Mischief: Exploring the Soundtrack of Eternal Youth August 21, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
Tags: 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, A Lover's Question, Ain't That a Shame, American Graffiti, American Hot Wax, Ames Brothers, At the Hop, authenticity, Back to the Future, Be-Bop-A-Lula, Bel-Air, Blueberry Hill, Buick, Cadillac, Catherine Mary Stewart, Chevy, Chuck Berry, Cleftones, Clue, Clyde McPhatter, Danleers, Danny and the Juniors, Don't Be Cruel, Eisenhower, Elvis, Fats Domino, Fifties, Fontaine Sisters, Gene Vincent, Heart and Soul, Hoagy Carmichael, Hudson, I'm in Love Again, Ike, It Only Hurts a Little While, It's All in the Game, Ivory Joe Hunter, Kelly Preston, label, Little Richard, Love is Strange, Love Me Tender, Maybe Baby, Mercury, Mickey and Silvia, Mischief, Nash, nostalgia, Oldies, One Summer Night, Peggy Sue, period piece, Plymouth, Porky's, Rip It Up, rock, Rock n Roll, Roulette, School Days, Since I Don't Have You, Since I Met You Baby, Skyliners, Sonny James, Studebaker, Sweet Little Sixteen, Tab Hunter, Terry O'Quinn, The Great Pretender, Tommy Edwards, Young Love, youth
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Very few movies can appeal to both our nostalgia for Americana’s bygone eras and also to our, well, mischievous side at the same time. Yet the 1985 film “Mischief” accomplishes just that, putting it in a rare company of films. A critic for the New York Times once said it best: “If Norman Rockwell had wanted to make Porky’s, he might have come up with something like Mischief.” I could not have said it any better myself. “Porky’s,” the 1982 period comedy/raunchfest, also hits the mark of aforementioned simultaneous appeals. Writer/director Bob Clark put together the story of that movie out of his own personal experiences from his high school and college days, as a way of showing the youth of the 1980s that life was not all that different for teens almost 30 years ago (Clark graduated from high school in 1957, and that movie takes place in Florida in 1954).
As for “Mischief,” one can easily surmise a very similar intent. Screenwriter Noel Black described the film as “somewhat autobiographical,” and did a marvelous job in showing the timelessness of many teenage experiences, from romance to, er, certain obsessions.
The 1980s were a great time for period pieces from the time of Americana, particularly the 1950s (think: “Porky’s,” “Back to the Future,” “Clue,” “Mischief,” “Peggy Sue Got Married,” and so forth). This was mainly a function of basic logistics at the time. If you took the established professionals in their mid-forties of that decade, you would need to go back 30 years to examine their experiences as teenagers. That particular chronological spot just so happened to be the mid-1950s, a special time when Eisenhower was in the White House (let’s face it: Obama does not even deserve to carry Ike’s golf clubs!), Rock n’ Roll had just exploded onto the scene, America was reaching a new level of prosperity, and styling set the pace for new car design, with tailfins, wrap-around windshields, and lots of chrome!
One thing that the viewer is reminded of, as this film itself is almost 30 years old, is the respective rate of change in the patterns of life in America over the two three-decade intervals. Yes, they have changed considerably in America since the mid-‘80s, what with Internet and smart phones, but what remains clear is that the change in patterns of life was even more drastic in the first 30-year stretch. In the mid-1950s, the center of commercial activity was still Main Street downtown, not at a sprawling shopping mall on the city’s edge, just to point out one example.
That point is hit home all the more at the very beginning of the film. Right after the opening 20th Century Fox fanfare, the famous opening line “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” comes on to the screen, in the exact same font as that line appears at the beginning of all Star Wars films, no less! Of course, the filmmakers quickly drop the other proverbial shoe when they conclude the opening line with “…Ohio, 1956.” Quod erat demonstrandum.
The filmmakers start things off with a bang immediately, for they begin the opening scene with Fats Domino’s famous rendition of “Blueberry Hill” playing during the opening credits – that song was one of the most recognizable ones from that year, even though it never topped the charts (full confession: I was introduced to that record before I got to kindergarten…which was in 1985).
The female love interests are certainly appealing, and recognizable. A young Kelly Preston, in her youthful prime, in 1950s dresses? Yes, please! Film buffs might also recognize Catherine Mary Stewart as having played the girlfriend of the protagonist in “The Last Starfighter” from the previous year (also one of the late, great, Robert Preston’s last films – no relation to the female lead in this film, though). Other great bit-parts abound in the movie, too. Terry O’Quinn co-stars, this time sans-moustache (film buffs would recognize him as Howard Hughes from the hit Disney flick “The Rocketeer” from 1991, another great period piece, this time taking place in 1938).
Anyhow, we barely miss the three-and-a-half-minute mark of the movie when we’re treated to our next Oldie offering in the soundtrack, “Young Love,” and the Tab Hunter version, at that (the version that actually did top the charts for a couple of weeks in ’56), not the Sonny James version from the same year that most listeners might ironically more readily recognize today.
