Steely Dan (Horace Silver) : Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Song For My Father)

OK. for Now, you live in the suburbs.

Squaresville.

But, but, soon you’ll be going to College and everything’s going to change from monochrome to wide vision Technicolor.

A whole new world.

A new frontier.

Godard. Godot.

French New Wave.

Italian Neo Realists.

Abstract Expressionists.

Ginsberg. Corso. Snyder. Ferlinghetti.

Rhythm & Blues. Soul.

Cool Jazz. Bebop. Hard Bop.

Once you get to College you’re going to form a band with your songwriting partner (songwriters work best in partnerships).

Together, once you have the songs, you will as producers and directors make gleaming records which will be as enigmatic as they are addictive.

Those in the know will know.

You will find and cast a gallery of stellar musicians matching their individual and collective talents to the specific demands of each song.

From the vast treasury of tracks spinning in your heads you’ll find influences and inspiration.

You will embed those influences and inspirations in your newly minted creations.

You and your partner will swop riffs and rhythms and references (that’s how you found each other).

Hey, remember that fabulous bass line from Horace Silver on, ‘Song For My Father’ ?

Sure do. Sure do.

The thing about Horace is you play him to people who swear they just can’t stand Modern Jazz and they say …  well, now, I do like that .. what did you say his name was?

That’s because Horace’s Jazz is drenched in Blues and Gospel and because he writes a mean theme and knows how to arrange so that the theme grows in power all through a tune.

Look how they have space for the solos and dynamic ensemble playing.

Write a tune that’s simple and deep and you really got something!

Let’s give Song For My Father a few spins right now.

I got a feeling it might just gel with that Rikki song we’ve been fooling around with.

A true message always gets through.

And Donald Fagen and Walter Becker we’re always alert to those messages.

Even if they sometimes expressed those messages in code.

Of course experienced record buyers and Steely Dan fans in particular get a particular frisson from such cryptography.

Occasionally Becker and Fagen affected ennui at their audiences unceasing demand to hear Rikki every time they played a gig.

In such cases trust the song and the audience every time.

Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

Casting for Steely Dan :

Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter on lead Guitar, Dean Parks on acoustic Guitar, Michael Omartian on Piano, Jim Gordon on Drums, Victor Feldman on Percussion, Walter Becker on Bass and backing vocals, Donal Fagen on lead and backing vocals, Tim Schmidt on backing vocals.

Casting Horace Silver :

Horace Silver on Piano, Carmell Jones on Trumpet, Joe Henderson on Tenor Saxophone, Teddy Smith on Bass, Roger Humphries on Drums.

Message received and understood!

Billy Fury, Nick Lowe & Ben E King : Halfway to Paradise

‘Strange how potent cheap music is.’ (Noel Coward)

‘I like pure pop moments with a lot of vitality; songs that are supposedly disposable but which you end up loving for ever.’ (Bryan Ferry)

A Winter morning here in the South Downs can be a glorious experience.

Hedges stiff with frost and the sky gleaming blue as if proudly polished by a benign deity.

Trusty running shoes laced up I begin my four circumnavigations of the lake.

As my pace increases with each lap I find snatches of poems and songs skimming across my mind :

‘ … And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.’

‘… The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops.’

‘  … under the ocean at the bottom of the sea
You can’t hear the storm, it’s as peaceful as can be
It’s just the motion, it’s just the motion.’

And, as I was about to collapse at the end of my final sprint clear as a midwinter bell the song I would be singing for the rest of the day –

‘ .. So put your sweet lips next to my lips And tell me that’s where they’ll stay ..

Don’t leave me halfway to paradise …So near yet so far, so near yet so far, so near yet so far away.’

‘Halfway to Paradise’ by Carole King and Gerry Goffin who may well be the ne plus ultra makers of moments of pop perfection.

Moments, Immortal Moments, which generations upon generations end up loving forever.

The song was originally recorded by Tony Orlando in March 1961 but the version I was remembering was that by the one and only Billy Fury.

Billy’s vocal and stylistic amalgam of the bravura and the vulnerable always cuts deep to the heart.

The arrangement by the brilliant Ivor Raymonde, best known for his work with Dusty Springfield and The Walker Brothers, provides a wonderfully dramatic setting – those sweeping strings! the heart stopping percussion! – which Billy takes full advantage of.

There is always something wistful in Billy’s delivery, as if he can never be sure that the emotions he feels so deeply aren’t just about to overwhelm him leaving him, for a reason he can never fathom, finally, abandoned and bereft.

