So please turn on your magic beam

It’s that season to be thankful. In our neck of the woods (barring any precipitation) it’s capital walking weather and about 20 minutes by foot from this very desk are the sylvan paths of Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where a refreshing meander has always proven the best remedy for the aftermath of a large seasonal feast.

Through the years this autumnal stroll has brought such appreciative delight that some of us are compelled to read everything within reach about the place.  What’s more, only the slightest of nudges invariably ends in a walking tour…with a nod toward the cemetery’s considerable history (for example, it was dedicated in 1855 with Ralph Waldo Emerson as orator) but with an even greater appreciation for (sorry) newly unearthed stories that continue to find their way to these appreciative ears.

Which brings us to a song that sometimes comes freighted with funereal connotations, thanks to those those grim “Halloween” horror films, although it can also be rife with sleep-inducing implications as well. Kind of like the “modus operandi” for a guy who tours a bunch of people (some more interested than others) through the local cemetery.

Featuring the most splendid knee-playing ever to hit the hit-parade, today’s selection was published in 1954 by Francis Drake Ballard, born in Troy Pennsylvania in 1899 (take heart all ye 55 year olds).  Recorded by the a capella quartette, the Chordettes that same year, with piano played by Moe Wechsler, it was released on the Cadence Records label, whose then 45-year-old founder, Archie Bleyer served as “orchestra conductor” and, talk about having fun with your position, was credited for “knees played by.” It is also Bleyer’s voice that is heard in the third verse, saying “Yes?”

The single reached Number 1 on the US Billboard charts and Number 11 in the UK in 1954, which was also the year the Four Aces released a version that charted higher in the UK, and the same year that Max Bygraves’ rendition reached Number 16 in the UK.  When it came time for Cash Box Magazine to chart the song, all versions were simply combined and the song was designated as Number 1.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Monday 19 November

Mister Sandman

 Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen

Give him two lips like roses and clover

 Then tell him that his lonesome nights are over

 Sandman, I’m so alone

Don’t have nobody to call my own

Please turn on your magic beam

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

 Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen

Give him the word that I’m not a rover

Then tell him that his lonesome nights are over

 Sandman, I’m so alone

Don’t have nobody to call my own

Please turn on your magic beam

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

 Mr. Sandman bring us a dream

(Yes)

Give him a pair of eyes with a come-hither gleam

Give him a lonely heart like Pagliacci

And lots of wavy hair like Liberace

 Mr Sandman, someone to hold

(Someone to hold)

Would be so peachy before we’re too old

So please turn on your magic beam

Mr Sandman, bring us, please, please, please

Mr Sandman, bring us a dream

The thirst that from the soul doth rise, doth ask a drink divine

First published in 1616 as a poem entitled, “To Celia” by Ben Johnson and then set to music more than a century later (although no one is positive by whom) “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes” is a rather intriguing selection for an Experimental/Post-Punk/Industrial Rock band.  And yet here it is, from the 1999 compilation album, “Various Failures” by the defunct group, Swans.

Active from 1982 to 1997, with an ever-shifting lineup of musicians, Swans is best remembered for the use of peculiar instrumentation and droning vocals, which in this case all works very well.  One only wishes they had tackled both verses, as shown here…

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Sunday 18 November

Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes

Drink to me only with thine eyes

And I will pledge with mine

Or leave a kiss within the cup

And I’ll not ask for wine

The thirst that from the soul doth rise

Doth ask a drink divine

But might I of Jove’s nectar sip

I would not change for thine

I sent thee late a rosy wreath

Not so much honouring thee

As giving it a hope that there

It could not withered be


But thou thereon didst only breathe

And sent’st it back to me

Since when it grows, and smells, I swear

Not of itself but thee

Girls – they want to have fun

She was supremely confident in her songwriting ability, but the record company insisted on providing her with musical material that they wanted her to record.  So she took whatever was passed her way and re-wrote it.  A prime example was this, her first major single released in 1983.

Originally written by New Wave musician Robert Hazard with a male point of view, she found the song to be slightly misogynistic, so with Hazard’s approval she re-worked it into a “playful romp celebrating female camaraderie.” The Platinum-certified result reached Number 2 on both the UK and US Charts and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was quickly acclaimed as a feminist anthem.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Saturday 17 November

Raised in Ozone Park, Queens where she was born in 1953, Cynthia Ann Stephanie “Cyndi” Lauper, whose single mother worked as a waitress, was the middle child of three. Having exhibited an artistic side since she was very young, with her mother’s encouragement she experimented with fashion and dyed her hair in radical colors, even  as an adolescent.  She also spent a great deal of time listening to Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald and the Beatles, and when her big sister gave her a guitar she learned to play and began to write her own songs.