The film is not without its fair share of period gaffes, however. The song selection is, on balance, great, but some of them are a tad anachronistic: a great example can be discerned in the eighth minute of the film, when you can hear Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” playing on a transistor radio. All well and good, except that “Sweet Little Sixteen” was from 1958, and the story is supposed to take place in 1956. Oops.
Also, one hazard one is likely to encounter in period films from the 1980s and earlier are contemporary re-makes of hit-songs from the past. Remember, this was still a relatively new artistic technique in cinema, largely pioneered by George Lucas in “American Graffiti” from 1973. But this was 13 years later, and seemingly a disproportionately longer span of time between the contemporary and the bygone era the film attempts to portray. Nevertheless, after more than a decade, they still apparently had yet to secure the necessary permissions to use certain authentic songs in movies, hence the contemporary knock-offs one hears of Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” among others. It would not be until the 1990s when, apparently, that process would become more streamlined, and we would not have to settle for the knock-offs, occasional though they may be.
Even with the knock-offs, some are still out of place. Danny and the Juniors’ “At the Hop” was re-made for the film, but the original hit did not top the charts until the start of 1958, for example. The ever-popular “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly, also a re-make in this film, did not debut in its original form until the following year, 1957 – same thing on both counts with “Maybe Baby.” Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You Baby” fits the year, but they had to play a late remake of it, too, for some reason.
Thankfully, one of the most appropriate tunes of the entire film, “School Days” by Chuck Berry, is untainted in its originality of rendition. Too bad it too was from 1957, not 1956. Oh well! The song is played at the perfect time, just as teenage students are walking in to their high school. With such impeccable timing, who cares if the period authenticity is off by one year?
The film’s soundtrack is not without its pleasant surprises, either. For example, I have been listening to ‘50s tunes my entire life, and was still not aware that the Fontaine Sisters did a cover version “I’m In Love Again.” As if the filmmakers read my mind, they waste little time in switching to the more popular rendition of that hit by Fats Domino! Later in the film, we are treated to a third recording by Fats, this time “Ain’t That a Shame” from 1955, one of the songs that contributed to rock n’ roll exploding onto the scene that year.
They also do get it correctly, however, in the 25th minute of the film by playing part of Elvis’ 1956 hit ballad “Love Me Tender.” Ditto with Mickey and Silvia’s hit “Love is Strange” in the 41st minute. Another example of an out-of-year tune, though is in the 47th minute. The protagonist gets his first kiss with the girl of his dreams, and they play “One Summer Night” by The Danleers (1958). Again, oh well! Another interesting example is when the protagonist is in the process of cultivating a relationship with an attractive girl, they play Clyde McPhatter’s “A Lover’s Question (1959).
The best way I can explain these slight incongruities in the years of some of the selected tunes is that the filmmakers were less focused on being period-correct and more focused on trying to recreate the overall era with songs that were, in some cases, recorded three years after the story’s timeline. A similar technique was used in the movie “American Hot Wax” (1978), where early rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest hits are all mashed in together ca. 1959-1960.
Other times, the filmmakers got it right in terms of correct-to-the-year tunes, but goof elsewhere. During the main love scene of the picture, they put on a 45 RPM record, supposedly “My Prayer” by the Platters (yes, from 1956, and in fact, the group’s first No. 1 hit). But the Platters recorded on the Mercury label, and what is seen spinning on the turntable is a Roulette record – from the mid-1960s, no less! Another curious choice of song is later in the main love scene, when they switch to “It Only Hurts a Little While” by the Ames Brothers. Period-correct, yes, but I can think of dozens of more romantic records between 1954-’56 than that one! They couldn’t play “Earth Angel” by the Penguins, for example? To be sure, Kelly Preston’s nude scene lives up the hype, but I digress. At least the version of “My Prayer” is the real deal.
Semi-curious is the choice later in the same love scene, where they are playing Buddy Holly’s “Everyday,” (the flip-side to “Peggy Sue,” but from 1957, not 1956). But shortly thereafter, they made a fine 1956-correct choice in Bill Haley’s “See You Later, Alligator.” The timing is also great when they break out the venerable Platters hit “The Great Pretender” from 1955, though it peaked in the charts in early 1956. Also finely-selected for setting the mood was the exquisite doo-wop ballad “Since I Don’t Have You,” by The Skyliners. The song was not recorded until December of ’58, and did not chart until ’59.
By the time the 75th minute rolls around, you cease to care that Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” (the first song I consciously remember ever hearing, and that is NOT a joke!). After all, what Fifties-themed soundtrack is complete without it? Same thing goes for the use of “It’s All in the Game” by Tommy Edwards – one of the greatest records of all time – even though it was a No. 1 hit in 1958, not ’56.
As an aside, is it not odd that they played a modern knock-off of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue,” but played the correct, original version of its flip-side, “Everyday” (Coral 61885)? Just asking.
