – who were of course the High Kings of the Surf Scene.

Altogether more produced and assured than The Regents.

I’m sure this will have gone down a storm on the beach party scene.

The Drums here really drive things along and the assures layering of the vocals with the clinching sax break makes this a cert for the repeat play button.

By the summer of 1965 The Beach Boys had already issued 2 successful Albums as well as holding down a heavy touring schedule.

However, Capitol Records wanted more.

Tney didn’t really want to hear that resident genius Brian Wilson, in response to hearing The Beatles rapid development as represented on Rubber Soul, had ambitions to write, sing and produce material of an altogether more sophisticated nature.

To hold off Capitol while Pet Sounds coelesed in his mind and soul a plan was hatched to record a largely acoustic live in the studio party session where they would cut loose on a series of favourite songs – including Barbara Ann on which their old friend Dean Torrence would share lead vocals.

We should also never forget the contribution of percussion potentate Hal Blaine on ashtrays!

You want loose?

You want a party?

Ah … Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann …

 

Loose but very lovely.

And, before the personalities began to grind against each other to all their detriment an example of family and friends having a whale of a time together.

Classily Capitol’s marketing strategy for, ‘Party!’ included sending dealers a million (!) bags of Potato chips adorned with the album’s cover art for distribution to the ravening fans.

Barbara Ann was the last track on the record as originally issued and was not chosen as the single.

Instead a non album 45,’The Little Girl I Once Knew’ hit the playlists in November and was roundly disliked by DJs and Station managers as it included repeated instances of silence throughout.

So, as fate (ah fate) would have it DJs turned to the track on the Album that seemed likely to get the best response.

You’ve guessed it Barbara Ann.

Thus, it became very hard to turn on your radio  and not hear, blasting out at full volume …Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann!

All the way to Number 2 and eternally into the memsory of anyone who ever heard it.

Now, apart from the extremely hardy and commited few, Surfing as a pastime, still less  a culture was largely unknown to us Brits.

But, only those with their radios steadfastly tuned to classical stations were unaware of The Beach Boys.

And, musicians and songwriters in particular were in awe of Brian Wilson’s melodic gifts and conceptual imagInation.

No one will be surprised to learn that Paul McCartney was stunned by Brian’s talents and driven to match them in songs and arrangements of his own.

An unexpected Beach Boys devotee was none other than one of the true wild men of the era –  the iconic drummer of Tne Who Keith Moon!

It’s fair to say that Keith’s gifts as a singer are dwarfed by his gifts at the drum kit yet there is something immensely touching listening to him assay, ‘Barbara Ann’in his unique falsetto.

 

Lordy, Lordy.

Of course, once Daltrey, Townshend and Entwhistle cut loose in support of their sticksman there can be no getting out of the landslide that was The Who at full throttle.

Rockin’ and a rollin’ Rockin’ and a rellin’ indeed!

Slight though Barbara Ann is in the glorious Beach Boys treasure trove it recurred in their live shows  simply because everybody can sing along and it’s just flat out FUN.

When they toured on 2012 to celebrate a staggering 50 years as a Group tney invariably encored with Barbara Ann and duly brought the house down.

It seemed that tour was the last time Brian and Mike Love were on speaking terms.

So for the good times ….

To conclude as we started with the power of names : we know how pretty, pretty, Peggy Sue was and we are always happy to hear from BIllie Jean and indeed from Bobby Jean and  the party is always guaranteed to go with a swing when Fannie Mae calls round.

Still and all nothing gets me stirred like :

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann.

Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, (never forgetting Lonnie Donegan!) : It Looks Like I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

In late 1962 the sun was setting on the commercial career of Lonnie Donnegan.

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The man who had run up an astonishing 24 successive top 30 singles (31 in total) including 3 Number Ones in the UK as well as 2 top 10 hits in America, now, it seemed, couldn’t get a hit to save his life.

Perry Como wasn’t calling up to invite him back on his show (where he had appeared alongside Ronald Reagan!).

The man who had strummed the first immortal chords of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Britain with Rock Island Line in 1956 and who had inspired thousands of teenagers to form a Skiffle group found that the caravan of popularity had moved on.

Moved on to the Beat Groups whose members had almost all been electrified, transformed, by listening to Lonnie from the mid 1950s.

Moved on above all to The Beatles.

But the Beat Group Boys never forgot their debt to Lonnie.

Listen to Roger Daltrey of the Who :

‘I wanted to be Elvis  .. I knew that. But the man who really made me feel I could actually go out and do it was Lonnie Donegan’.