By the late ‘70s Lauper had already performed in numerous cover bands and was supporting herself in various odd jobs when she and a musician friend decided to form the Retro-Rockabilly group, Blue Angel.  With Lauper helping to write much of the group’s material Blue Angel became increasingly popular on the club circuit and eventually an eponymous album was released. Although critically acclaimed it didn’t sell well however, and the band soon broke up.  Still, Lauper’s four octave singing range (she also had perfect pitch) and distinctive vocal style had gained plenty of recognition and in late 1983, with a new manager, a trendy quasi-punk image and a new record deal, she released her debut album “She’s So Unusual”.

It was a fitting name. “She’s So Unusual” reached Number 4 on the Billboard Album Chart (it would continue to chart for well over a year) and Lauper became the first female ever to have four consecutive Billboard Top 5 hits from a single album.  Although her label had expressed little faith in her songwriting ability, “Time After Time” topped the charts and was one of the biggest hits of 1984, while “She Bop” reached Number 3 and the Jules Shear penned song, “All Through the Night” peaked at Number 5. The album also included a cover of The Brains’ “Money Changes Everything” although that single “only” made it to Number 27 on the charts.

She’s So Unusual” went on to sell more than 16 million copies world-wide and Lauper won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. However it’s that debut single (and the album’s second track) that remains her signature song to this day and the video that accompanied it has been (separately) ranked among the Top 50 greatest music videos by MTV, VH1 and Rolling Stone.

Shot in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the summer of ‘83, it cost less than $35,000 to make, thanks in part to an all-volunteer cast including: her mother, who played herself; her brother; her manager; her (straight-laced, suit-wearing) attorney; friend and fellow musician, Steve Forbert; a number of secretaries from her record label; and in a role that some of us can sincerely empathize with, friend and professional wrestling manager, Lou Albano as her father.

The cost was also minimized by the free loan of some of the most sophisticated video equipment then available.  SNL producer Lorne Michaels, who was a fellow client of Lauper’s attorney, had just purchased the multi-million-dollar digital editing equipment, which Lauper and her producer used to create several innovative computer-generated images of her dancing and then leading the entire cast in a snake-dance through the streets of Manhattan that winds up in an homage to the Marx Brothers’ iconic stateroom scene in the film “A Night at the Opera”.

Surely it’s true that girls just want to have fun, and who can doubt in this case that Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper…well and truly did.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

 I come home in the morning light

My mother says when you gonna live your life right

Oh mother dear we’re not the fortunate ones

And girls they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun

The phone rings in the middle of the night

My father yells what you gonna do with your life

Oh daddy dear you know you’re still number one

But girls they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have –

That’s all they really want

Some fun

When the working day is done

Girls – they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun

Some boys take a beautiful girl

And hide her away from the rest of the world

I want to be the one to walk in the sun

Oh girls they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have

That’s all they really want

Some fun

When the working day is done

Girls – they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun,

They want to have fun,

They want to have fun….

We hear the playback and it seems so long ago

Try as I might I can’t seem to catch the name of the hefty, earthy fellow sitting at his basement workbench.  He’s wearing a Kentucky tee shirt so I gather that’s where his “How-to” YouTube video was filmed and why these New England ears are unable to grasp the nuances of the accent. Still, his mannerisms express certitude and it looks like he knows what he’s doing.  What’s more, I managed to discern his explanation as to how “a guy he met up with one time who went to electronics school” had told him how to clean VCR tape heads using denatured alcohol, a business card, some Q-Tips, lubricant and a can of compressed air.

I’m perfectly satisfied with his credentials, seeing as this dusty old videocassette recorder hasn’t been used for nearly a decade and a worst case scenario is that, with my typical flair, I botch things up so much that I’m forced to resort to Plan B…which is turning to eBay to acquire one that still works.  My DVD burner is ready to roll in the mean time, and once I can get this (or another machine) back to the point where it doesn’t chew up my hundreds of hours of aging home video tapes, I plan to spend a number of winter evenings transferring decades of precious memories from one outdated medium to another…as DVDs at least reside in the digital realm…before it’s too late.

How fleeting are our modern technological trends.  Remember when home video (VHS or Betamax) hit the mass market? Not only did you have a seemingly endless supply of movies at your disposal, with video stores seemingly on every corner, but for the first time (assuming you could figure out how to program the timer and manage to properly set up the tuner) you could record anything that was being broadcast.  And this at a time when Cable and Satellite technology brought the average consumer, long accustomed to a handful of TV channels, a veritable cornucopia of viewing options.

