Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Lyle Lovett & Toots Thielmans : Smile

Exploring the genius of Charlie Chaplin featuring :

Chaplin himself, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, Lyle Lovett & Toots Thielmans.

Genius is an extremely overworked term when applied to popular artists of the twentieth century.

Nevertheless, without any hesitation I can assert that Charlie Chaplin was a genius.

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He was a master of every aspect of film making – writing, acting, producing and directing.

And, he did something only the very rarest artists do – he created an iconic character (the Tramp) who has become part of the very fabric of popular consciousness.

He was a Poet of  the Cinema with a deep tragi-comic vision.

A vision whose beauty and truth was recognised and welcomed whatever the age, language and culture of those who encountered his films.

The best definition of genius I know comes from Arthur Schopenhauer :

‘The genius … lights on his age like a comet into the paths of the planets, to whose well-regulated and comprehensible arrangement its wholly eccentric course is foreign.

Accordingly, he cannot go hand in hand with the regular course of the culture of the times as found; on the contrary, he casts his works far out on to the path in front …

Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target … which others cannot even see.’

Charlie Chaplin fully meets that definition.

Oh, and in addition to the honour board of talents listed above he was also a talented composer who wrote the music for one of the most affecting songs of his and any other era – ‘Smile’.

Chaplin, of course, thought in cinematic terms so let’s kick off this tribute to his genius with ‘Smile’ in its first incarnation as part of his score to his masterpiece from 1936, ‘Modern Times’.

Every element of this scene reflects the enormous pains Chaplin took to achieve the exact effects he was seeking.

Chaplin knew all about the Fear and Sorrow that beset so many lives.

He knew that a smile was often your best disguise and perhaps your only defence against the sadness that might otherwise overwhelm you.

The Tramp always keeps alive a spark of Hope, of determination to survive – to be present for what, who knows, may, just may, turn out to be a better tomorrow.

Chaplin’s whole cinematic persona – in the delicacy of his facial gestures and the gamut of his physical pantomime amounts in a sense to an alertness to the promise of Life – no matter how dire the circumstances.

With his mastery of mime and the balletic grace of his movement he was able to convey more nuances of emotion than a hundred lines of dialogue could convey.

His genius was both to acknowledge the Fear and Sorrow but not to surrender to it – to grandly and magnificently literally laugh in the face of it.

And, if Charlie can survive so might we.

As cinema goers, a spring anew in their step, left a Chaplin film they were reassured that light and laughter could outshine the darkness.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you ….

The lyric and a title for Chaplin’s melody came from John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954.

The Premier recording was by a peerless balladeer of Golden Age American Song – Nat King Cole.

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just Smile.

There is no grandiloquence in Nat’s performance.

Knowing that he had a rare treasure here he simply presents the song allowing the beauty of the melody and the poignancy of the words to travel into the hearts and minds of the audience.

‘Simple’ for Nat King Cole because of the burnished gold of his voice which makes us all gladly share any emotion he is evoking.

If I imagine an exhausted couple slow dancing to Nat’s version in the sanctuary of their home I can only imagine the next take as a solo dance underneath a waning Moon.

Judy Garland.

If ever an artist was born to sing a song it was Judy to sing, ‘Smile’.

Fear and Sorrow and Heartbreak surrounded her all her days.

And, those circumstances were fully incarnated in her voice when she sang – especially when she sang, ‘Smile’.

Her Version is filled with tears and sadness – the gladness and the smile is in the going on, the going on.

I am going to repeat something I wrote about Garland before because I don’t think I can say what I mean to say any better.

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.

There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of Smile but not a single one sounds anything like the depths that Judy Garland does.

And now for something completely different!

Jimmy Durante brought his own very real magic to Smile.

A straight from the shoulder, Hey Bud, have one on me, growl that’s surprisingly affecting.

Lyle Lovett knows songs having written many fine ones himself.

There is always consideration and deliberation involved in the way he approaches a song.

So, his Smile is ruminative, baffled and melancholic.

 

To conclude here’s something really special.

The great Jazz Harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielmans, at 90, bringing a lifetime of craft and experience to bear on Chaplin’s insights into the changeable weather of the human heart.

In a previous feature on, ‘The Third Man’ I noted that it had one of the great endings in the Film Canon.

Well, Charlie Chaplin was a supreme master of ending a Film in a highly memorable and emotionally satisfying way.

The melody plays, the camera rolls and our hearts are uplifted.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just Smile

If you just Smile.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Richard Thompson &The Move (never forgetting Cowboy Jack Clement) : It’ll Be Me!

In the mid 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll smashed apart the ice bound cultural climate of America and Britain.

A new generation born in the 1940s had epiphanies in the 50s listening to the icebreakers in chief : Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

In Minnesota, Bob Dylan.

In Liverpool, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

And, their ecstatic immersion into a new world was repeated in hamlets and villages and towns and cities all over the world.