Listen to Paul McCartney :

‘He was the first person we had heard of from Britain to get to the coveted No 1 in the charts. We studied his records avidly. We all bought guitars to be in a skiffle group. He was the man.’

Lonnie had adopted his first name in homage to the legendary Jazz/Blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson after the Chris Barber Band shared a Royal Festival Hall Concert with the great man in 1952.

Maybe it was thinking back to Lonnie Johnson’s smooth vocal delivery and elegiac tone on songs from the 1930s and his own melancholic situation that set Lonnie’s creative juices flowing when he came to write, ‘(It Looks Like) I’m Never Going To Fall in Love Again’.

Lonnie Donegan had developed since boyhood a deep love and understanding of the heritage of American roots music – Folk, Blues, Jazz and Country.

Songs from that treasury swirled about in his memory.

One of those songs was a wistful ballad, ‘Wanderin” or ”I’m Never Going To Cease My Wandering’ which recurred from the 1920s on in versions by Vernon Dalhart, Eddie Arnold and Milt Okun among many others.

Using that template and collaborating with Jimmy Currie he took ‘Wanderin” to the  piano and crafted a timeless classic.

Lonnie didn’t have the vocal prowess to sell the song in the bravura manner that it would later receive.

No, his own version is distinguished for me by its hesitant charm.

This is a man, a man wounded by love, singing the song softly, tenderly, to himself in regret after the storm of emotion has largely subsided.

There can be great beauty and sometimes unexpected peace in the stillness after the storm.

The song wasn’t much played on the radio and it wasn’t a hit.

Lonnie carried on playing clubs and cabaret always singing his heart out.

Singing his heart out.

But, like I’ve said here before and will surely say again – a true message always gets through.

Sometimes, it just takes a while.

So, scroll forward four of five years and Lonnie runs into an old friend, Tom Jones, and he thinks – now here was a man who can sell a ballad!

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In Lonnie’s home the two troubadours sat down, no doubt fortified by strong liquor, and talked about songs they had loved growing up.

Lonnie took out, ‘It Looks Like …’ and said.:

‘ Tom, I have this song – you’d sing the pants off it. I recorded it but I can’t really sing it (like you could)’

Tom remembered that, ‘Wanderin” had gone down a storm as a singalong in the pubs of his native Wales.

Listening to Lonnie’s song he knew that the chorus was just made for his own Alpha male full throated style.

And, so it proved.

Tom’s version hit Number 2 in the UK Charts in 1967 and appeared twice on the US Charts – top 50 in ’67 and Number 6 when re released in 1969.

When Tom Jones takes on a ballad you know there will be no half measures.

Tom has vocal power and range aplenty and is capable of bringing shade and nuance to a lyric.

Here, he takes us on a passionate journey through a man’s bewilderment at his current situation.

Though he thought he knew the score and cast aside his pride now, now, he can’t take anymore.

There is time for tears in the wake of lost love.

And, then, it will feel like you’ll never fall in love again.

Yet, Tom’s version has such force, such strength, even in defeat, that you are sure this is a champion who will, though he has to take a count, get up off the canvas and get back in the game again.

The eternal Game of Love.

A true message always gets through.

For there are always those for whom the message seems personal, heaven sent.

So scroll forward to the mid 1970s when Tom Jones appears regularly in Las Vegas.

And, of course, no Tom Jones show is complete without his scintillating take on, ‘It Looks Like ..’.

Frequently in the audience for Tom’s shows is another Vegas Star – in fact the greatest Vegas Star, Elvis Presley.

And, Elvis knows a storming ballad when he hears one.

When Elvis comes to record the song it’s sadly near the end of his storied career.

Now, though he’s still a Lion he’s a Lion in Winter.

So, Elvis brings a depth of melancholy to the song that’s beyond either Tom or Lonnie.

Though his royal robes may have seemed threadbare in those days he was and always would be The King.

And, when a King sings we should all pay full attention for there are many pretenders but only one King.

Only One King.

So, Lonnie’s little regarded song from 1962 had proved a true wonder and before his death in 2002 Lonnie must have reaped some handsome royalty cheques to add to the pride he had in his song writing.

And, that is where I had planned to end this Post.

But, what do I know of the strange forces of synchronicity and serendipity?

For, as I began to write it happened that Lonnie Donegan’s son, Peter, a fine singer and musician in his own right, appeared on the UK talent show, ‘The Voice’ and that also on the show as Judge/Mentor was none other than Tom Jones!

The format of the show involves the Judges listening to the contestants with their chairs turned away from the stage so that they assess purely on the basis of the voice rather than looks and age.