One highly notable option was launched at Midnight on August 1st, 1981, with footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (that took place earlier that year) accompanied by the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll!”  Then theme music began, along with footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with a flag featuring the kaleidoscope-like logo of Music Television, known forever more as MTV.

Next came “Video Killed The Radio Star” the very first MTV music video, performed by a short-lived British New Wave group called The Buggles.  Initially released two years earlier,  it was the group’s debut single, topping the charts in sixteen countries, and would later be featured on The Buggles debut album, “The Age of Plastic”.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 16 November

Written by lead-singer and guitarist Trevor Horn (the one with the glasses), keyboardist Geoff Downes, and fellow musician Bruce Woolley (who was actually the first to record it), the song describes a radio (or “wireless”) singer whose career flounders in the face of technological change.  In 1952 BBC Television began to use high-speed, multi-track VTR (Video Tape Recording) equipment that was quicker and cheaper than anything that had come before it, and virtually transformed a medium that transformed everything else.

“Video Killed The Radio Star” was also the one-millionth music video to be aired on MTV, on February 27th, 2000 and like (no longer analogue) video technology, much had changed, and has continued to change.  Recently a group called ‪The Limousines released “Internet Killed The Video Star with its official music video readily accessed on YouTube.

Alas, the same can no longer be said about the Buggles own ground-breaking video.  Although there are alternative live versions, the original 1979 release comes with the following YouTube message:

THE UPLOADER HAS NOT MADE THIS VIDEO AVAILABLE IN YOUR COUNTRY

Instead, one must turn to the French video-sharing site, Dailymotion, as we have done here, and it’s with a touch of melancholy that I note that you’ll probably have to endure a brief commercial if you wish to view it.  “We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far” indeed.

Video Killed The Radio Star

 I heard you on the wireless back in fifty-two

Lying awake intent at tuning in on you

If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through

Oh-a oh

They took the credit for your second symphony

Rewritten by machine and new technology

And now I understand the problems you can see

Oh-a oh

I met your children

Oh-a oh

What did you tell them?

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Pictures came and broke your heart

Oh-a-a-a oh

And now we meet in an abandoned studio

We hear the playback and it seems so long ago

And you remember the jingles used to go

Oh-a oh

You were the first one

Oh-a oh

You were the last one

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

In my mind and in my car

We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far

Oh-a-aho oh

Oh-a-aho oh

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

In my mind and in my car

We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far

Pictures came and broke your heart

Put the blame on VTR

You are a radio star

You are a radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

(You are a radio star)

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

(You are a radio star)

Oh-a oh

Oh-a oh

Oh-a oh

 

…Well you and I travel to the beat of a different drum

Along with Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons, he’s seen as one of the pioneers of Country Rock.  He was also at the forefront of the music video revolution, winning the very first Grammy Award for Video of the Year in 1982.  Following its success he then focused on producing full-length motion pictures. “Repo Man” is one of his.

Through his company, Pacific Arts Corporation, he had acquired the largest catalog of non-theatrical video titles in the world by the early ’80s and (second verse same as the first) was also at the forefront of the home video revolution, although here he was embroiled in a celebrated lawsuit with PBS. Though he eventually won he was famously known to say, “It’s like finding your grandmother stealing your stereo.  You’re happy to get your stereo back, but it’s sad to find out your grandmother is a thief.”

A published author and renowned philanthropist, an inventor with two patents pending for 3D virtual innovations, and an accomplished singer/songwriter, he is nonetheless remembered by most as… “Mike from The Monkees.”

After serving a tour of duty in the United States Air Force, Robert Michael Nesmith was given a guitar for Christmas by his mother and stepfather.  Aged 20, soon to be married and having written a great deal of poetry through the years, he learned to play and began to perform in a series of Folk, Country and Rock and Roll bands.  He also began to turn some of his poems into song lyrics and, after he and his bride moved to L.A. from their San Antonio home, he eventually landed a publishing contract for his songs.

In the fall of 1965, Nesmith noticed an ad from Screen Gems Entertainment for “four insane boys” and decided to show up at the audition, literally with a laundry bag over his shoulder (to be done on his way home) and wearing what would become his trademark wool cap to keep his hair out of eyes.  His insouciance won the day and not only did “wool hat” as the producers referred to him get the part but Screen Gems proceeded to buy his catalog of songs so they could be used in the show, which ran from 1965 to 1970.