Later, when those Baby Boomers became artists and legends in their own right they always carried within treasured memories of the sparks that had lit their own flames.

That’s why, time after time, when it comes to encores you’ll find the titans of the 60s and 70s returning to the original source to pay homage and rock out for all they are worth!

Now, if you want a mentor, an exemplar, for barn burning, earth shattering, Rock ‘n’ Roll you can’t possibly beat The Killer – Ferriday Louisiana’s very own Jerry Lee Lewis!

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If there was ever a man/myth you might chance upon a-peeping from a crawdad hole or grinnin’ down on you from the top of a telephone pole it would have to be Jerry Lee!

In February 1957 Jerry was in Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios for his second session as a recording artist with Cowboy Jack Clement at the desk.

Everyone with a pulse from Mercury to Pluto knows the second track they recorded that day, ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ as it became one of the defining records of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era (which is of course still extant).

But, today The Jukebox is celebrating the B Side of that epochal 45, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a masterpiece in its own right and, as we shall see, an inspiration for decades to come.

Well, you can climb to the top of Everest or descend in a diving bell to the deepest darkest depths of the oceans but you still wouldn’t be able to find a truer Rock ‘n’ Roller than Jerry Lee.

I love the leer that’s always in his voice tempered by a sly wink to the audience :

Come on you’ve got to admit it you just can’t get enough of Jerry Lee can you’.

And, there’s always that slippin’ and a slidin’ perpetually pumpin’ Piano to keep your heart rate up and out a broad smile on your face.

‘It’ll Be Me’ was written by a popular music renaissance man – Cowboy Jack Clement.

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Among the roles Jack assumed were : songwriter, singer, producer, studio owner, talent spotter and world class raconteur!

Of course, as The Jukebox never tires of saying you only have to make one great record to be sure of immortality and with, ‘It’ll Be Me’ Jack most assuredly did that.

Janis Martin was a contemporary of Jerry Lee’s and a rip roaring rocker.

She took a long spell away from the music business yet when lured back by the estimable Rosie Flores for the album, ‘The Blanco Sessions’ in 1995 she showed that she could still set those sparks flying upward.

The Move were one of the least classifiable outfits in the firmament of British Beat Groups of the 1960s.

They were Rock ‘n’ Roll, they were Pop, they were Psychedelic, they were progressive and Retro all at the same time.

In Roy Wood they had a songwriter/performer who overflowed with talent turbo charging the efforts of Bev Bevan (Drums), Carl Wayne (Vocals & Guitar), Trevor Burton (Guitar & Vocals) and Ace Kefford (Bass & Vocals).

Live, they brewed up quite a storm.

Here they are giving, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a no holds barred, eyeballs out, performance for the good old BBC.

Now we turn to a regular on The Jukebox, Richard Thompson, here performing live with his then wife Linda.

Richard Thompson, in contrast to almost all the stellar guitarists of his time, was not a devotee of B. B King, Elmore James or Chuck Berry.

Rather he had a unique set of influences which included traditional Pipers and Fiddle Players alongside Guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Les Paul.

Which is why he sounds only ever like himself.

And, he can play in almost any emotional register.

He can play with the still tenderness of a mother singing a lullaby to her sick child in the dead of night.

He can play with the ferocity of William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops as they slashed and burned their was from Atlanta to Savannah.

You want someone who can make the line :

‘If you see a rocket ship on its way to Mars’ come alive well look no further than Richard Thompson when he’s in the mood!

Better fasten your seat belt real tight! – you’ll be pulling some serious Gs!

Remember what I said about Encores?

Well, here’s a short, sharp and satisfying one from a Group, Lindisfarne, whom I often saw in their 70s heyday.

Lindisfarne, as their name suggests, were from England’s North East.

Their take on ‘It’ll Be Me’ suggests they may have been tuned in to Chuck Berry rather more closely than they were to Bede!

Pretty sure Bede never played the Harmonica like that!

Look who’s knocking on our door now!

None other than Tom Jones, happily never recovered from his first ecstatic exposure to Jerry Lee.

Sometimes you want music to be pure Fun and that’s exactly what Tom serves up here aided and ably abetted by Jools Holland.

What’s that line about funny faces and comic books?

Let’s conclude with Cowboy Jack himself bringing it all back home.

Well, if you see a new face on your totem pole or if you find a new lump in your sugar bowl, Baby, I have to tell you It’ll Be Me …….

 

Manu Chao, Mongo Santamaria & Bongo Joe : Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

A Bongo Bonanza featuring :

Preston Epps, Manu Chao, Mongo Santamaria, Jack Constanzo & Bongo Joe with a bonus of a Disney bear who’s not Ballou and 2 Nobel Prize Winners (and a tip of the hat to a third for my really savvy readers).

Sometimes you just feel unsettled.