Billy Fury will always find empathetic fond hearts.

Now, whenever the phrase Pure Pop appears I inevitably turn to the veritable professor of the genre – Nick Lowe.

Nick’s version was issued in October 1977 as Buy 21 on The Stiff Label.

This was a compulsory purchase for me as I had already bought the first 20 singles put out by Stiff and I had made it a point of principle to be the first in the queue when any record by Nick Lowe appeared.

The sharp eared among you might recognise Dave Edmunds backing vocals and the pianistic playfulness of Steve Naïve (from Elvis Costello’s Attractions).

This is a much denser sound than Billy’s with nods to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.

This is much more of a defiant complaint than yearning lament.

Another decade passed before I found another version I could stand to listen to alongside Billy’s.

This came from the great Ben E King whose take on Halfway to Paradise surprised me by its three o clock in the morning tenderness.

Sometimes when thinking about music you can get lost in abstraction and dissection of form.

Whenever I fear I might be falling into that trap I turn to Pure Pop where what the heart responds to is performances which though based on simple material can be truly sublime and wholly unforgettable.

Billy Fury died at 42 having been afflicted all his life with a serious heart condition.

The performance below from 1976 was his first for many years after seemingly successful surgery gave him a new lease of life.

Billy walked in shadows throughout his life yet few singers give such comfort to the broken hearted.

It hurts me some, to know your heart’s a treasure … that my heart is within reach to touch.

Oh, Oh, Oh, bonny Billy!

So near yet so far away.

Jukebox Top 10 for 2019 : Van, Ry, Tom Waits, Emmylou, The Kinks, Don Everly ++

The Jukebox covered a lot of territory this year.

I hope you enjoyed the journey – discovering new artists and reacquainting with old favourites.

Here’s the 10 most popular Posts of 2019 – make sure you’ve read every one!

At 10 : David Bowie and Nina Simone demonstrating why their legendary status will never dim with contrastingly brilliant takes on Wild is The Wind

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-27c

At 9 : Guy Clark with Texas 1947 brings a lost world to vivid life.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/11/23/guy-clark-texas-1947/

At 8 : More premium Texas Texture courtesy of Butch Hancock, Joe Ely & Emmylou Harris

Remember – only 2 things are better than milkshakes and malts and one’s dancing like the dickens to The West Texas Waltz!

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/06/29/butch-hancock-joe-ely-and-emmylou-harris-west-texas-waltz/

At 7 : A Birthday tribute to the one and only Don Everly.

There was a quality in Don’s voice, a seeming deep acquaintance with the heartaches that assail us all, that never fails to move me deeply.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/02/01/happy-birthday-don-everly-singing-beyond-singing/

At 6 : Bobby Darrin – Dream Lover. A tale of triumph, tragedy and Trauma.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/06/08/bobby-darin-tragedy-trauma-triumph-dream-lover/

At 5 : The Kinks with yet another Ray Davies masterpiece, Days (Thank You For)

Don’t forget a single Day. Bless The Light

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/01/26/the-kinks-days-thank-you-for/

At 4 : The great Tom Waits with a characteristically evocation of the everyday melding with the mythic – (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/05/27/tom-waits-looking-for-the-heart-of-saturday-night/

At 3 : Ry Cooder, Jerry Garcia, The Drifters & Aaron Neville know a great song and how to present it. Here they are with Money Honey.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/07/27/ry-cooder-jerry-garcia-the-drifters-aaron-neville-money-honey/

At 2 : Linda Ronstadt & Mike Nesmith with a heady 60s classic, Different Drum

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/09/12/linda-ronstadt-mike-nesmith-p-p-arnold-different-drum/

And ..  Top of The Charts .. by far the most popular Post in the history of The Jukebox :

Van Morrison & Mark Knopfler setting down eternity shale with ‘Last Laugh’.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/08/27/van-morrison-mark-knopfler-last-laugh-happy-birthday-van/

A massive vote of thanks from me to all the wise and witty Jukebox Readers.

There are some 150 Posts in draft ready for 2020 – so stay tuned!

Happy New Year!

Christmas Alphabet : R for Bonnie Raitt, Ramsey Lewis & Rilke

The Christmas Dinner has been cleared away.

Shoes kicked off.

Cigar lit.

A very generous measure of hot buttered Rum poured.

Now, you need a smoother than smooth sound to maintain the mood.