The usage of the Hoagy Carmichael tune “Heart and Soul” by the Cleftones, while a great tune, is even more curious, in that it was not recorded until 1959, and was not even released to the buying public until 1961. That group had three solid doo-wop hits in 1956 (“Little Girl of Mine,” “You Baby You,” and “Can’t We Be Sweethearts?”). Could they, the filmmakers, not have chosen one of those three instead, say, the third? That said, and much to their credit, they nail it in terms of year and mood with the usage of the timeless Elvis hit “Don’t Be Cruel” from that year. It takes an hour and half, but after holding out on us for the whole movie, we finally get to hear from Little Richard, singing “Rip It Up,” also correct to 1956, no less (to be sure, LR had a huge bumper crop of hard-rockers from that year)!
One aspect of the movie where the filmmakers did it consistently period-correct was the cars. Not a single automobile that I observed – and as a long-time classic car nut, I observed very closely! – was more recent than 1956, and even they were relatively few compared to the other model years I noticed. Plenty of 1953 Chevies, 1950 Nashes and Studebakers, and 1954 Buicks abound, among others. Only in the second half did I finally find one Cadillac – a 1956 model, one of the few cars actually from that year in the film. Plus, there’s the occasional ’53 Studebaker, ’50 Hudson, ’47 and ’55 Plymouth, etc. So, there is a nice mix of cars and model years, overall.
It is my love of cars that made me cringe in some of the scenes. “My goodness, I sincerely hope they did not actually warp the bumper on that ’50 Studebaker, or bend the front quarter-panel of that ’53 Chevy Bel-Air, or totally smash up that nice ’55 Chevy Bel-Air convertible.” Hey, I care about my true classic cars!
All in all, though, the movie is well-written, very entertaining, and the soundtrack is, even with some of the unnecessary knock-offs, one of the best I have heard in a movie in a long time. If you want to make for a cozy night in with your significant other with a great film on DVD, by all means choose this (provided you can stomach the occasionally awkward moment or two)! Who knows? You might even gain some nostalgia for that time gone by yourself, even if the events taking place in the story predate your birth by a quarter-century or more.
USA-1 Currently Leads Field In Women’s Bobsled February 19, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture, Sports.
Tags: 2002, 2014, Aja Evans, America, American, Blues Brothers, bobsled, Bronze, Cab Calloway, crash, damage, Elana Meyes, In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Jamie Gruebel, Lauryn Williams, Minnie The Moocher, Olympics, run, Salt Lake, Silver, sled, Sochi, spare, training, U.S.A.
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Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams of the U.S.A. currently lead the field in women’s bobsled after two of four runs. The third and fourth runs will commence tomorrow (Wed., Feb. 19). But that is only part of the story. The other part of the story what happened to their sled during a training run. Reportedly, Williams pulled the brakes too late, causing the sled to crash into a wall, sustaining serious damage, as in, damage-too-serious-for-the-sled-to-be-serviceable-type of damage. One can see this damage in the photo below.
So, how do we explain Meyers’ and Williams’ two solid runs? Leave it to the support staff of the U.S. Bobsled Team to save the day. They went down to the USA House of the Olympic village, where they just so happened to have a spare sled on display.
It also just so happens that they sneaked into the place to commandeer this spare sled with nobody noticing, because most people were glued to the thrilling hockey game between the United States and Russia — the same competitive game where the Americans ended up beating the Russians on the latter’s home ice in a shoot-out!
This writer visualizes but one scenario when the folks at NBC reported how the U.S. Bobsled team staff managed to sneak in and smuggle out the sled: the “Minnie The Moocher” scene from “Blue Brothers”!
All kidding aside, though, the team mechanics worked long into the night, end even “In[to] The Wee Small Hours of the Morning” to transfer key, undamaged parts from the broken sled to the spare, unblemished one. It obviously worked, given that these two ladies are poised to win the gold medal in their sport for Team USA, which would be the first time for this feat since the sport’s Olympic debut for women in 2002 at Salt Lake. Go Team USA!
Epilogue, Feb. 19, 2014: Meyers and Williams ended up winning the Silver medal at these Winter Olympic Games at Sochi, while their teammates Jamie Gruebel and Aja Evans won the Bronze. Winning two out of three medals in Bobsled is always awesome! Moreover, Williams becomes one of the select few athletes to win both medals in the Summer and Winter Olympics. Indeed, one can count on a single hand how many athletes have achieved that rare feat. Go Team USA!