Windows shakin’ all night in your dreams.

You can feel like you are a prisoner in a world of mystery.

No one can push that ticking clock back.

You start from here.

Maybe time to take a walk and clear the cobwebs from your head.

Far from the Towns in the rolling South Downs.

The hounds are out for their morning exercise.

The air’s so fresh you feel your heart expand.

Twang of the arrow and the snap of the bow.

What’s the thing that will snap you out of lethargy?

Maybe a trip to Tibet?

Maybe a full-length leather coat?

Or, Or, maybe those tunes rattlin’ the windows these last few nights weren’t dark forces tryin’ to get in but drums, Bongos indeed!

Bongos telling you to get up and dance.

Dance, dance, dance!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Now you think of it there’s a particular tune that always starts the windows shakin’.

What was the guy’s name?

Sharp dressed dude with a hat.

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Preston Epps – how could I forget a name like that!

And, how could I ever forget, ‘Bongo Rock’!

Take it away Preston.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

That’ll flat get it!

Preston, who died in May this year, appeared on many fine records as a side man but his immortality as a musician was guaranteed once he recorded Bongo Rock in 1959.

Some things you can get tired of but Bongo Rock – Never!

OK, as Ballou the Bear from The Jungle Book would say :

‘I’m gone man, solid gone!’

So, we are going to keep those Bongos going.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Now your mama might not have been queen of the mambo and your papa may not have been monarch of the Congo but as soon as Manu Chao hits his stride here you and your monkey will most assuredly know that you are the King of Bongo, baby!

The King of Bongo.

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Bongo, Bongo! Bongo!

Manu Chao.

He gets Rhythm.

He gets the Bongos.

And, his style crosses all linguistic and stylistic boundaries.

Don’t matter where you come from or where you’re goin’ everybody is partial to the Bongos.

C’mon let’s all bang on the Bongos.

Let’s go crazy bangin’ on the Bongos.

And, who better to blast us straight into outer and inner space than supreme Bongo master – Mongo Santamaria.

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Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Jazz classic Afro Blue given a magisterial reading on a Bongotastic night at New York’s Village in 1967.

Hubert Laws on Flute, Trumpet and Alto Sax by Ray Maldinado and Bobby Porcelli.

10 minutes of Bongo Heaven which never lets up.

Once Mongo gets his groove we are all gone, solid Gone!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Our next Bongo King, Jack Costanzo was dubbed, ‘Mr Bongo’ by the esteemed Jazz critic Leonard Feather.

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Jack played with almost everyone in the Who’s Who of 20th century Jazz and Showbiz – from Frank Sinatra to Charlie Parker to The Supremes!

Have Bongos – ready to Party was Jack’s mantra.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

There must be something in those Bongos because Jack almost made it to 99 before he went to play Bongos in the afterlife.

Going to finish up here with Bongo Joe.

Now, strictly speaking he doesn’t play the Bongos per se.

He actually plays the 55 Gallon Oil Drum.

But, I have to say there was no way I was going to write a post titled Bongo! Bongo! Bongo! and leave out my man Bongo Joe.

Joe started out as a ‘regular’ musician even playing piano for Sammy Davis Jr but he found his true calling when he found the sounds he could conjure from 55 gallon Oil Drums.

His birth name was George Coleman but he became and will always be remembered as Bongo Joe.

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As Bongo Joe he became a legendary figure on the streets of Galveston and San Antonio over three decades.

In 1968 the ever perspicacious Chris Strachwitz at Arhoolie Records captured Joe in scorching form on his only recording, ‘George Coleman : Bongo Joe’.

Just before I moved down to the South Downs nearly three years ago I gave almost all my Vinyl to Oxfam but I kept my copy of Bongo Joe – some things are too precious to give away!

Now tell me that didn’t dispel any residual cobwebs!

Dig that whistling!

Ain’t nothin’ like the Bongos to cheer a body up.

I am just about to apply for a new Passport.

I was going to put ‘Writer’ for my Occupation but maybe in some countries that may not grant you so warm a welcome.

So, I am now resolved to write, ‘Bongocero’.

Everybody, everywhere, when you get right down to it loves the Bongos.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

More Bongo Lore :

My favourite Disney character is Bongo the Bear from the excellent, ‘Fun and Fancy Free’ from 1947.

I never tire of Dinah Shore telling the story of how escaped circus bear Bongo wins the heart of Lulubelle and defeats the dangerous wild bear Lockjaw.

The story comes from Sinclair Lewis ‘book, ‘Little Bear Bongo’.

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Sinclair Lewis was a Nobel Prize winner as was a very enthusiastic Bongo Player – Maverick Physicist Richard Fenyman.

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Maybe getting his Bongo groove on agitated the grey cells and released those genius insights!

In 1959 then teen heartthrob Cliff Richard appeared as a character called Bongo Herbert in a, ‘Satire’ called, ‘Expresso Bongo’.