Indeed, a rushed version of today’s selection was initially included in a 1966 episode of “The Monkees” before it was recorded by a bluegrass group called The Greenbriar Boys. But “Different Drum” remains best known as Linda Ronstadt’s first hit single (reaching Number 13 on the Billboard Charts) when she recorded it with her group the Stone Poneys in 1967.

Singer, songwriter, musician, inventor, actor, producer, entrepreneur, novelist, philanthropist Nesmith didn’t release this version, however until 1972, after the whole Monkee business was behind him, on his fifth solo album, “And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’”

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 15 November

Different Drum

 Well you and I

Travel to the beat of a different drum

Can’t you tell by the way I run

Every time you make eyes at me

 Yes, you cry and moan

And say it’ll work out

But honey child I’ve got my doubts

You can’t see the forest for the trees

 Now don’t get me wrong

It’s not that I knock it

It’s just that I am not in the market

For a girl

Who wants to love only me

And I’m not saying that you ain’t pretty

All’s I saying’s that I’m not ready

For any person place or thing

To try and pull the reins

In on me

Well I feel pretty sure

That you’ll find a man

Who will take a lot more than I ever could or can

And you’ll settle down with him

And I know that you’ll be happy

So goodbye

I’m a-leavin’

I see no sense in you cryin’ and grievin’

We’ll both live a lot longer

If you live without me

Well I feel pretty sure

That you’ll find a man

Who will take a lot more than I ever could or can

And you’ll settle down with him

And I know that you’ll be happy

So goodbye

I’m a-leavin’

I see no sense in you cryin and grievin’

We’ll both live a lot longer

If you live without me

 If you live without me, woman

If you live with out me

…I’d buy a big house where we both could live

Here’s a sampling of the artists:  Bassectar, Big Boi, 3Lau, Datsik, Faltydl, Freekbot, Ill-Esha, Jwls Mindelixir, Killabits, Knife Party, Magnetic Man, Mord Fustang, Mr. Mfn Exquire. Mux Mool, Star Slinger, Virtual Boy, Zeds Dead…

No?  Well surely you’ll recognize such headliners as Deadmau5 and Skrillex.

Guess we’d better take it back a notch.  Here’s a sampling of the genres: Breakbeat, Electronica, Electropop, Dub, Hi-NRG, Synthpop, Folktronica, Indietronica, Trance, Progressive House, Electro House, Deep House, Garage House, Metalcore, Hip House, Oldschool Jungle, Grime, …then there’s Dubstep.

No?  Actually if you DO have some familiarity with even a fraction of these artists and genres I would be willing to lay odds that you have no recollection of a pre-digitalized world.

Take Dubstep for instance. To the best of my understanding (and really, it’s not easy for my 50++ cerebral hemispheres to soak much of this in) it’s a “musical” genre that originated around the turn of the millennium in Brixton…ah yes, the South London district that’s home to Electric Avenue, Britain’s first electrified street and the subject of a great song by Eddie Grant…that I understand, but according to what I’ve read Dubstep is basically the “dub remixing” of “2-Step Garage” tracks that in those days featured the “jittery, irregular rhythms that don’t conform to UK Garage’s four-on-the-floor pulse.”

UK Garage, of course finds its origins in that American electronic dance genre known as “House Music” which in turn has its origins in “Eurobeat” …and I’m not delving any deeper, except to add that there are those among us who are rather flummoxed when we see the enchantment it holds over our kids, with the cryptic appeal of Electro-Techno-Dub-Industrial-Synth-Trance-House…et al occasionally impelling them to travel distressing distances to attend multi-day festivals to listen and dance to the sound stylings of those (and many more like them) listed above.  Okay, maybe something there rings a bell from the past.

At least I recognize one name at the crest of the current wave and that’s (Hereford, England-born) Elena Jane “Ellie” Goulding, only the second artist ever to top the BBC’s annual “Sound of…” poll AND win the BRIT Awards Critic’s Choice in the same year.  A keen athlete with an impressive physique, who runs six miles every day, she is not only a darling of the running subculture but is also a performer who is able to cross numerous popular genres, from the rather enigmatic Indie-Electronic regions (while collaborating and touring with Dubstep-Maven, Skrillex) to the more fathomable dominions of Alternative Rock and Folk.

Today’s selection, which reached Number 2 on the UK charts when it was released in 2010, is a prime example. With lyrics that were written by Bernie Taupin over breakfast, and music composed by Elton John in about ten minutes later that October morning in 1969, “Your Song” hit the Top Ten in both the US and UK the following year.  But then again, those were simpler times….