Listening to Peter Tom’s interest was immediately piqued and he was the judge whose chair turned around.

Then, in story book fashion, Tom learned that Peter was the son of his old friend and writer of one of his signature songs – Lonnie Donegan.

And then to make the movie complete Tom and Peter put on a tear inducing impromptu performance of, ‘It Looks Like ..’ that brought the house down.

Somewhere, the shade of Lonnie must have smiled and thought, ‘I told you so …’

 

Notes ;

It is impossible to overestimate the influence of Lonnie Donegan on Rock ‘n’ Roll In Britian.

Billy Bragg’s book, ‘Roots, Radicals and Rockers’ is a fine primer on Lonnie’s role in the Skiffle movement.

Chas McDevitt’s book, ‘Skiffle – The Definitive Inside Story’ is filed with wonderful anecdotes from those who were there.

There are many fine single CD collections of Lonnie’s hits.

I listen with great pleasure to the 5CD, ‘Lonnie Donegan Collection’ on the Spectrum label which amply demonstrates the breadth of his talents.

 

Nina Simone, The Animals : Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

All of us want to be loved.

All of us want to be known for who we really are.

All of us want to be understood.

We want to stretch out our hand to someone who says, with feeling, ‘I know, I know, I know exactly what you mean’.

Yet, so  often, we feel, far from being truly understood, we are instead misunderstood.

Living day to day can be so hard.

We make mistakes.

We let ourselves down.

No one alive can always be an angel.

Sometimes it seems all we have to do is worry, worry, worry.

We regret those foolish words so carelessly spoken.

Oh, but at heart, in our soul, to get through another day, to live companionably, we must believe our intentions are good.

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

 

Nina Simone.

An artist of the first degree.

A musician, singer and performer sharing the stature of Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin.

Not that you can compare her artistry to anyone else.

There has never been anyone like Nina Simone.

A naturally gifted pianist and a singer who made every song she ever sang her own.

She grew up in in pre War South Carolina where strict limits were imposed on the ambitions of young black girls – however talented.

Her originality, her sensitivity and her intuition which were integral to her greatness as an artist made her acutely, painfully, aware of the savage injustice she was heir to as a proud Black Woman and artist in the land of her birth.

So, when Nina Simone sang there was always wounded pain informing the beauty she created.

She brought fierce attention to a song melding the personal and the political with irresistible force.

‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ is in her reading a plea for personal and political justice and respect from a casualty of wilful misunderstanding – including her misunderstanding of herself.

Listening, you feel suspended in time, swaying in tempo, as Nina Simone with her poised piano and bruised vocal excavates layer after layer of meaning and emotion.

Listening, you hear a blues, you hear a spiritual, you hear echoes of No More Auction Block, you hear echoes of All My Trials, you hear a cry from the heart.

Listening to the way she bites into and stretches the words misunderstood, good and joy for maximum effect.

There is a gravity in her performance of this song which I find emotionally overwhelming.

Nina Simone cuts deep and listening to her is both immensely rewarding and profoundly disturbing for there can be no ignoring the dark truths about humanity and society she so often revealed.

Nina Simone paid a high price in personal terms for the truths she told.

We are all in her debt for the courage and fortitude with which she pursued her vocation and for the many treasures she bequeathed through her records.

I estimate that there are over 400 versions of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ in the catalogue.

I have listened to twenty or so before writing this Post.

I found merit in the versions by Joe Cocker, Julie Tippets & Brian Auger, Mary J Blige and especially in that of Meshell Ndegeocello.

But, it seemed to me there was only one version that I could, in all conscience, present in the same Post as that of Nina Simone.

The Animals.

The pride of Newcastle.

They were specialists in sourcing songs from the blues tradition and turbo charging them through the lacerating power of Eric Burdon’s vocals and intensity of the arrangements led by Alan Price’s entrancing Organ and Hilton Valentine’s down these mean streets Noir Guitar.

I have read that Bob Dylan jumped out of his car and shouted with amazed delight when he first heard The Animals take on, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ which they had found on his debut LP.

I would not venture to guess what Nina Simone made of their version of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ yet we can say that it is an intensely driven, masculine, version that can never be forgotten once heard.

Certainly, Bruce Springsteen, a major Animals devotee, must have had this version in his head as he wrote, ‘Badlands’.

While no one could attempt to match the Nina Simone original The Animals version, a classic in its own right, became the essential template for almost all versions that followed.

We will always be in search of understanding.

We will always be edgy, have regrets and be filled with worry.

While wanting desperately to be understood we will misunderstand others and ourselves.