I was never a fan of Cliff’s and when I see him on TV I usually mutter  – oh look there’s Bongo Herbert!

Look out for Bongo Blues on the soundtrack performed by Hank Marvin and The Shadows.

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Bongoland in Tanzania means a place where people have to be smart and savvy to get ahead.

There are two fine films called Bongoland and Bongo is apparently a generic term for the Tanzanian film industry.

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A favourite childhood memory of mine is watching Magicians on TV.

My particular favourite was Ali Bongo who was something of a magician’s magician twice being granted the accolade of the presidency of The Magic Circle.

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Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

 

Ry Cooder, Jerry Garcia, The Drifters & Aaron Neville : Money Honey

Featuring :

Ry Cooder, Jerry Garcia, The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, Wanda Jackson, Aaron Neville & a Mystery Guest.

I spend a lot of time in Book Shops.

And it’s clear from the groaning shelves that Recipe Books are very popular indeed.

So, here’s my pitch for a new title :

The Record Company Recipe Book : 4 Ingredients for guaranteed success!’ 

1. Perspective :

Most people can’t see and hear the significance and potential of what’s right in front of them.

That’s because they’ve accepted, usually unconsciously, the assumptions and prejudices of the culture they grew up in.

So it’s a great boon if you encounter a native culture through the perspective of a stranger.

Someone who can see the veins of gold where others see only bare stones.

2. Intellectual and Emotional Intelligence : 

It’s one thing to see potential it’s another to imagine how that potential could be realised in the form of artistic achievement and monetary reward.

So, you’re going to need a sharp and innovative mind and honed emotional antennae because you’re in a business where you have to consistently please and win the loyalty of both loose cannon creatives and the great record buying public.

3. Build a Team of All the Talents :

OK. You’ve found some artists who have real talent but that represents only the above the water part of the Iceberg whole.

You won’t get Hits regularly and generate tons of greenbacks unless you have a talented and committed team driving every aspect of the process that results in the bonanza of a big fat Hit.

So – find songwriters who know music, who know artists and who can write songs that play to the strengths of those artists and the tastes of the men and women gathered around the Jukebox and the Record Shop counter.

So – find a group of flexible musicians who will definitely turn up for the session and who can play brilliantly in a wide variety of styles so that whoever’s in front of them sounds like the leader of a superb band.

Add in a Whiz Kid Engineer/Producer who makes the resulting record sound fantastic on tne radio, in the bars and juke joints and on the home Hi-Fi (even it’s actually very Low-Fi).

So – find business managers and marketing staff who are hard headed professionals completely wedded to the cause.

4. Keep the Recipe to yourself and add a magic ingredient :

So, Keep the team motivated and loyal.

You’re a band of brothers not a corporate clique!

And, you know that when it comes to Singers in particular there’s a deep mystery as to why some voices turn on all the coloured lights and have people begging for more.

So, if you find one of those Singers – move heaven and earth to sign them up and get that whole team on the case so that those coloured lights burn bright all over the nation.

I know this Recipe works because it’s exactly the one followed by Ahmet Ertegun the founder and presiding power behind the enormous success story that was and is Atlantic Records.

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He had the Perspective as the teenage son of the first Turkish Ambassador to the US who fell instantly head over heels in love with Black Music – Rhythm and Blues and Jazz on first encountering them.

With brother Nesuhi he found deep veins of gold in Milt Gabler’s Commodore Music Shop to the extent that they amassed a collection of over 15,000 78s and became acquainted with musicians such as Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton.

They promoted concerts and traveled to the sacred music sites in New Orleans and Harlem to listen first hand to the music and so develop a keen awareness of contemporary musical tastes.

There’s no doubt he had the intellectual and emotional intelligence.

When his father was recalled Ahmet knew his future lay in the US and that he could found a record company that would prospect for and discover black singers and musicians who could reach way beyond the, ‘Race Records Market’ if their work was professionally recorded and marketed.

Surely, that cat Ray Charles should stop trying to imitate Charles Brown and cut loose in the studio like he does at his shows?

The man’s a genius and I’m going to tell him so and together we’re going to revolutionise the music world!

People are going to know a Rhythm and Blues (so glad I brought Jerry Wexler who coined that term into the fold) record on Atlantic is guaranteed to get your heart thumping and your hips loosening and once they do they’ll be queueing up for each new release.

Team of Talents?

Well how about songwriters like Jesse Stone and Leiber & Stoller.

Musicians like ace Guitarist MIckey Baker and Sax Sensation Sam The Man Taylor.

How about that Kid Tom Dowd who Is an absolute wizard in the Studio! He keeps asking for new equipment and I keep saying yes because he makes our discs just sound better and better.

How about Miriam Abramson and Francine Wakschal in publishing and accounts. They know how every dime is spent and nobody gets to rip them or us off!

