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.

Tom Waits : What’s He Building?

During the Christmas festivities a couple of balls of malt into a serious philosophical discussion a friend of mine suddenly asked – if you had the time to write another Blog not themed around music what topic would you choose?

The question took me aback but my answer was immediate and as surprising to me as it was to him.

’I would write a Blog called ‘Tom, Tom, Tom’ celebrating the wondrous achievements of those who share my forename including, of course, those Toms formally called Thomas, Tommy, Tomas and indeed Thom.

Toms have been prominent in every field of human endeavour throughout history so I’ll have no shortage of engaging subjects.

Here’s 10 off the top of my head :

Thomas The Apostle – How can we know the way?

Thomas Jefferson – “The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government.”

Thomas Hobbes – Because waking I often observe the absurdity of dreams, but never dream of the absurdities of my waking thoughts, I am well satisfied that being awake, I know I dream not; though when I dream, I think myself awake.

Thomas Hardy

At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-hearted evensong of joy illimited.

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

Tom Mix – King of The Cowboys, 291 Films and a violent death!

Tom Finney – A Football Genius : Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age .. even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”Bill Shankly.

Thomas Tallis – Listen to Spem in allium if you want a foretaste of the sound of Heaven.

Tommy Farr – The Tonypandy Terror who went the full 15 rounds with Joe Louis in his prime.

Thomas Sudhof – Nobel Prize Winner, Professor of molecular and cellular physiology.

Oh .. And Tom Waits – Singer, songwriter and performer  extraordinaire :

You won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw
There’s poison underneath the sink
Of course…

But there’s also
Enough formaldehyde to choke
A horse…

What’s he building
In there.

What the hell is he
Building in there?

Tom. Tom. Tom.

Tom Waits whether he’s right or whether he’s wrong Lord ain’t we gonna miss him when he’s gone.

But, if you have created and curated one of the great songbooks you will never, ever, be gone.

Tom has studied the old masters – Hank Williams, Gershwin, Mississippi John Hurt, Kerouac, Hemingway, Bukowski, O’ Hara and Bob Dylan.

He has drunk deep of their influence and then mixed up a miraculous confection tipping the hat to them all while remaining obstinately and magnificently the one and only inimitable Tom Waits.

Ain’t no kind of song Tom can’t write.

Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards.

Drunk Songs.

Sober Songs.

Lullabys and Vampire Venom.

Philosophical Songs.

Sociological Songs.

Songs you won’t forget for the whole of your life.

Songs as innocent as dreams.

Songs as guilty as your worst waking nightmare.

Songs that, damn it, can make a grown man or woman break right down and cry.

Songs that make you scratch your head and then say with a grin – well I guess that’s true I know someone with a story just like that (often because it’s your story).

Songs that can spook you and give you the shivers.

What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
*
He has subscriptions to those magazines
He never waves when he goes by
And he’s hiding something from the rest of us
He’s all to himself, I think I know why
*
Songs that are plain as day and cranky as Hell.
*
He took down the tire-swing from the pepper tree
He has no children of his own, you see
He has no dog, he has no friends
And his lawn is dying
*
Songs that betray a deep knowledge of the crooked timber of humanity.
*
And what about those packages he sends?
What’s he building in there?
With that hook light on the stairs
What’s he building in there?

I’ll tell you one thing, he’s not building a play
house for the children.
*
Songs that can make you laugh out loud one minute and silence you with dread the next.
*
Now what’s that sound from underneath the door?
He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor
*
And I swear to God I heard someone moaning low
And I keep seeing the blue light of a TV show

He has a router and a table saw

What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
*
I. heard he has an ex-wife in some place called Mayor’s Income, Tennessee
And he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia
*
Songs that Nobody else could write.
*
But what’s he building in there?
He has no friends but he gets a lot of mail
I bet he spent a little time in jail
*
I heard he was up on the roof last night, signaling with a flashlight
And what’s that tune he’s always whistling?
 
What’s he building in there?
What’s he building in there?
*
We have a right to know
*

Songs that Nobody else could write.

Nobody.

Nobody.

Tom. Tom. Tom.

Guy Clark : Texas 1947

From The Dean of Texas Songwriting, Guy Clark, a masterclass in songwriting.

A story imbued with loving detail bringing to vivid life a vanished time and place which yet lives on in the memory.