That’s what it is to be human rather than an angel.

Ah  but, if we could, if we just would pay proper attention to each other and the world around us we might in our journey come to understand that every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

We might come to live in the land of spices.

We might hear church bells beyond the stars.

We might find something understood.

Sing it Nina.

Notes :

Nina Simone’s original version can be found on her 1964 Album, ‘Broadway, Blues, Ballads’.

The Animals version was released in January 1965 – it was a substantial world wide hit.

The writers of the song were Bennie Benjamin, Horace Ott (who arranged and conducted the Nina Simone version) and Sol Marcus.

 

The Complete Christmas Alphabets + Jimmy Smith : Baby It’s Cold Outside

You really can’t stay.
You gotta go away.
Ah, but Baby it’s Cold outside.
It’s freezing out there.
Look out the window – it’s up to your knees out there!
Take off your coat and that fur hat.
Don’t despair.
Pull up a chair.
You ain’t goin’ nowhere.
Hey! lookie here!
I got just the thing and I don’t mean the Gin.
Two sets of Christmas Alphabets!
Bliss.
Music to warm the heart and soul.
Hey, here’s Jimmy Smith.
He’s bound to melt the ice with his sizzling swing!

 

 

Christmas Alphabet C for

Chuck Berry and The Chieftains with Rickie Lee Jones.

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Christmas Alphabet C for

John Cale & Chet Baker.

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Christmas Alphabet H for

The Holly & The Ivy sung by Kate Rusby.

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Christmas Alphabet H for

Francoise Hardy, Emmylou Harris and Stanley Holloway.

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Christmas Alphabet R for

Roy Orbison – Pretty Paper.

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Christmas Alphabet R for

Rickie Lee Jones and Ramsey Lewis.

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Christmas Alphabet I for

I’ll Be Home For Christmas sung by Leon Redbone.

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Christmas Alphabet T for

Tom Petty & Tom Waits.

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Christmas Alphabet M for

Joni Mitchell – River.

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Christmas Alphabet M for

Maura O’Connell & Jimmy MacCarthy.

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Christmas Alphabet A for

Asleep At The Wheel – Merry Christmas Y’all.

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Christmas Alphabet A for

Amos Milburn & Ahmad Jamal

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Christmas Alphabet S for

Staple Singers – Go Tell It!

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Christmas Alphabet S for

Silent Night sung by The Everley Brothers, Sinead O’Connor & Low.

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The Complete Christmas Cornucopia + Bill Evans – Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

Perhaps you’re a little tired of Turkey sandwiches?

All your presents opened?

It’s cold and rainy outside?

Some people you meet are even a little cross and bickerish?

Well, settle down in your favourite chair with your favourite drink at hand and dive deep into the many treasures contained within The Immortal Jukebox Christmas Cornucopia Series.

If you’ve read ’em all already – award yourself a gold star and read ’em again!

As a bonus treat before the history unfolds here’s my go to Poet of the Piano, Bill Evans, with a glowing version of, ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.

Ain’t no one can stay cross and bickerish after listening to Bill!

Christmas Cornucopia Day 1 :

A Painting by Piero della Francesca, Music by Bobby Helms, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Arvo Part and a Poem by John Clare.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 2

A Painting by Fra Angelica, Music by Eartha Kitt, Harry Fontenot, Mahler/Kathleen Ferrier and a Poem by U A Fanthorpe.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 3

A Painting by Federico Barocci, Music by Bill Evans, Elvis Presley and Tish Hinojosa and a poem by John Betjeman.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 4

A Painting by Giorgione, Music by Mae McKenna & Mairi Macinnes and Roger Miller. A Poem by Christopher Smart.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 5

A Painting by Taddeo Gaddi, Music by Louis Armstrong & Kay Starr. A Poem by Patric Dickinson.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 6

A Painting by Geertgen tot Sint, Music by The Unthank Sisters, The Larks and Hildegard of Bingen sung by Emma Kirkby/Gothic Voices. A Poem by Christina Rossetti.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 7

A Painting by Tintoretto, Music by Chris Isaak, John Prine and Gluck sung by Janet Baker. A poem by Richard Middleton.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 8

A Painting by El Greco, Music by The Chieftains with Nanci Griffith, The Trinity Lavra Choir and Dowland played by Julian Bream.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 9

A Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, Music by Joe Tex, June Christy and Chopin played by Claudio Arrau. A Poem by Norman Nicholson. 

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 10

A Painting by Andrei Rublev, Music by Big Joe Turner, Fats Waller and Herbert Howells.