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Wednesday 14 November

Your Song

 It’s a little bit funny

This feeling inside

I’m not one of those who can easily hide

I don’t have much money

But boy if I did

I’d buy a big house where

We both could live

So excuse me forgetting

But these things I do

See I’ve forgotten if

They’re green or they’re blue

Anyway the thing is

What I really mean

Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen

 And you can tell everybody,

This is your song

It may be quite simple but

Now that is done

I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind

That I put down in words

How wonderful life is now you’re in the world

 If I was a sculptor

But then again no

Or girl who makes potions in a traveling show

I know it’s not much but

It’s the best I can do

My gift is my song and

This one’s for you

 And you can tell everybody

This is your song

It may be quite simple but

Now that it’s done

I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind

That I put down in words

How wonderful life is now you’re in the world

But we would eat Kraft dinner

My niece likes to mix it with salsa and I’m partial to that innovation myself, while my kids like to blend in some ketchup.  As a matter of fact we’re stocking up for their imminent holiday arrivals now, because no matter how you eat it nothing says “comfort food” like mac and cheese, particularly that packaged, cost-conscious mix that Kraft Foods began marketing to North American consumers 75 years ago.

Initially introduced in 1937, Kraft Dinner (as it was then known) was a huge success due in large part to the onset of wartime dairy and meat rationing. Now named Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (at least in the States) and with a shelf life of ten months, it has since remained a meal-worthy cupboard staple at home and abroad (in the UK its called Cheesey Pasta). But nowhere is this more so than in Canada where the ever-named Kraft Dinner is easily the most popular grocery item in the country.

With a population that is smaller than that of California, and far smaller than the UK, Canadians purchase nearly a quarter of all the boxes of “KD” sold globally each week.  That’s 55 percent more than in the entire USA.  As CBC commentator Rex Murphy noted, “Kraft Dinner revolves in that all-but-unobtainable orbit of the Tim Hortons doughnut and the A&W Teen Burger… It is one of that great trinity of quick digestibles that have been enrolled as genuine Canadian cultural icons.”

“For some reason, Canadians and Kraft products have bonded the way Australians have bonded with Vegemite, or the English with Heinz baked beans,” adds novelist, Douglas Coupland “…Kraft Dinner, is the biggie, probably because it so precisely laser-targets the favoured Canadian food groups: fat, sugar, starch and salt.”

Of course for Canadian teens (as with American and British teens), it’s the first thing they learn to prepare when out on their own.  Certainly this was the case for two noteworthy Scarborough, Ontario musicians trying to break into the Toronto scene.  Schoolmates since adolescence, Steven Page and Ed Robertson had begun to jam together while working as teen counselors at a Northern Ontario Music Camp.

Then one night in 1988, while attending a Bob Dylan concert at (drafty, old) Exhibition Stadium, the two grew bored and began a running commentary on Dylan’s band, coming up with a list of fictional names, including (chortle) “Barenaked Ladies.”  Not long after, Robertson received a phone call about performing at a charity event he and the cover band he played with had agreed to do.  Even though the band had since broken up, he confirmed and when asked the group’s name (of course) gave, “Barenaked Ladies.”

Now scrambling, he called Page (who couldn’t believe he had given that name) and convinced him to participate.  Completely unrehearsed the two performed their first show as a duo, on behalf of the Second Harvest Food Bank, playing every song they could think of.  When invited to open for a local band at the Horseshoe Tavern they improvised again, firmly establishing the impromptu banter for which Barenaked Ladies (BNL), which soon grew to be a quartet, is known.

Perhaps their earliest improvised number was one Robertson and Page had conceived as teen counselors, playing the tune for the campers on the long bus ride home while randomly listing amusing things they’d buy if they had a million dollars. Right from the start “If I Had $1,000,000” became one of BNL’s most celebrated songs in concert …not that it didn’t come with a smidgeon of controversy.

Inspired by one of the song’s most prominent lines a fan threw a single box of Kraft Dinner at the stage during a concert in 1991.  The idea quickly spread and throughout much of the decade fans would pelt the stage with hundreds of boxes.  Eventually BNL asked that fans cease the ritual and instead donate the Mac and Cheese to local foodbanks by dropping the boxes into bins set up in the lobbies of their venues.  The campaign was a success.

Although the lyrics change regularly in concert there remain a few constant references that merit explanation.  For example, in Canada a “chesterfield” traditionally refers to a sofa or couch. Then there’s the allusion to Michael Jackson’s eccentric ‘80s lifestyle, with his exotic animals and infamous attempt to purchase the remains of John Merrick, the Elephant Man.