American Pride Sliding Down the Track at Sochi February 16, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: 1936, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2-man, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 4-man, Adam Clark, America, Army, bobsled, bobsleigh, BoDyn, Boilermakers, Calgary, Canada, championship, Chris Fogt, Cornhuskers, Cortina, Curt Tomasevicz, Dallas Robinson, Eugenio Monti, Games, Geoff Bodine, Germany, gold, John Napier, Johnny Quinn, Justin Olsen, Lake Placid, Louisville, NASCAR, Nebraska, Nick Cunningham, NightTrain, NightTrain², Olympics, Purdue, Russia, Salt Lake, Sanki, Sochi, St. Moritz, Steve Langton, Steve Mesler, Steven Holcomb, Switzerland, team, Team USA, U.S., U.S.A., United States, USA, Vancouver, WCAP, Whistler, winter, world, World Class Athlete Program, World Cup
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With a full week of the Winter Olympic Games at Sochi now in the books, it is finally time for my personal favorite winter sport to commence, that of bobsled (“bobsleigh” being the preferred international, i.e., non-American term). With recent success in the sport over the past 12 years, surely the bobsled events are to gather some decent attention here in the United States, and with good reason. We stand good chances of winning medals in all three events (2-man, women’s, and 4-man), but more importantly, we have great athletes who are also outstanding individuals representing the U.S.A.
When I first started watching the Olympics in earnest as a youngster (Calgary 1988 to be exact), I’ll never forget the first time I saw a sled fly down the track on TV. I thought to myself, “Oh my, that was so cool! What is that?” Needless to say, I got hooked on bobsledding, and eagerly anticipated watching those events above all others during every Winter Olympics cycle.
If you are a football and track & field guy like I am, this is the winter sport for you. It combines the strength, speed and power aspects of football and track, as well as the team coordination of football. Make no mistake about it; bobsledders are the biggest, fastest, strongest athletes in all of the Winter Olympic events. Don’t believe me? Just look at how Johnny Quinn (a pusher for USA-2) managed to escape being trapped inside a bathroom.
Plus, it’s racing on ice, and in a country that enjoys auto racing as much as we do, that should seriously count for something as well. And yes, our 4-man sleds are built with NASCAR technology, which is why they’re the best!
In any event, the Games in 1992, 1994, and 1998 all ticked by, and every time I watched in frustration as a medal in the sport continued to elude us. It therefore goes without saying that one of my favorite moments of the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake was witnessing on TV USA-2 break a 46-year* medal drought by winning a bronze medal in the 4-man event, only to be bolstered further by USA-1 winning the silver. America was “back” in the sport, and it felt great. The fact that women’s bobsled was introduced as an Olympic event that year, with America winning the gold, was the icing on the proverbial cake.
Several years later, I started following the US bobsled team during the regular seasons (yes, there are such things in these relatively obscure Olympic sports), and started to learn the names of the fine fellows pushing and driving our American-designed and built sleds, courtesy of a project spearheaded by NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine. The 2008-2009 season particularly grabbed my attention, as I found ways to watch the races online, and pay close attention to the news of Team USA winning the 2009 World Championship, the first time America won such a distinction in literally 50 years (1959). The following year, we won the gold medal in the Vancouver Winter Games, the first time we achieved that since 1948 at St. Moritz.
I had the blessed opportunity to travel up to Lake Placid, New York (as in, the holy grail of Winter Olympics in the Western Hemisphere) to photograph the 4-man world championships there in late Feb. of 2012 (photography being my main hobby these days). There, I met up with a friend of mine and fellow Purdue Boilermaker, Doug Sharp, who was on the USA-2 team that won bronze at Salt Lake in ’02. During the races, I managed to take some decent sports shots, despite my learning curve. In between the races, though, my friend Doug introduced me to a number of bobsledders, both past and present.
After runs 1 and 2, for example, I was invited into the team garage — it was like being in the dugout with the Yankees! There, I was able to meet John Napier, a fine younger driver who was at the time the driver for USA-2. I also met Chris Fogt, who earned a spot on the USA-1 team at the start of this season. Moreover, I met both Adam Clark and Dallas Robinson, both from the Louisville, Ky., area (my native city and still current area of residence). Robinson, interestingly enough, is now the brakeman for USA-2 at Sochi, both 2-man and 4-man.
During the VIP luncheon, I had the opportunity to thank a number of ladies and gentlemen for representing America so well with their accomplishments over the decade, but even after the part was over – several hours later – and the sun had already gone done, the day was not over yet.
When we left the track that evening, Doug took me over to the Olympic Training Center, where, in a most unexpected turn of events, I was able to meet three of the four current men of Team NightTrain** (such is the nickname for the USA-1 crew; they dubbed their sled “The NightTrain” during the 2008-’09 season for its fearsome black color scheme). They were polishing their sled’s runners for runs three and four the next morning, and at this surprising opportunity, I once again was able to relay by heartfelt thanks for their efforts and for honoring our great nation in winning gold.
Meeting and befriending these fine fellows was truly a pleasure. Unlike the prominent athletes in major professional sports here in America (say, the NFL, MLB or NBA), these guys don’t get much attention for what they do. In countries like Germany, or especially Switzerland, bobsled drivers garner as much fame as quarterbacks do here in the NFL. How many people here in the States, who don’t follow the Olympics, know who Steve Holcomb is, let alone his push athlete teammates?