Nothing better than Bonnie Raitt with Rhythm & Blues legend Charles Brown with a sultry duet version of, ‘Merry Christmas Baby’.

Now, don’t you feel all lit up like a Christmas Tree!

Kick back and pour yourself another (Eggnog anyone?)

Listen now to the Ramsey Lewis Trio’s perfect yuletide groove, ‘Christmas Blues’ beamed to you all the way from 1961.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) wrote ravishing visionary poems which settle in the heart.

His Poem, ‘Advent’ will stay with you.

Recitation by Julia Koschitz.

Production and arrangement by Schönherz & Fleer.

Es treibt der Wind im Winterwalde
die Flockenherde wie ein Hirt
und manche Tanne ahnt, wie balde
sie fromm und lichterheilig wird,
und lauscht hinaus. Den weißen Wegen
streckt sie die Zweige hin, bereit
und wehrt dem Wind und wächst entgegen
der einen Nacht der Herrlichkeit.

There in the wintry forest the wind blows
a flock of snowflakes like a shepherd,
and many a fir-tree guesses how soon
it will be pious with holy lights,
and listens. Towards the white path
it stretches out its branches, ready,
and braving the wind and growing toward
that one Night of Glory.

If you have enjoyed this Post please share as widely as you can.

Set your Calendar now for December 11th and the next Post in the Christmas Alphabet, I for …

The Trashmen : Surfing Bird! (Bird bird bird, b-bird’s the word)


Turn on the TV here in Britain these days and it’s non stop Election coverage.

Opinion Poll after Opinion Poll contradicting each other.

Who’s up? Who’s down?

Leaders debates (but not including all the leaders)

Interviews, Hustings. Meet The People. Manifestos.

Dreadful, heart sinking phrases :

’We have been very clear about our policy ….’

‘We inherited a terrible situation …’

’We have had to make some very hard choices …’

Every time I hear one of these phrases I take out my trusty Air Horn and give it a long, loud blast.

 

Somehow it makes me feel better!

A friend said that an Election Campaign heralds an avalanche of Nonsense sure to bury us all.

I disagree.

Election campaigns herald Evasions, Elisions, Diversions, Fantasies, Fakery and outright Lies rather than Nonsense.

I’m in favour of Nonsense :

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
*

Give me plenty of that kind of Nonsense!

I find that the best defence against the political pollution relentlessly assailing me is to combine regular blasts on the Horn with loud declamations of The Jabberwocky swiftly followed by my own take on an all time Nonsense Classic, ‘Surfing Bird’ by The Trashmen.

Turn your volume controls to Max and sing along with gusto!

 

Roll over Tristan Tzara tell Roland Barthes the news!

Notes :

Surfing Bird was released in November 1963 and surged to No 4 on Billboard.

Clearly it owes much to two tracks by The Rivingtons : Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow and The Bird’s The Word. Hence the songwriting credit to Al Frazier, Carl White, Sonny Harris and Turner Wilson.

However, i salute Trashmen drummer and vocalist Steve Wahrer for taking the raw material  of two fine songs and through an act of crazed creativity producing an immortal record.

In addition to Steve Wahrer The Trashmen comprised guitarists Tony Andreason and Dal Winslow and bassist Bob Reed.

 

A-well-a everybody’s heard about the bird!
Bird bird bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a bird bird bird, bird is the word
A-well-a bird bird bird, well-a bird is the word
A-well-a bird bird bird, b-bird’s the word

Johnny Cash, Debbie Harry & Gene Autry : Ghost Riders In The Sky!

Here’s a Post that means a lot to me.

For the Song and the Singers featured and for the warm memories it evokes.

Nothing like music to open the gates of memory!

Music hath charms. Music hath charms.

And, among those charms is its uncanny ability to forge bonds of fellow feeling and friendship between people born in wildly different times, places and cultures.

Take me and Carl.

Carl came from the spice Island of Grenada in the Caribbean.

When we met he was seventy years old and I was a callow twenty two.

I had just emerged, blinking, from the ivory tower of Cambridge University awaiting my inevitable discovery as a great novelist.

Carl had spent decades in the fierce factories of Detroit and the searing cane fields of Florida.

We met in Hospital.

I was working there as a porter dramatically rushing the resuscitation trolley to people on the point of death and more prosaically ferrying patients to the X-Ray department and to the operating theatre for surgery.

Carl, having suffered a heart attack, came into Accident & Emergency by ambulance at 3am when I was on night shift.