Magic Ingredient you say?

Well how about the time I want to see Billy Ward & The Dominos at Birdlland (mainly to hear Clyde McPhatter) and found Billy had just fired Clyde!

Now, though Clyde was the reason those Dominos’ records sold so well he didn’t get the credit as most people assumed Billy himself was the lead vocalist.

Not me!

Clyde has captured true Gospel fervour and combined it with down and dirty R&B so that you gotta say, ‘OOOH – WEEE’ right along with him.

Lets sign him up and get him in the studio as fast as possible with some great singers behind him.

Jesse says he’s got a sure fire hit with a song called, ‘Money Honey’ (great title Jesse).

Sex and Money – top of pretty near everybody in the world’s wish list!

Can’t wait to hear Clyde light that one up.

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Going to call the group, ‘The Drifters’.

Clyde knows the singers whose talents will perfectly frame his own.

Bill Pinkney has a smooth baritone, Gerhart and Andrew Thrasher have such sweet tenor voices while Willie Ferbie holds down the bottom end.

Got a feeling this ain’t gonna be no one off Hit.

Landlord ain’t gonna be ringing our Bell.

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Lord, but this is going to sound great.

I’ll bet we sell a million and that years from now people will still be recording Money Honey – one thing I can tell you nobody will ever out sing Clyde!

No Siree.

No one ever topped Clyde for roller coaster, thrill a minute, I may just have to scream I’m so excited vocal drama!

There’s a wonderful confidence and certainty oozing from every second of the song as if everyone knows they’ve sure hit pay dirt this time.

Money Honey was recorded on 8 August 1953 as The Drifters debut 45.

Straight to the top of the R&B charts and taking up residence on the list for almost 6 Months.

And, straight into the affections of generations of singers and musicians.

Here’s Jukebox Hero Ry Cooder really getting into a groove before a live audience.

Ain’t no doubt about it Ry can really make that Guitar talk!

It’s the mark of a great musician to put their own stamp on a well known song and make you listen to it with a new sense of its depths and joys.

Ry is always welcome here and soon he will feature in an extended Post solely dedicated to his storied career.

Remember I talked about Clyde McPhatter’s roller coaster, thrill a minute, I may just have to scream I’m so excited vocal brilliance?

Well here’s the stupendous fireball Wanda Jackson proving that she can set your heart ablaze just as thrillingly with her own vocal pyrotechnics!

How can you not fall deeply in Love with Wanda!

And, Now, The Jukebox introduces the promised Mystery Guest.

Duffy Power is something of a secret hero of the 1960s British Blues and Rock’n’Roll scene.

He had plenty of talent but somehow the alignment of the fates and his own troubles meant he became a marginal cult figure whose sales never matched his achievements.

Listen to his take here and see if you agree.

Jerry Garcia was a true music afficianado.

With The Dead and with his various side projects he payed loving homage to the music that had inspired him in his youth.

He obviously got a great buzz out of playing Money Honey – returning to it decade after decade.

Well wasn’t that a Kick!

Now to conclude, sadly in the week that brother Art Neville died, a glorious version from the one and only Aaron Neville.

I think Clyde will be singing along with this one on the celestial choir.

Old school relaxed brilliance.

Owing more than a little to the presence of Keith Richards on Guitar.

Got to admit that one had me resurrecting my cartwheeling skills!

The sun may shine and the wind may blow.

Lovers come and Lovers will surely Go.

But today’s lesson is that a song like Money Honey is here to stay.

Rickie Lee Jones, Mills Brothers : Nagasaki (Wicky-Wacky-Woo)

Featuring :

Rickie Lee Jones, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Django Reinhardt & The Impala Troubadours.

And generous measure of chewing tobaccky and wicky-wacky- woo.

The holiday season is upon us.

As we live nestled in the South Downs we have chosen this year to explore far flung coastal towns in the East, the West and the North spending a week or so in each destination.

As our delightful Granddaughter, now 10 months old, is travelling with us there is even more planning and packing to be done before we set off.

Much more kit to be found or sourced then safely stowed.

For my part the annual deeply considered decisions about which books to take.

So, essential to have a really well compiled poetry anthology – ‘The Rattle Bag’ edited by those Himalayan figures of the poetic art, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, will do the job very well.

A Poetry collection by a living Poet – without question this will have to be, ‘Distance’ by Ron Carey. The emotional acuity and impact of this book ensures that it is always close at hand.

A couple of non fiction works examining aspects of my continuing obsessions.

So in respect of the American Civil War, ‘A Year in the South 1865’ by Stephen V Ash.

In respect of Popular Culture, ‘Pulp Culture – Hardboiled Fiction & the Cold War’ by Woody Haut.

An old faithful Novel that I never get tired of re-reading, ‘A Month in the Country’ by J. L Carr.