In addition to meeting Holcomb that evening, I was also able to meet Justin Olsen, who was part of the team that won gold in Vancouver. Steve Langton took over for Steve Mesler after the latter retired, and the former is considered one of the finest push athletes in the world. Watch for Langton as the brakeman for Holcomb in the 2-man event. Nick Cunningham was also on hand to polish the runners for his sled. Watch for him as the driver for USA-2 in both the 2-man and 4-man events.
They hail from all over this great land. Holcomb comes from Park City, Utah, and was originally an alpine skier before taking up bobsled (interestingly enough, the legendary Italian driver Eugenio Monti was first a skier before he himself took up bobsleigh). Nick Cunningham is from Monterey, Calif., home to one of the finest public aquariums in the world. Justin Olsen is from San Antonio, home of the Alamo and the beacon of liberty that it represents to Texans and many Americans elsewhere. Steve Langton is from the Boston area (and was a track star for Northeastern University). The brakeman for Team NightTrain, Curt Tomasevicz – who will reportedly retire at the conclusion of these Games – hails from a small town in Nebraska, and was a linebacker for the Cornhuskers before taking up this sport. Honestly, part of the fun of getting to know these guys was just talking to them about their native towns.
Suffice it to say these guys did not get into the sport for the fame, for there is relatively little (that is, on this side of the Atlantic, at least). These guys compete for love of the sport and love of country. In fact, many of these men support themselves as part of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, and have been, or still are, active in the National Guard. Chris Fogt even served a tour of duty in Iraq.
But one thing that really struck me positively as I got to know these outstanding fellows is how much they appreciate their fans. Many prominent professional athletes seem to wall themselves off from the majority of fans – given all the crazies out there, one can surely sympathize – and hard-core fans to them are a turn-off (here’s a tip: want to ingratiate yourself to prominent professional athletes? Be a fan who has perspective). But to our American bobsledders, passionate fans are not a turn-off; in fact, they feed off their energy.
For the record, the ladies who represent America in the women’s bobsled events are no less gracious or appreciative of their fans as well. Like their gentlemen counterparts, they are educated, industrious, dedicated, and down-to-earth. In other words, they are every bit the embodiment of how we would ideally envision an Olympic athlete to be.
They, both the men and women, are also incredibly approachable. They put on no airs of being “above it all,” and are always glad to meet new fans and supporters. The fact that fans here in the States are relatively few and far between compared to the big money sports might be a factor in this, but that does not detract one iota from this positive trait.
What is even more amazing about what these talented, dedicated men and women achieve is that they do so on a relative shoestring budget compared to prominent programs in other countries. Germany, Switzerland, and recently, Russia, lavish massive funds on their respective programs, albeit with mixed results. Germany is never to be counted out, and the Swiss have performed decently in the 2-man as of late, having to earn back their dominant spot that they kept throughout the 1980s and ‘90s. Russia is a constant threat to medal in the 4-man as well (Canada’s not too shabby either, fyi). But this season, Team USA has been in contention to win almost the entire time, winning enough races for USA-1 to win the overall World Cup trophy in the 2-man event and finish second overall in the 4-man (the latter alone is impressive when you consider the crash they had at Winterberg, Germany in early January). When one considers that these good fellows of ours achieve this with far less funding than other countries’ programs, it makes this momentous feat all the more incredible.
In short, the dedicated men and women that make up the U.S. Bobsled Team embody everything that we as fans ought to admire in world-class athletes. You could not ask for more outstanding individuals representing the United States of America, and I for one cannot wait to cheer on my friends as they race down the ice at the Sanki Sliding Centre. Go Team USA!
*Prior to 2002, the last time that the USA won a medal in bobsled was bronze in the 4-man event at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina D’Ampezzo. Moreover, we have not won the gold in the 2-man event since 1936 (!) and have not medaled at all in it since 1952. That could very well change come Monday.
**USA-1 won the 2009 World Championship, the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the 2012 World Championship (all in 4-man) using the NightTrain sled. Geoff Bodine’s “BoDyn” program soon designed a new sled for USA-1, which they immediately dubbed “NightTrain²”, and is the sled they have been using for the entire 2013-2014 season, the Sochi Games included. USA-2 has thus inherited the original “NightTrain,” so both sleds will be put to good use!
America’s Greatest Music: Where or When? February 5, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
Tags: America's, American, Andy Williams, Art Tatum, Artie Shaw, Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Beach Boys, Belmonts, Bing Crosby, Carly Simon, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, déjà vu, Dean Martin, Dennis Day, Diana Krall, Dick Haymes, Dinah Shore, Dion, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Great, Greatest, Harry Connick Jr., Harry James, Jack Teagarden, Julie Andrews, Kay Starr, Les Paul, Lionel Hampton, Lorenz Hart, Mario Lanza, Mary Ford, Mel Tormé, music, Nat "King" Cole, Patti Page, Peggy Lee, Percy Faith, Perry Como, Ralph Flanagan, Ray Anthony, Ray Conniff, Red Norvo, Richard Rodgers, Rod Stewart, Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley Bassey, Songbook, standard, Steve Lawrence, The Flamingos, The Four Lads, The Lettermen, The Sands, The Supremes, tin pan alley, Tony Bennett, Vaughn Monroe, Where Or When, Woody Herman
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It seems we stood and talked like this before; we looked at each other the same way then; but I can’t remember where or when.”