I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination the team of doctors and nurses, with whom moments before I had been sharing idle banter,  urgently bring all their professional skills to the struggle to to save Carl’s life.

Happily they succeeded and before I left that morning I wheeled Carl to the ward where he would recover.

Normally that would have been the last time I saw him but as I was about to leave Carl said, ‘Will you come and see later?’.

A request I could hardly refuse.

So, that night I made the first of many visits to Carl’s bedside in the three weeks he spent in the hospital.

Walking into the ward I wondered what two such disparate individuals might find to talk about.

Almost without thinking I asked him, having learned of the time he had spent in America, what kind of music he had listened to there.

Given his age, and reading on his chart  that he was a Baptist by religion, I anticipated that he might answer Big Band Jazz or Gospel Music.

I was a little taken aback therefore when he answered by singing in a mellow baritone:

An old cowpoke went riding out one dark and windy day,

Upon a ridge he rested as he  went along his way,

When all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw

Riding through the ragged skies and up a clouded draw …’

Now, my education, at University, might have been airily academic but luckily on those few occasions when I was not bent over some medieval text I could be found, a huge tub of popcorn by my side, obsessively watching every ‘A’, ‘B’ or series Western that ever came to town.

So, without missing a beat, I joined in as we sang:

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel,

 Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel,

 A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky,

For he saw the riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry ..’

And then, to the incredulity of the rest of the ward, we lifted our voices up and sang together lustily:

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Then we laughed and laughed until we nearly cried.

And, we sang that song, among many other Western favourites, every time we met until Carl died some two years later.

‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ was Carl’s favourite song and the version he preferred, ‘Because he don’t mess about with the song’ was the one by Gene Autry from 1949.

This one’s for you Carl:

According to the Western Writers of America, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ is the greatest of all Western songs and I whole heartedly agree with that august body.

The song was written in 1948 by Stan Jones and first recorded by him and his marvelously named, ‘Death Valley Rangers’ that same year.

stan-jones-2

Stan, then a Park Ranger in Death Valley, is reputed to have written the song on his 34th birthday as he recalled a legend told to him when he was 12 by an old cowboy.

Now, all stories told by Stan Jones need to be taken with a fistful of salt as he was a noted fabulist who often valued the effect of a tale above its veracity (as frequently do I!).

The tale of the spectral herd in the skies and the curse of, ‘Stampede Mesa’ probably traces its origins to mythical cautionary stories told around the cowboy campfire in nineteenth century Texas.

Whatever its cultural lineage Stan crafted a certifiable classic which is shot through with haunting images which never leave the mind once heard.

Burning in the mental firelight of my imagination as the song proceeds I feel the hot breath of those red-eyed cows and shudder with fear as their black and shiny horns and steely hooves thunder by.

In my dreams I’m there with the gaunt faced cowboys their shirts soaked with sweat as they endlessly pursue the cursed herd they never, ever, will catch.

Surely that’s my name I hear them calling in the wind at the dead of night!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Stan wrote many more fine Western ballads notably those featuring in the films of the greatest of all Western Film Directors – John Ford.

But, neither he, nor anyone else, ever wrote a better one than, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’.

The brilliance and mother lode Americana quality of the song has, for seven decades now, attracted hundreds and hundreds of artists to take a shot of rye, strap on their spurs and saddle up with the Ghost Riders to see if that herd can finally be corralled.

And, if anyone, by force of will and character could carry out that miracle it would surely be none other than Johnny Cash – no mean mythic figure himself.

 

Johnny sings the song with the oracular power an old testament prophet issuing a grave warning to his tribe to prevent them from sleepwalking to doom.

You want fire-snorting horses brought to life?

You want those ghostly riders coming hard right at you?

You want to feel those mournful cries in the pit of your stomach and the marrow of your bones?

Call for The Man in Black!

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Stan Jones’ evocative melody has always attracted guitarists and instrumental groups who like to tell an atmospheric story using six resonant strings instead of the vocal chords.

Today I’ve chosen to feature a top 30 Billboard Chart hit from 1961 (and top 10 in the UK) by The Ramrods  – who had clearly listened closely to Duane Eddy.

 

The Ramrods were out of Connecticut and had brother and sister Claire and Rich Litke on drums and sax respectively.

Vinny Lee took the lead guitar role with Gene Moore in support.