Finally, a big book that will in equal measure delight and challenge – time to get James Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ off the high shelf and dive in!

Opening it at random I found this :

’… aign he draws for us is as flop as a plankrieg) the twinfreer types are billed to make their reupprearance as the knew kneck and knife knick knots on the deserted champ de bouteilles.’

Now by some mysterious process of neuro chemistry this immediately had me singing a song I doubt Jim ever sang himself, ‘Nagasaki’.

Such are my thought processes!

Hot gingerbread and dynamite
That’s all there is at night
Back in Nagasaki where the fellows chew tobaccky
And the women wicky-wacky-woo!

They got a way that they entertain
They wouldn’t hurry a hurricane
Back in Nagasaki where the fellows chew tobaccky
And the women wicky-wacky-woo!

Fujiama, get a mama
Then your troubles increase, boy!
It’s south dakota you want a soda
First shake me then ten cents please

They hug and kiss each night
By jingo, boys, it’s worth that price!
Back in Nagasaki where the fellows chew tobaccky
And the women wicky-wacky-woo!

Back in Nagasaki where the fellows chew tobaccky
And the women wicky-wacky-woo!

Come on you Troubadours!

Ipana for the Smile of Beauty indeed!

Yowsah! Yowsah! Yowsah!

Now don’t that just say Holiday to you!

I plan to have Nagasaki ringing out on every coast this summer!

Can’t beat that hot gingerbread.

Eternal thanks to Harry Warren and Mort Dixon for writing in 1928 a song that unfailingly sweeps away all cares and ushers in unbridled joy.

Oh yes, I’m going to let all parts of this United Kingdom know that, whatever they do round here – Back in Nagasaki the fellows chew tobaccky and the women, Lord don’t you know, they sure wicky – wacky – woo!

By jingo I think we can all agree that Nagasaki was just perfect for the Mills Brothers.

Throughout their career they had a way to entertain that wouldn’t hurry a hurricane.

I cut quite a rug to this one i can tell you!

I have read a number of biographies of the Fats Waller so I think I can safely assert that fellows chewing tobaccy and women very well versed in the arts of the wicky-wacky- woo! were everyday experiences for the great man.

Imagine your delight as you quaffed another cocktail in your favourite speakeasy to see Fats sitting down at the piano.

Now, an all night jumpin’ jamboree is 100 per cent guaranteed!

You bring the hot gingerbread – Fats will bring the musical dynamite.

Don’t matter whether the bar is in South Dakota, Fujiyama, Hunstanton or Nagasaki, Fats is going to set the place alight!

I’m calling on each of you to supply your own vocal here ….

Funnily enough when I played back my own vocal to Fats’ incomparable piano pyrotechnics I found that ol’ Cab Calloway took exactly the same approach as me.

You want a Soda?

Fine, I’ve been drinking something far stronger and it sure does wonders for your ability to remember lyrics and the precision of your enunciation.

Time to chew more of that tobaccky and seek out that wicky-wacky-woo!

In the same way that Fats Waller could drop all jaws playing the 88 Keys no one astonished 6 string afficianados more than Django Reinhardt.

Genius is a term to be used sparingly but Django fully merits the accolade.

Freddie Taylor supplies the vocal to the guitar wizardry.

However many cents I have to shake down to get a Jukebox fired up to play this one is a pure bargain.

To conclude let’s put ourselves in the very capable hands of Rickie Lee Jones.

Rickie, an official Jukebox favourite, is as Hep as you can get and don’t she prove it with her joyful jive take on Nagasaki.

No one needs to teach Rickie anything about that old Wicky-Wacky- Woo!

That’ll do just nicely!

Just before we left for our trip I read an article which provided sage advice on how to ensure you had a happy and heartening holiday.

But you don’t want to hear those hoary homilies.

No, just follow the tried and tested recipe :

Hot gingerbread and dynamite …

Nothing like that tobaccky and wicky-wacky-woo to revive the spirit!

Rod Stewart, Carole King, Aretha Franklin : Oh No, Not My Baby

Featuring :

Rod Stewart, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Maxine Brown & She & Him

The news is out.

All over town.

Your True love has been seen runnin’ around with someone new.

And, don’t some of your, ‘Friends’ love to tell you so!

They’ll tell you, with a theatrical sigh, that you’ve been led on.

They’ll shake their heads and say you’ve been told big, black Lies.

Even your Mama, trying to protect you, will counsel you beware – consider that there might be truth in those ugly rumours.

But. You have Faith.

Faith.

Whatever they say, whatever their motive, You Know.

You Know.

You don’t believe a single word is true.

Not a single word.

Your Love is not like the others.

Not at all.

Oh, no, not my sweet baby.

Oh, no, not my sweet baby.

My sweet baby.

From the heart and soul of Carole King and Gerry Goffin another guaranteed Pop/Soul classic from 1964.