So go some very famous lyrics found in the Great American Songbook, the last three of which make title of the song to which they belong, “Where Or When.”
Written in 1937 by the highly adept duo of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for their musical Babes in Arms, the song became an instant hit with the buying public when prominent recording artists such as Benny Goodman (specifically his Trio) recorded the song the same year. Within a 77-year span of time, singers and musicians across several genres have taken their stab at rendering the tune, from contemporaries of when the song was new to respected artists who primarily traffic in the Standards today.
One of the most appealing aspects to the song is that it speaks to a strong sense of déjà vu with a significant other, potential or otherwise. Different “takes” on the song also hint at various aspects of intimacy that the song suggests as well. Moreover, it’s a good choice to play in any number of forms when trying to recall key moments in life with one’s own significant other!
What is also very appealing about the tune is that, like many other elite tunes in the Great American Songbook (e.g., “Night And Day,” “Stardust,” “Begin The Beguine,” and so forth), it works great in standard, sung form, as well as in instrumental form. The Benny Goodman Trio, for example, took the latter approach, and the band’s leader along with Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson do a good job of bringing out the tune’s intimacy.
A decent, semi-contemporary rendition where the lyrics were not ignored was done by Dick Haymes in the 1940s.
Perhaps the most-recognized version in this day and age, and arguably over the past five decades, is the one by Dion & the Belmonts from 1960.
But this does not even scratch the surface of the prominent artists who have recorded this fine song over the course of more than seven decades. The laundry list of big names includes, in no particular order: Julie Andrews, Ray Anthony, Count Basie, Shirley Bassey (yes, of “Goldfinger” fame), The Beach Boys (!), Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Perry Como, Ray Conniff, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr. (naturally!), Dennis Day (the voice of Johnny Appleseed from Disney’s 1948 feature “Melody Time”), Percy Faith (who wants to bet that was rendered instrumentally?), The Flamingos, Ralph Flanagan, The Four Lads, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Harry James, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin (he performed this song at least five times on his show), The Lettermen, Mario Lanza, Steve Lawrence, Vaughn Monroe, Red Norvo, Patti Page, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Artie Shaw, Dinah Shore, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra (but of course!), Kay Starr, Barbara Streisand, The Supremes, Art Tatum, Jack Teagarden, Mel Tormé, and Andy Williams.
Once you take a moment to catch your breath, it is also worth pointing out that more recent names such as Barry Manilow, Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr. and Rod Stewart have also added their names to this lengthy list.
Indeed, such length of said list, to say nothing of the diversity of musical genres within it, along with the span of time that these artists cover, all add up to the strongest of testaments to the sheer timelessness of this song.
Let us not forget Ella Fitzgerald’s version of it, for she never fails to do a great song like this its proper justice.
But my personal favorite has to be Nat King Cole’s live — albeit instrumental — rendition of his during his 1960 concert at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where many a recording legend had many a great concert.
America’s Greatest Music: Beyond The Sea, etc. December 25, 2013Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
Tags: album, America's, As In A Morning Sunrise, Atco, Atlantic, Berthold Brecht, Beyond the Sea, big band, Bobby Darin, Charles Trenet, Christmas Eve, Greatest, I'll Remember April, La Mer, Louis Armstrong, Mack the Knife, music, Queen of the Hop, Richard Weiss, Softly, Splish Splash, That's All, Threepenny Opera
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The past five days mark of the 55th Anniversary of some of the best records made over that span of time. Starting on Dec. 19 1958, Bobby Darin and the in-house orchestra at Atco Records (a pop subsidiary label of Atlantic), conducted by Richard Weiss, cut the tracks for the album that arguably would define his career: “That’s All.”
By this time, Darin had already established himself in the teen market with hits such as “Splish Splash” (1957) and “Queen of the Hop” (1958) and “Dream Lover” (1959), but everyone thought he was crazy when we wanted to cut an album for the adult market. Nevertheless, the Atco executives green-lit the project, and in late December of ’58, these key tracks were cut, starting with what would become the biggest record of 1959, “Mack the Knife.”
Recorded on Dec. 19, 1958, this song was written by Bertholt Brecht for his famous “Threepenny Opera” (little known fact: it was originally written in German) 30 years earlier, and Louis Armstrong had already given a bit of new life to the song with a hit of it in 1956. But no matter who came before or later (Dean Martin did a live performance of it in ’59), Darin clearly owns the song with this definitive version, which remains an all-time classic to this day.