Being 6 Years Old

 

Six is not Five and Six is not Seven.

Now you’re Six you realise you really ought to look out for your little Sister.

Now you’re Six you realise that your older brother may just not be the fount of all wisdom.

Turns out that being indisputably taller is not the same as being smarter.

Now you’re Six you see all kinds of things about the family and the town and yourself that went by in a blur before.

Late afternoon on a hot Texas day

Nothing hotter than a hot Texas day.

Least that’s what everybody says as they sit around sipping drinks and settin’ the world to rights – starting right here in town.

The sun is so bright it hurts your eyes just keepin’ them open.

Trick is to do everything real slow.

Real slow.

Mama always says nothin’ improved by rushing around.

And, of course, she’s right.

Slow and easy gets it done.

Plenty of hours in the day and most everything can wait a little while and all the better for the waiting.

Old man Wileman ..

Lots of old men in town.

Not a one as old as old man Wileman.

Someone said he was born before the Civil War.

Some say he lost that arm at Five Forks and that’s why every April 1st he gets real quiet and drinks all day.

Mind you it seems to me he pretty near drinks all day every day.

But, he does tell a good story.

And, there’s nothing I love more than a good story.

Now, when you’re Six it turns out that if you keep real quiet that the old men forget you’re there as they play Dominos and tell story after story your mama wouldn’t want you listenin’ to.

You learn a lot more from old men’s stories than you do at school.

Trains are big and black and smokin’, louder than July 4

Embed from Getty Images

*

I love to go to the Depot just to watch the trains roll by.

Trains always been somewhere and they are always going somewhere.

Every train tells a story.

At home, on the radio, there’s different kinds of trains.

Train songs.

Jimmy Rodgers, Frank Hutchinson, Charlie Poole and the new guy, Hank Williams, tell stories in song about trains.

Gonna tell my own story in song one of these days.

One of these days.

Look out here she comes, she’s comin’, look out there she goes she’s gone
*
Now you’re Six you realise that you can’t stop time you can just hold it in your memory.
*
Maybe that’s the whole point of songs and stories.
*
Always gonna keep that nickel and every time I look at it I’m gonna remember the day a red and silver streamliner barrelled right through the town I grew up in.
*
Embed from Getty Images
*
Gonna label that memory Texas 1947.
*
Might even be a song there.
*

*
She left fifty or sixty people still sittin’ on their cars.
And, they’re wonderin’ what it’s comin’ to and how it got this far.
*
Oh, but me I got a nickel smashed flatter than a dime by a mad dog, runaway red-silver streamline train.
*
Lord, she never even stopped.
*
And, in my mind, she’s still rollin’.
*

Boz Scaggs, Willy Deville (not forgetting Moon Martin) : Cadillac Walk

How hard can it be to write a hit song?

Pick up a Guitar or sit down at the Piano.

You know the notes and the chords.

You’ve listened to songs all your life.

Thousands of them playing in your head.

Find a combination of melody and rhythm and words which will have the listener turning up the radio, memorising the name of the song and opening their wallet.

But, nobody, nobody, can guarantee they know what the magic combination is.

Every songwriter, every time, has to take on the persona of a safe cracker turning the tumblers hyper alert to the tell tale click that says, ‘That’s it! This is going to be a Billboard Bullseye!’.

Melody, Rhythm, Words.

Now you will almost certainly need to add Style and Attitude and find a distinctive singer with the mysterious power to sell a song if you want the Hit you hear in your head to become a bona fide hit on the radio and on the charts.

Sometimes, as a songwriter, you realise that perhaps you’re not that singer yourself.

Holding a tune is one thing but there are singers out there who take your breath away.

Singers who win and hold your allegiance.

Your own version of this sure fire hit may become an aficionados favourite but it is not the aficionados who’ll pay the mortgage – it’s the great amorphous record buying public.

Now for subject matter.

Can’t ever seem to go wrong with Cars and Girls.

Worked pretty well for Chuck Berry!

And, the bard of New Jersey keeps rolling them out on exactly those themes.

A memorable title sure helps.

And, featuring a Girl’s name.

And, maybe there’s a dance move in there too.

Wrap it all up and what have I got?

Let’s lay down a hot rod rockabilly rhythm.

Let’s call the Girl Rita (lots of Ritas around).