The song was first given to The Shirelles who recorded a version with alternating lead vocals.

Scepter/Wand Reciords Exec Stan Greenberg thought that their version didn’t work because the beauty of the melody and poignancy of the song was obscured by the multiplicity of voices.

But, there was nothing wrong with the backing track so he called up Maxine Brown and told her to take away The Shirelles version and come back with a Hit!

Maxine, listened over and over and as she did she noticed that a group of young girls playing a skipping game outside her apartment had zeroed in on the hook as they skipped and sang ;

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

So, into the studio to overdub her tender, truthful vocal ( with Dee Dee Warwick helping out on the chorus) and Voila!

A sure fire Hit!

Seven weeks on the Billboard Top 40.

Now, the thing about Carole King melodies is that they enter your dreams.

They seem to be contain echoes of half remembered lullabies from your cradle days.

They are both fresh and familiar at first and thousandth hearing.

And, if you are a singer in want of a killer ballad (as singers always are) you inevitably turn to the Goffin/King Songbook because their songs rooted in universal emotions can never go out of style.

Never.

When it comes to singing a killer ballad The Jukebox will brook no argument that Rod Stewart in his early 70’s pomp with The Faces was absolutely as good as it got.

Ronnie Wood providing the tasty guitar licks.

Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones and above all Ronnie Lane providing the rugged but oh so right Rock ‘n’ Roll/Soul musical mash up.

Rod, of course, knew that when it came to breaking hearts there millions practiced in the art.

Yet, he brings total conviction to the lover’s cri de couer :

Not my baby, not my baby, not my baby, Oh, No, Not My Baby!

Rod, in those days had sensitivity as well as swagger.

I’m sure that the music press of those times would have described Rod as a, ‘Rock God’ along with Robert Plant and several other extravagantly maned stage strutters.

But, when it came to the Soul arena there was only ever one Queen.

Aretha Franklin.

The key word here is Faith.

Incarnating on record and in performance the attractions of the flesh and faith and giving each realm its proper due was Aretha’s special gift.

Whatever she sang she sang with a Believer’s passion.

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

Alongside the majestic vocal listen to the testifying of Cornell Dupree and Eddie Hinton on Guitar, Barry Beckett on Keyboards, David Hood on Bass and Roger Hawkins on Drums.

Not my baby, not my baby, not my baby, Oh, No, Not My Baby!

Now tell me you don’t Believe!

Remember the mantra, ‘A Goffin/King song never goes out of style’?

Well, from just a few years ago here’s the proof.

Music chameleon M Ward and Actor/Singer Zooey Deschanel are together ‘She & Him’.

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And together on their CD, ‘Classics’ they have recorded an utterly charming version of, ‘Oh, No, Not My Baby’.

 

Well, you might have had a last minute fling

But In am sure it didn’t mean a thing

‘Cause yesterday you gave me your ring

And I’m so glad I kept right on saying :

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

To conclude let’s go back to the Source.

Carole King at the piano slaying us all with a deep heart’s core take on her own masterpiece :

Wonderful the first time you hear it and wonderful as long as people can say, with Hope and Faith to all the doubters :

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

 

On John Lennon’s Jukebox – Bruce Channel : Hey Baby!

Featuring memories of the Summer of 1975 & an all you can eat ‘Hey Baby’ Buffet with :

Bruce Channel, Delbert McClinton,  Arthur Alexander, NRBQ, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Holmes Brothers, Juice Newton and Jimmy Vaughan. 

(As always if corporate czars block any of the clips appearing here you will be able to find them by a trawl of YouTube).

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Last week I had to visit our local civic centre to fill out some official forms.

This involved, as encounters with officialdom almost always do, a lot of waiting about in uncomfortable chairs while my details were checked and double checked before eventually my application was approved.

Normally, I would plug in my earphones and pass the time listening to a fine selection of expertly curated Immortal Jukebox tunes.

However, it turned out that I had left home without either my phone or iPad so I became a captive of the building’s playlist.

But, wouldn’t you just know it – the very first song played was, ‘Hey Baby!’ by Bruce Channel, a favourite of mine for many a decade.

Indeed, as soon as the distinctive harmonica riff (played by Delbert McClinton) announced itself I was transported back to a summer job in 1975.

My Dad was a long term employee of a civil engineering firm so he was able to secure me a job on a site not too far from home.

Through his good offices I also got a lift each morning at 6.30 from Dave, a trainee Quantity Surveyor, in his ‘Deux Chevaux’ Citroën 2CV, a car which made up for in charm what it lacked in speed and power.

Its been more than 4 decades since I travelled with Dave so I must confess that i have forgotten his surname.

But, I remember the important things.

To whit – he had ginger hair and proudly sported a, ‘Zapata’ moustache.

He was witty when commenting on world events and kind when commenting on people he knew directly.