As for the line about the “K Car” that refers to a type of domestic automobile manufactured by Chrysler throughout the 1980s, with the 4-cylinder Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries being the most popular models.  Fuel-efficient and reasonably priced they were a direct response to the compact Japanese imports that began to flood the North American market after the energy crises of the ‘70s.

Despite the fact that the song was only released as a single years after it became popular in concert (first in 1992, then in 1993 in the UK, then again in 1996) and never with an accompanying music video, “If I Had $1,000,000” has long made the short-list of CBC Radio’s “Top 50 Essential Canadian Tracks”.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Tuesday 13 November

 “If I Had $1,000,000”

If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you a house

I would buy you a house

 And if I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

I’d buy you furniture for your house

Maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman

 And if I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you a K-Car

A nice reliable automobile

And if I had a million dollars, I’d buy your love

 If I had a million dollars

I’d build a tree-fort in our yard

If I had a million dollars

You could help

It wouldn’t be that hard

 If I had a million dollars

Maybe we could put a little tiny fridge

In there somewhere

We could just go up there and hang out

 Like open the fridge and stuff

And there’d all be foods laid out for us

Like little pre-wrapped sausages and things

They have pre-wrapped sausages

But they don’t have pre-wrapped bacon

Well, can you blame them?

Yeah

 If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you a fur a coat

But not a real fur coat, that’s cruel

 And if I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you an exotic pet

Yep, like a llama or an emu

And if I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you John Merrick’s remains

All them crazy elephant bones

And if I had a million dollars I’d buy your love

If I had a million dollars

We wouldn’t have to walk to the store

If I had a million dollars

We’d take a limousine ‘cause it costs more

 If I had a million dollars

We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinner

But we would eat Kraft dinner

Of course we would, we’d just eat more

And buy really expensive ketchups with it

That’s right, all the fanciest Dijon ketchups

 If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you a green dress

But not a real green dress, that’s cruel

 And if I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you some art

A Picasso or a Garfunkel

If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

Well, I’d buy you a monkey

Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

If I had a million dollars I’d buy your love

If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

If I had a million dollars

I’d be rich

 

When we have gone the world still sings

In the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (11 November 1918) the Armistice between Germany and the Allies went into effect and the enormous hostilities that had transpired during the Great War came to an end.

As a result a day of remembrance was established throughout the British Commonwealth and is still observed as Remembrance Day, while in the United States a similar observance was established as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”  After the Second World War, Armistice Day was expanded to celebrate all veterans, not just those who had died in World War I, and since 1954 we have called this celebration Veterans Day.

The following letter explains how, despite his poor eyesight, one veteran managed to see service in the New Guinea, Bismark Archipelago and Northern Philippines Campaigns, including the invasion of Luzon at Lingayen Gulf. Dear old Dad, who eventually received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant, was in Tokyo Harbor when the Japanese officially surrendered on September 2, 1945.

September 8, 1942

Mr. Gelston King, 30 Kilby Street, Boston, Mass.

Dear Sir:

The bearer of this letter is my son, Warren Haskell Pettingell, who will be nineteen October 15, 1942.  During this past academic year he was a Freshman at Harvard, but as I believe that the registered youth of eighteen and nineteen will be called during the next academic year and he will be nineteen next month, I do not think it wise to send him back to college with the prospect of being called out before the academic year is finished.

He is a rugged, healthy boy who played on his Freshman Lacrosse team and apparently can pass any physical examination with the exception of that of his eyes.  He is very near sighted.  In order to have this definite, I have had his eyes tested by Miss Dorothy O. Fowler, Chief Clerk of Draft Board No. 2, of which I am Chairman, who does all the eye examinations for our Board.  Without glasses his left eye is 20/100 and his right eye the same.  With glasses his left is 20/15 and his right 20/13.  Without question when reached in the draft he will be accepted for limited service, but he cannot be accepted for enlistment for the regular Army or any ordinary Army or Navy service.

This is the cause of the present interest in seeing you.  His attitude is that he will not go in the draft because he does not want a non-combatant service.  He is afraid of being put I some service where he will be utilized for office work or in Ordinance or the Medical Corps. or Quartermaster. 

The situation is somewhat accentuated because he has a brother who is a Lieutenant in the Navy and is an aviator of some standing and experience.  He flies a patrol bomber with a crew of fourteen and recently attracted some attention by discovering 61 survivors of a torpedoing of which there had been no earlier notice.  He picked up ten of these men who were injured…and the doctor of the ship which had been sunk, and with the eleven men plus his crew of fourteen flew back to port, the landing and the take-off being somewhat of a difficulty in a rolling sea.