Embed from Getty Images

*

They were essentially one hit wonders though I greatly enjoyed listening to their follow up, ‘Loch Lomond Rock’ which, probably uniquely, mashes up twangtastic guitar with a bagpipe solo!

And, now as they say, for something completely, completely different.

I have to say that when I started researching this post I never expected to feature a trance version by Debbie Harry!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh, Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh’ Indeed!

 Debbie’s version comes from Alex Cox’s 1998 film, ‘Three Businessmen’ and in my view is the best thing about it.

The production is by Dan Wool who had worked frequently with Stan Jones’ son who is a music editor – so legal clearances to use the song were easily arranged.

There’s definitely something sexily hypnotic about Debbie’s vocal adding an unexpected dimension to an established standard.

I’m going to conclude with another version out of left field or should I say the firmament.

And, versions of Ghost Riders don’t get more left field than the hipster version by Scatman Crothers!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Everyone has heard Scatman’s distinctive tones through his voice over work for TV and film. That’s Scatman as Hong Kong Phooey and as the hep Jazz playing feline in, ‘The Aristocats’.

Some may remember his appearances on TV in the show, ‘Chico and the Man’ or on film as Dick Halloran in Kubrick’s, ‘The Shining’ (one of four films he shared billing with Jack Nicholson).

Scatman was always a hep cat as evidenced by his drumming with Slim Gaillard. He brings all his vouty hipster presence to this version of Ghost Riders which has me cheering him on while doubled up with laughter.

There will be many more fine versions of Ghost Riders because we all love a good story.

Especially one that’s so incredible it just has to be true.

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

 

Notes:

There’s a fine biography of Stan Jones by Michal K Ward published by Rio Neuvo.

The major hit version was by Vaughn Monroe

Basso profundo versions by Lorne Green, Marty Robins, Burl Ives, Frankie Laine

Western versions by Sons of the Pioneers, Riders in the Sky, Chris Ledoux, Jimmy Wakeley, Mary McCaslin

Instrumental versions by The Ventures, The Shadows, The Spotniks, Glen Campbell/Roy Clark, Dick Dale

‘Other’ versions by Spike Jones, Blues Brothers, Brothers Four, Judy Collins, Christopher Lee

Billy Stewart : Summertime (The Last Hurrah)

Late September.

Autumn is icumen in.

Observe the daily circle of the Sun and the revolving Moon.

Now there is a softer quality to the light and the day is bounded by chilly air and mist.

Image result for images of misty autumn morning in hampshire

Soon the leaves will shiver and fall.

But, last week, miraculously, Summer held on for one last hurrah!

Long days of streaming warm light and air.

Image result for images of late summer morning in hampshire

So, as I walked and drove the lanes one song returned over and over to my mind.

A song written in 1934 by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward for the landmark show, ‘Porgy and Bess’ which debuted the following year.

Stephen Sondheim, who might be admitted to being something of an authority on musical theatre, believes Summertime to have the best lyrics in the history of the genre.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry
*

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But till that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry

Now that is Folk Poetry speaking deep to the heart.

A lullaby that makes dandling babes and hopeful parents of us all.

Jump Fish!

Stretch high up to the sky Cotton!

Easy living.

Summertime.

Summertime.

Returning year after year after year as our years proceed.

Oh, one of these days.

One of these days we are gonna rise up singing.

One of these days we will take to the sky.

But, until that blessed day we will believe in the healing warmth of the Sun and Summer’s faithful return.

Hush … don’t you cry.

Don’t you cry.

Summertime is among the most recorded songs in history.

It seems I had some 25, 000 versions to choose from.

Yet, I didn’t hesitate for a second.

The version that played in my head as the fish jumped and the cotton grew high was recorded in 1966 by Billy Stewart for Chess Records.

Image result for billy stewart images

Billy’s bravura performance of Summertime has the fish jumping out of sheer joy and the cotton splitting the cloudless sky.

Oh Yes!

We are rising up singing.

Oh Yes!

We are gonna spread our wings and soar right up to the roof of the sky.

Nothing’s gonna hurt us.

Summertime.

Summertime.

And the living is easy.

The living is easy.

Hush.

Hush.

We won’t cry.

We won’t cry.

Summertime.

Image result for images of late summer evening in hampshire

Summertime.

Summertime.

Notes :

Billy Stewart (March 24, 1937 – January 17, 1970) was as you will know from the above an extraordinary singer and performer.

Track down a collection of his recordings and you will be highly rewarded.

I will return to Billy’s career here on The Jukebox later.