That same recording date, Darin also cut “That’s the Way Love Is,” which is also a fine record, and one that does an excellent job of nailing the feeling one feels when a guy has that one special woman in his life and how strangely all that works.
In between this aforementioned span of time, he also cut two other dynamite records, both being strong, jazzy versions of the standards “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise,” and “I’ll Remember April,” which are great for getting you up in the morning.
But the session was capped off with another definite pop record of the 1950s, and of Darin ‘s career: “Beyond the Sea.” The song was first recorded as “La Mer” by Charles Trenet in 1946, but Darin sang it to the English lyrics we all know and love today. If ever somebody dear to you has been situated overseas, this song is the ultimate morale-booster, and it was recorded on Christmas Eve of 1958, 55 years ago today.
Oh, and the title cut was, ironically, the last track on this album: it’s arrangement is, er, rather unique compared to the more traditional arrangements of this particular standard.
The 2013-2014 NCAA Bowl Games: The Good, The Bad, and the Intriguing December 21, 2013Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: Alabama, Alamo, Arizona State, Armed Forces, Auburn, Baylor, BBVA Compass, Boise State, Bowl, bowl game, Buffalo, BYU, Central Florida, Clemson, college, Cotton, Fiesta, Florida State, football, Fresno State, Hawaii, Heart of Dallas, Holiday, Houston, Idaho Potato Bowl, Kraft Fight Hunger, Las Vegas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee, Missouri, national championship, Navy, NCAA, New Orleans, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Orange, Oregon, Oregon State, Poinsettia, Rose, San Diego State, Southern California, Stanford, Sugar, Texas, Texas Tech, Tulane, UNLV, USC, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Washington
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Ticket to die for: Could it be any more obvious? No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game (Jan. 6)
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: (two good ones) No. 20 Fresno State vs. No. 25 USC in the Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 21), and Boise State vs. Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24)
Best non-Big Six matchup: Utah State vs. No. 23 Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 26)
Upset alert: No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 4 Michigan State in the Rose Bowl (Jan. 1)
Must win: No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 7 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl (Jan. 3)
Think there’s enough Crimson? No. 11 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2)
Old Rivals Reunite: No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. No. 8 Missouri in the Cotton Bowl (Jan. 3)
Offensive explosion: No. 14 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 30)
Defensive struggle: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 30)
Great game no one is talking about: BYU vs. Washington in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Dec. 27)
Home Field Advantage: Louisiana-Lafayette @ Tulane in the New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 21)
Could be bad for the home team: No. 10 Oregon vs. Texas in the Alamo Bowl (Dec. 30)
Intriguing coaching matchup: Brady Hoke of Michigan vs. Bill Snyder of Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 28)
Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 15 Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1)
Why are they playing? UNLV vs. North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl (Jan. 1)
Plenty of good seats remaining: Buffalo vs. San Diego State in the Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 21)
They shoot horses, don’t they? Vanderbilt vs. Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 4)
College Football Week 15 Awards December 9, 2013Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: Army, Auburn, Bowling Green, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Duke, Florida State, George O'Leary, Joey Jones, June Jones, Louisville, Mark Dantonio, Memphis, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Missouri, Navy, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Philadelphia, Rod Carey, SMU, South Alabama, South Florida, Texas, UCF, UConn, Urban Meyer, USF, Willie Taggart
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(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 15] unless otherwise noted.)
Wish I were him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Glad I’m not him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Lucky guy: George O’Leary, Central Florida
Poor guy: June Jones, SMU
Desperately seeking a clue: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Joey Jones, South Alabama
Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Desperately seeking … anything: Willie Taggart, South Florida
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Florida State (defeated Duke 45-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Northern Illinois (lost to Bowling Green 47-20)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Duke (lost to Florida State 45-7)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Bowling Green (defeated NU 47-20)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: UConn (defeated Memphis 45-10)
Dang, they’re good: Florida State
Dang, they’re bad: South Florida
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Ohio State
Did the season start? Texas
Can the season end? Memphis
Can the season never end? Michigan State
Play this again: No. 3 Auburn 59, No. 5 Missouri 42
Play this again, too: Louisville 31, Cincinnati 24, OT
Never play this again: No. 1 Florida State 45, Duke 7
What? UConn 45, Memphis 10
Huh? No. 17 Oklahoma 33, No. 6 Oklahoma State 24
Are you kidding me? Bowling Green 47, No. 16 Northern Illinois 20
Oh – my – God: No. 11 Michigan State 34, No. 2 Ohio State 24
Ticket to die for: none, except for Army vs. Navy in Philadelphia: God bless our troops!
America’s Greatest Music: I’ll Be Seeing You December 4, 2013Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
Tags: Anne Murray, Barry Manilow, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Brenda Lee, Carmen McRae, Etta James, Five Satins, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers, Great American Songbook, Greatest, I'll Be Seeing You, Irving Kahal, Jimmy Durante, Jo Stafford, Linda Ronstadt, Liza Minnelli, Mel Tormé, Michael Buble, music, Queen Latifah, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Sammy Fain, Skyliners, Tommy Dorsey, World War Two, WWII
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“I’ll Be Seeing You” qualifies as one of the lower-echelon selections within the Great American Songbook. That said, it stands out uniquely for the reason that it originated from one Broadway show but later became the namesake in a movie several years later.