The younger boy is considerably affected by his brother’s experience and says that if he goes to Canada he will be accepted for flying with corrected vision. I do not wish to have him enlist in Canadian or British outfits and I would like to get something for him, which will promise an opportunity for action.

Mr. Milton F. Connelly of Amesbury told me about your talk with his boy and suggested that my boy’s vision corrected may be enough to get him into the Amphibian Engineers.  After that talk I called Mr. Everett T. Brown who sent Mr. Connelly to you and asked his permission to send my boy also.

Warren has some assets, which may be of value.  He has had a year in college and in that year he tool the Freshman course in mathematics getting a B.  Navigation and surveying should be easy for him.  He is interested in boats having sailed several years on the Merrimac River and after a Boy Scout experience in which he passed all of the test for an Eagle Scout with the exception of bird study, joined the Sea Scouts in which he went as far as he could. 

The past summer he has served as an instructor in sailing at a YMCA Camp in southern New Hampshire, having courses in seamanship with sailing craft, and in skiffs and canoes.  He is also a senior lifesaver.  These things would not seem to lessen his value for enlistment if only his eyes were sufficient.

My whole interest is in getting him in something, which will keep him in the United States.  If it will also mean combatant work neither I nor my wife have any objection.  His brother is daily in personal risk but our ancestors have been New England people for more than 300 years, who have always in youth accepted the risks of the sea and other activities of that period of life. 

We do not ask for a soft berth for the boy but we do not want him to go into the service of another country under another flag.  I say this with deliberation although my mother was born in Canada, the descendent of a Revolutionary soldier from Massachusetts, and her father was put in jail in 1838 for treason, having participated in the MacKenzie King Rebellion… Despite my family associations with Canada, I still want the boy in the American Service.

If therefore there is anything that can be done for him, I hope that it may be done and I thank you in advance for anything you can do.

The boy is well trained for life, is physically able, will undertake any hardship or any roughness of service because it is ingrained in him physically and mentally that he is to accept what comes and is to give one hundred percent service.  He has a good mind, a good body, a good heritage.  Like his brother he will be cool, thoughtful and devoted in any crisis.  I hope you can so something for him.

Sincerely yours,

Hon. Charles I Pettingell, Presiding Justice, Massachusetts District Court Appellate Division (Northern Jurisdiction) 

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Veterans Day

Written and sung by William Jones of the British “Romantic Pop” group Friends (who is said to disown any television programs of the same name) this song from the group’s 2007 album “Folk Songs” is (far from uniquely) entitled, Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day

 As I write through the night rain

I want to fill one more page with my love

‘Til the light, ‘til the bright day

When poppy fields will run red with our blood

And if I never make it home

Please remember

The precious days that we’ve all known

Together

If I die let me lie here

Don’t come and search for a hero in vain

How can I so deny fear

That I could walk through the fire once again?

Whatever fate the morning brings

I accept it

When we have gone the world still sings

So let be

Who remembers Telstar?

It might strike one as rather quaint now, half a century on.  But with an estimated five million copies sold, “Telstar” the hit single, helped to mark the dawning of the space age. Named for the trail-blazing communications satellite that went into orbit only five weeks before its 1962 release, it was the first single by a British band to simultaneously sit atop both the UK and US Billboard charts.

It was a heady-time.  Just the previous year President John F. Kennedy had made his “decision to go to the moon” speech in light of the burgeoning space race with the USSR.  As an international collaboration between AT&T, Bell Labs, NASA, the British General Post Office, and France’s National Post, Telegraph and Telecom Office…and very much resembling the then-new Addidas black/white paneled soccer ball (marketed as the Telstar), Telstar 1 was the first-ever privately-sponsored space launch.

Shot into low orbit from Cape Canaveral aboard a Delta rocket on 10 July 1962, it completed an elliptical trip around the earth once every 2 hours and 37 minutes. Despite what proved to be an incredibly brief working life, it relayed the first telephone calls, telegrams and faxes to be transmitted through outer space, as well as the first taped and live intercontinental television broadcasts.

A few weeks after its launching, when a transatlantic TV signal was made publicly available, a broadcast was hosted by Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley in New York and the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby in Brussels.  After live pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower were relayed, President Kennedy was slated to speak.  However, the signal was acquired before he was ready and a short segment of a televised baseball game between the Cubs and the Phillies at Wrigley field was shown first.  From Chicago the broadcast switched to JFK in Washington, DC and then to Cape Canaveral, Quebec City and finally to Stratford, Ontario.