And, most importantly for our friendship he was a self proclaimed music fanatic with particular interests in Motown and American Pop Hits of the early 1960s before the British Invasion.

Dave had made a series of cassettes showcasing his enthusiasms and we enthusiastically sang along to these on our half hour journey to work.

To establish my bona tides as a true lover of music rather than a passive listener Dave casually asked what was the common thread linking the last three songs we had harmonised to :  ‘Jimmy Mack’, ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ and, ‘My Guy’ ?

He was quick to say I would get no points for saying they all featured the same crew of musicians; the legendary Funk Brothers.

Fair enough I said and won his approval by saying the other link was the backing vocalists:  those barely known and critically unsung heroines of Hitsville USA, ‘The Andantes’ (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps).

Next as he cued up the tape labelled, ‘Hits 1962’ he asked as the once heard never forgotten harmonica intro to, ‘Hey Baby’ blasted out into the West London fume filled streets – Who’s playing that harmonica?

Not only did I know that it was Delbert McClinton I said I had just bought his new Album, ‘Victim of Life’s Circumstances’ and would lend it to him to tape.

From that day on as I got into the 2CV it was always, ‘Hey Baby’ at maximum volume that greeted me.

Thus was our friendship cemented.

At the end of that Summer he moved to Scotland and I never saw him again.

But I will never forget those 2CV/Motown/Hey Baby days so wherever you are Dave this one’s for you.

I hope you still thrill to the sound of Young America and sing with all your might whenever you hear Bruce Channel’s vocal and Delbert’s harmonica light up the airwaves :

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl

Now, as Major Bill Smith, who recorded, ‘Hey Baby’ was heard to remark :

’Cotton Picker, that’s sure one Cotton Pickin’ Hit!’

And he was perfectly cotton pickin’ right.

Sales of more than a million with 3 weeks atop the Billboard Chart and Number 2 in the UK.

And, permanently lodged in the memories of several generations of musicians across many genres.

Hey Baby is endlessly adaptable (as we shall see and hear) whether you are approaching it  as Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues, Country, Cajun/Zydeco or pure Pop!

The original benefits from Bruce’s relaxed vocal set to an addictive shuffle beat provided by Jim Rogers and Ray Torres on Drums and Bass.

Bob Jones and Billy Sanders Guitars fill out the sound.

But, the undoubted signature sound of the song is provided by Delbert McClinton’s Harmonica.

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Musicians recognised this as one catchy lick!

One of those was none other than John Lennon who met Delbert in person when The Beatles supported Bruce Channel at The Tower Ballroom New Brighton on the 21st of June 1962.

John certainly remembered that lick when The Fab Four got into Abbey Road to record, ‘Love Me Do’.

And, he never forgot, ‘Hey Baby!’ as is clear from its presence on his own Jukebox.

That Jukebox also contained work by our next artist – Arthur Alexander.

John recognised that Arthur was a great singer who could add a shadowy blue tone to any song.

Sing it Arthur!

Next up an utterly charming version by the NRBQ from their dazzlingly diverse 1969 debut LP.

The NRBQ, then Terry Adams (keyboards), Steve Ferguson (guitar), Joey Spampinato (bass), Frank Gadler (vocals) and Tom Staley (drums), obviously had a riotously good time recording, ‘Hey Baby’ and that shows in every groove.

Set yourself down on your porch swing and uncork something smooth and sweet!

Mercy!

OK, time to paddle our pirogue down to Louisiana.

So, we will replace the harmonica with the accordion and make sure our boots are on properly because we are about to really fly around the floor dancing to this version from Buckwheat Zydeco!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Listing the genres Hey Baby! could be adapted to I unforgivably omitted Gospel.

It is clear that The Holmes Brothers bring something of the backwoods Country Church to  our party here.

Sherman and Wendell sure get an Amen from me!

Testify! Testify!

Righteous!

Now we turn to a much overlooked talent – Judy ‘Juice’ Newton who always brings the warmth of a summer breeze to her performances.

When you are bringing out that home made lemonade for your Summer BBQ I strongly recommend you look out some of her records.

Youll find you’ll float across the lawn (even if you haven’t laced the lemonade with something a little stronger!).

Back to Texas for our concluding take.

I feel like putting my shades on as I groove to this slinky version by Jimmy Vaughan.

Let’s not pretend we went anywhere near Lemonade as that one prowled around our minds!

No, got to be something with a powerful kick and an after burn.

I don’t know what Jimmy, Mike Flanigin and Frosty Smith go for but I’m going for the Kentucky Straight!

Having done so I’m ready to dig out my harmonica and lead you all in:

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl
Hey, hey baby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl
When I saw you walking down the street
I said that’s a kind of girl I’d like to meet
She’s so pretty, Lord, she’s fine
I’m gonna make her mine, all mine
Hey, Hey Baby!