Written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal in 1938 and first performed that same year, it soon became a jazz standard and has been recorded by many notable artists over the course of the decades. The show for which it was written was “Right This Way”, but six years later it was the title song in the 1944 film “I’ll Be Seeing You” starring Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten.
Billie Holiday recorded a version of the song the same year the aforementioned film was released. Other artists, in no particular chronological order, who have covered the song include Bing Crosby (same year as Billie Holiday’s version), Anne Murray, Jo Stafford and Carmen McRae (both 1958), The Five Satins (1959), Brenda Lee (1962), Ray Charles (1967), Barry Manilow (1991), Etta James (1994), Rod Stewart (2002), Linda Ronstadt (2004), not to mention Jimmy Durante, Liza Minnelli, Mel Tormé, Michael Bublé, the Skyliners, even Queen Latifah, and a host of others.
But the one that clearly stands above the rest is definitely the Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey version from 1940. A simple listen will verify this:
Not surprisingly, during World War II this song became an anthem for those who were serving overseas, what with its strongly emotional power, a power that Frank and Tommy capture very subtly in their landmark 1940 recording.
Steve Sarkisian to USC December 3, 2013Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: Alabama, Bobby Petrino, Bobby Williams, Citrus Bowl, coach, Ed Orgeron, FBS, football, Georgia, Huskies, James Franklin, Kevin Sumlin, LSU, Michigan State, NCAA, Nick Saban, Ohio State, Pac-12, Pete Carroll, SEC, Southern California, Steve Sarkisian, Texas, Trojans, Urban Meyer, USC, Washington
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The latest news has it that Steve Sarkisian has been named the next head coach at the University of Southern California. When one considers that the available pool of good coaches is very limited right now (what with relatively few firings and hirings at this time) and most of the best coaches are already ensconced in good programs (Saban at Alabama, Meyer at Ohio State, etc.), this was an excellent hire.
Granted, many were advocating for the permanent hire of Ed Orgeron. But as well as he has done in the moment, one must ask, could he sustain the positive trend long-term? His track record might not suggest that. Plus, we have seen the temp-to-permanent hire scenario before in major college football, and it usually does not turn out that well. Remember Bobby Williams at Michigan State? After Nick Saban left for the LSU job, Williams led the Spartans to victory over a formidable Florida Gators squad in the 1999-2000 Citrus Bowl. Everybody immediately allowed for themselves to be prisoners of the moment and made Williams the permanent head coach at MSU after that. Part of the rationale was how much the players loved the guy. Bad idea. Coaches like Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban are not loved by their players, but those coaches get results from the team. Meanwhile, the program at MSU eroded after three full seasons under Williams’ leadership. Orgeron currently enjoys similar popularity with the players at USC. While this produces short-term gains, it will take somebody who is a bit more of a taskmaster to make sure that these positive trends can be sustained.
But what about Kevin Sumlin as a possibility? Yes, Coach Sumlin has become a rather hot commodity over the past year or two, but his one weakness is that, while his offenses have considerable fire power, his defenses, well, not so much, and USC prides itself on not only being “Tailback U,” but also having tough “D”’s that shut down the pass-happy intra-conference opposition. Could Coach Sumlin sustain that reputation, given his track record with weaker defenses in the recent pass? At this point, it does not appear as though he couch.
What about other candidates, say, James Franklin, whose name was bandied about as a possibility? A fine choice, especially given what he has accomplished at Vanderbilt under very restrictive circumstances with which the rest of the teams in the SEC do not have to contend. Still, he has one glaring weakness: he has no west coast ties. In the world of college football recruiting, this is vital. A great deal of recruiting has to do with knowing the high school coaches in the key recruiting areas. Franklin knows none.
But “Sark” knows plenty. He knew them as a high-ranking assistant at USC under Pete Carroll, and he still knows them while trying to recruit the players for Washington. In that important respect, this shall be a seamless transition for him. Instead of recruiting key players in the talent hotbed that is California, he shall do so wearing Cardinal-and-Gold polo shirt as opposed to a Purple-and-Gold one. Moreover, his experience with the program gives him intimate knowledge of organizational culture, making him a good company fit. This is thus a good hire for the Trojans in any important respect.
To be sure, the gain for USC is a major loss for Washington, where Sarkisian had a good thing going. But as great as things were with the Huskies, the USC job is rated by coaches and others “in the know” as one of the three absolute best coaching jobs in all of college football, along with Texas and Georgia (yes, Georgia). In other words, if the Trojans come calling, unless you are coaching at one of those two schools, you are a fool to pass up this golden opportunity. Sorry about the setback for UW, but good for Sark, and good for USC.