Lets have a car – got to be a Cadillac (everyone wants to drive a Cadillac).

And, come to think of it that Jimmy McCracklin song ‘The Walk’ always seemed to hit the spot for me.

Cadillac Walk.

Cadillac Walk.

Let’s have flowers and tattoos and guns.

And, since my name is now Moon Martin let’s not forget to reference the Moon in the very first line!

Marinate in the Studio and here we go.

Maybe it won’t be a hit for me but I sure as hell ain’t gonna hold back.

When the moon comes up the sun goes down
Rita starts to creep around
Gets a flame in her blood fire on her breath
Fourteen names notched on her chest
She gotta rose tattooed on her thigh
Dead men raise and sigh
And it drives my young blood wild

My baby’s got the Cadillac walk

When Rita turns down her bed
Grown men plead and beg
Baby honey baby you’re the one
Carve your name right on my gun
Ain’t she something nice
Bones rattle my dice
I slobber down my side

My baby’s got the Cadillac walk

Lonely tonight honey hear my call
She said boy I won’t make you crawl
Rita pound by pound
Knows how to work it down
Weep and cry to and fro
Leave your heart she’ll steal your gold
No matter what the cost
Ooh…them duel exhaust
Make my motor sigh

Moon Martin never did have a Hit with Cadillac Walk.

But when Moon worked with legendary Priducer/Arranger Jack Nitzsche the latter realised that pair this song with a dynamite singer and a hot band and you most assuredly would have a hit.

The lead singer of Mink Deville, Willy Deville, has pipes good enough to have sung lead for The Drifters.

No style of music he can’t sing the hell out of.

You hear him sing and he wins and holds your allegiance.

Plus, the guy gets straight A’s for Style and Attitude.

Gonna make this a Noir Production.

You want a singer to drive young blood wild?

Step up to the microphone Willy Deville!

And, when a singer like Willy Deville sings a song other singers listen.

Thus an obscure song becomes a treasure.

A treasure that a connoisseur of songs and singers like Boz Scaggs will surely discover and file away for the day when it’s the right time for him to show what he can do with it.

Boz is a class act.

He purrs through the song on cruise control.

Boz gets the blues and rides with the rhythm.

Boz got nothing to prove these days – he’s a master assured of his mastery.

Let’s finish up with Jukebox Hero Willy Deville pulling out all the stops to give Cadillac Walk a blistering live rendition.

Said it before, gonna say it again – a true message always gets through sometimes it just takes a while.

Hey Moon! That’s quite some song you wrote.

Cadillac Walk.

Cadillac Walk.

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

Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint & Willy Deville : On The Waterfront, Spanish Stroll – Immortal Moments

Another post from the first year of The Jukebox.

Of all the hundreds of Posts I have written for The Jukebox this may be my own favourite.

Sometimes it might take just a single beat of your heart.

A lightning strike seared into your memory: something really crucial has happened and whatever happens from now on it will be in the shadow of this!

Maybe it’s the first time alone together when she called you by your name and it felt like a new christening.

Or the time your toddling son folded his hand into yours without thinking as he looked for stability and security on the road ahead.

Sometimes it might take years; the slowly dawning realisation, (like a photograph emerging from the darkroom) that it was that moment, that event, which seemed so trivial at the time, where a new course was set that’s led you to your current harbour.

Moments, Moments, Moments.

Immortal Moments.

Our lives in our imaginations and memories are never a complete coherent narrative but rather a silvery chain of moments: some cherished and celebrated some sharply etched with pain and sorrow.

Some in which we have the starring role and others where we are strictly extras in the shadows at the edge of the stage.

The older we get the more we learn that some of those moments have become our own immortal moments: the moments we will return to again and again, voluntarily or necessarily as we try to make some sense of our lives.

And, when we shuffle through these moments we will find many have been supplied by our encounters with the music, films and books that have become part of the imaginative and emotional furniture of our lives.

Snatches of lyrics and melodies from favourite songs that you find yourself unexpectedly singing; scenes from films that seem to be always spooling somewhere deep in the consciousness now spotlit in front the mind’s eye, lines of poetry read decades ago that suddenly swoosh to the surface, seemingly unbidden, in response to some secret trigger.

I remember the exact moment, as a teenager, when I idly picked up a dusty book in a rundown junk shop and read these lines:

‘ Thou mastering me God!
Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.’

The opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, ‘The Wreck Of The Deutschland’.

Rooted to the spot I read the further twenty or so stanzas with my head and heart ablaze.

I was aware of taking in only a fraction of the meaning and technique of the poem but I was absolutely sure that this was poetry of the highest order and that sounding its depths would be the work of a lifetime.

I had made an emotional and spiritual connection that could never be undone and Poetry with that capital P was now a territory open for me, necessary for me, to explore.

Strangely enough this was also the moment when I also glimpsed a future in which I might write poetry myself.

Similar thrilling encounters with literature, music and film now form a personal rosary of treasure in my life.

I want to share just two more with you here.

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint as Terry and Edie in a duet scene from, ‘On The Waterfront’ from 1954 in pristine monochrome with wonderful cinematography by Boris Kaufman.

This scene played with such truthfulness, tenderness and delicacy by both actors struck me very forcefully at the moment when first viewed and it has continued to bloom in my memory and imagination.

If asked to give testimony for Marlon Brando as the greatest film actor of his time I would, of course, cite his thrilling physical presence and ability to dominate and take possession of the screen with special reference to, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.

But, it is this scene that would win the argument for me.

Brando here hits a peak of American naturalistic acting using the method techniques he had learned but without being imprisoned by them.

In this scene with humour, pathos and dignity and without a shred of affectation or disrespect he incarnates Terry as a living, breathing man who wins our sympathy, as fellow human strugglers, trying stumblingly to articulate our feelings both to ourselves and to those we love and those we yearn to love us.

Watch the way his body language evolves through the scene as he realises Edie is intrigued by him and interested in him for himself.

The way he picks up, plays with and finally wears her dropped glove (seemingly improvised) should be required viewing in every drama school.

Astonishingly, this was Eva Marie Saint’s film debut.

The camera obviously loved her at first sight.

As Edie she is a luminous quiet presence whose watchful stillness, intelligence and sensitivity makes it inevitable that Terry will fall for her and fall hard.

She understatedly lets Edie’s dawning love for Terry emerge as something as natural as drawing breath.

She believably illuminates Edie as a young woman with steel in her character as well as beauty and charm.

Acting with Brando, even for someone with her accomplished background on stage, must have been an intimidating challenge but there can be no doubt that Eva Marie Saint matched and balanced him through every frame of celluloid on show here.

At some heartbreaking level we understand that these fleeting moments of intimacy shared in this scene by characters afflicted by doubt and bruised souls will be moments they will both need to recall in the painfully tempestuous times ahead.

Maybe it’s an eternal truth as Dylan wrote that, ‘Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain’.

Few scenes in cinema history bring out the truth of this statement with more clarity.

Mink Deville were led by Willy Deville a pompadoured and preening singer (finger on the eyebrow and left hand on the hip!) who showed himself throughout a roller coaster personal and professional life to be a supreme rhythm and blues and soul song stylist.

He had rasp and romance, swagger and sensitivity as well as presence and power in his vocal arsenal.

I recall the moment of seeing him for the first time on the British flagship chart music programme, ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1977 and jumping out of my chair to applaud this performance of the signature tune of his early career, ‘Spanish Stroll’.

 

Willy added sass, instrumental colour and wasted seventies urban elegance to the magic and mystery of doo-wop and Brill Building vocal group harmonies to create a wonderful record that creates its own bright shining world every time you hear it.

His wonderfully liquid self regarding, shooting cuffs vocal is all strutting Latin braggadocio anchored in his assured rhythmic poise.

Special praise is due to the mellifluous backing vocalists who wonderfully evoke the steam heat of a New York night on a tenement stoop as they support Willy’s imperious lead role.

I love the ringing tones of the guitars, the Spanish flourishes, the proto rap intervention by bassist Ruben Siguenza, the tempo changes and the dreamlike woozy character of the whole song. Most of all, most of all, I love and keep returning to the moment when Willy sings the line:

‘Make a paper boat, light it and send it, send it out now.’

Especially those last three words.

Anyone who can make the heart leap with three simple words is an artist to cherish and revere.

I’ll write a full tribute to this great late lamented talent in due course but in the meantime trawl Youtube for a series of magnificent vocal performances and load up your shopping cart with his albums. You won’t regret it.

Adios Amigo, adios.

Moments, moments, Immortal moments.