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Christmas Cornucopia Day 11

A Painting by Duccio, Music by The Voice Squad, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris. A poem by Lawrence Sail.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-JY

 

 

Happy Christmas 2018 from Bob Dylan (x2), Judy Garland & Charles Dickens!

Traditions must be maintained!

An Etching by Rembrandt

A Literary extract from Charles Dickens

Music by Bob Dylan and Judy Garland .

Rembrandt who may be the most searching anatomist of the human heart who has ever lived.

rembrandt

There is such depth of humanity in Rembrandt’s etching of Mother and Christ Child.

The scene glows with immediate and eternal love and intimacy.

So, at last it’s Christmas Eve!

I hope you have enjoyed the music and reflections on the way here.

I have agonised over the music choices in this series and have many years worth stored up for Christmases to come (you have been warned!).

But today’s choices were the first I wrote down and were my inevitable selections for the day before the great Feast.

First, the Keeper of American Song, Bob Dylan, with his inimitable spoken word rendition of Clement Moore’s, ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

It is safe to say that Bob’s pronunciation of the word ‘Mouse’ has never been matched in the history of the dramatic arts!

Of course, in the process of his more than 50 year career Bob has continually been reinventing himself and in so doing has gloriously renewed American culture.

The clip, above comes from his wonderful, ‘Theme Time’ radio show where over a 100 episodes he displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of twentieth century popular music and a wicked sense of humour.

Bob also recorded for the season at hand the deeply heartfelt, ‘Christmas In The Heart’ album which gets better and more extraordinary with every hearing.

It is clear that Bob, who is well aware that it’s not dark yet (but it’s getting there) is consciously rounding out his career by assuming the mantle of the grand old man of American Music tipping his hat to every tradition (hence the deeply stirring series of CDs where he explores the Great American Songbook).

The only safe thing to say about Bob is that he will have a few surprises for us yet!

Who could have imagined his helter-skelter, how fast can you polka punk?, take on, ‘Must Be Santa’?

Only Bob Dylan!

Only Bob.

Now we turn to Judy Garland with a Christmas song without peer, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’.

Her singing on this song seems to me to be almost miraculous.

It’s as if her singing really came from secret chambers of the heart all the rest of us keep under guard.

No wonder she has such a deep impact on us – we know she is expressing a profound truth about the human condition – our need to love and know we are loved.

Judy Garland paid a high price in terms of personal happiness for living her life and art with such an exposed heart and soul but she fulfilled a vocation given to very few and left an indelible mark on her age and will surely do for aeons to come.

Today, not a poem but the concluding passages from, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by the incomparable Charles Dickens – a writer for all seasons and situations.

‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?

‘I am very sorry, sir’ said Bob, ‘I am behind my time,’
‘You are?’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’
‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now I’ll tell you what my friend, said Scrooge, I am not going to stand that sort of thing any longer. And therefore, he continued, leaping from his stool and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again, and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’

Bob trembled and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

‘A merry Christmas Bob! said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards, and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!

And who am I to do anything other than echo Mr Dickens and Tiny Tim?

So, to all the readers of the Jukebox I wish you a peaceful and joyous feast – however you choose to celebrate it.

God bless us, Every One!

 

Christmas Alphabet S : Silent Night – The Everly Brothers, Sinead O’ Connor & Low

Almost there.

How to prepare?

At this Season wisdom is found not in speech but in silence.

Stand in Awe.

Commune with your own heart.

Be Still.

Hope and wait.

In Silence.

Not in the mountain rending wind.

Not in the earthquake.

Not in the fire.

A still small voice.

To listen you must be silent.

Attend to the great blue bell of silence.

Conversation flourishes when surrounded by silence.

Hidden treasures in silence sealed.

In silence sealed.

Silence of the stars and of the sea.

For the depths of what use is language?

The music is in the silence.

The silence between the notes.

Can you feel the silence?

Don and Phil Everly with The Boys Town Choir of Nebraska.

There is inestimable mystery and depth in the sound of harmonising human voices and few can have sounded those depths as heart wrenchingly as The Everly Brothers.

Can you feel the silence?

Sinead O’Connor.

A singer who takes tender care of silence.

A singer who can, shockingly for us and for herself, cut to the very quick of life.

Can you feel the silence?

From Duluth in the far North, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker – Low.

In stillness a perfect marriage of sound and silence.

Can you feel the silence?

Notes :

Thanks to –  The King James Bible, Plutarch, Charlotte Bronte, Claude Debussy, Cicero, Edgar Lee Masters and Delmore Schwartz for the inspirations.

Next Post – Christmas Eve!