Although it would handle more than 400 telephone, telegraph, fax and television transmissions, the world’s first communication satellite went out of service only a few months later. The main culprit was Starfish Prime, a high-altitude nuclear warhead tested by the U.S. Military in the Van Allen Belt (located in the Earth’s magnetosphere) where Telstar was launched into orbit the following day.  A Soviet test soon followed and the immense increase in radiation overwhelmed the tiny satellite’s delicate transistors that November.

Of course here in this November, 50 years on, we know that communication satellites in their thousands have been launched into space, which is pretty much what can be said about “Telstar” the record. Written and produced by songwriter, producer and electro-wizard Robert George “Joe” Meek, “Telstar” was recorded in Meek’s own tiny studio, located above a shop on the Holloway Road in North London.  With guitars, drums and electronic clavioline played by the Tornados (who would go on to serve as Billy Fury’s backing group), Meek then added additional “space age” effects.

It was an immediate international hit upon its release…fittingly, for a single named after a satellite that was also responsible for synchronizing time between the US and UK to within 1 microsecond of each other.  Poignantly perhaps, “Telstar” the record would continue to chart long after its namesake had been decommissioned, while Telstar, the satellite continues to make its way around the earth every 2 hours and 37 minutes and is occasionally visible to this very day.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Saturday 10 November

Hey mama, don’t you treat me wrong

While still developing their sound in those Hamburg clubs, The Beatles played this song at every show, getting the audience to join them in the call and response. Paul McCartney credited it with being one of the reasons why he wanted to become a musician, while John Lennon said that the original recording featured the first electric piano riffs he’d ever heard, which hugely influenced his guitar playing.  George Harrison first remembered hearing it at an all-night party where it was played non-stop for eight hours. “‘What’d I Say’ was one of the best records I ever heard,” he added.

The Beatles weren’t alone in their assessment.  When Mick Jagger originally sang with the still-forming Stones “What’d I Say” was part of the set, as it was with countless other Rock & Roll (and Rock) acts such as The Beach Boys, The Animals, The Spencer Davis Group, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Cliff Richard, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Cash. Yet as a melding of Gospel and Blues, “What’d I Say” is broadly credited as “the” song that gave birth to the genre called Soul.

It all came about by happy accident in December of 1958. With a string of R&B hits under his belt, 27 year-old Ray Charles and his orchestra were near the end of a “meal dance” performance in Brownsville, Pennsylvania.  Typically such an engagement would entail four hours of playing with a half-hour break.  Although they had completed their set-list 12 minutes of playing time remained.

Charles toured with his own Wurlitzer electric piano because he was rarely happy with the quality of the pianos provided by the local venues.  When he realized that he needed to come up with something he turned to his backup singers, the Raelettes and told them that he was going to fool around on the electric piano and play what felt right.

However, halfway through the number he directed them to repeat what he was doing and, with the horn section joining in, the song became a call and response. Charles later said that the crowd’s dancing made the room shake. After adding it to his set list and receiving the same response every time, he called his producer (Jerry Wexler) to say that he had something new to record.

There was a major hurdle to be overcome in the recording studio, however.  While the usual length of radio broadcasted songs was about two and a half minutes, “What’d I Say” was more than seven and a half minutes long. As a result, the somewhat whittled single release was split into two three-and-a-half minute sides (Parts I and II) that were divided by a false ending on Side One…where the music stops and the Raelettes and members of the orchestra beg Charles to continue.

Released in the summer of ’59, the single became Ray Charles’ first mainstream hit (reaching Number 1 on the R&B Chart and Number 6 on the Billboard Charts) earning him his first gold record.  For the remainder of his career he would close every show with the song once stating, “When I do ‘What’d I Say’, you don’t have to worry about it—that’s the end of me; there ain’t no encore, no nothin’. I’m finished!”

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 9 November

What’d I Say

 Hey mama, don’t you treat me wrong

Come and love your daddy all night long

All right now, hey hey, all right

See the girl with the diamond ring

She knows how to shake that thing

All right now now now, hey hey, hey hey

Tell your mama, tell your pa

I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas

Oh yes, ma’m, you don’t do right, don’t do right

Aw, play it boy

When you see me in misery

Come on baby, see about me

Now yeah, all right, all right, aw play it, boy

When you see me in misery

Come on baby, see about me

Now yeah, hey hey, all right

See the girl with the red dress on

She can do the Birdland all night long

 Yeah yeah, what’d I say, all right

Well, tell me what’d I say, yeah

Tell me what’d I say right now

Tell me what’d I say

Tell me what’d I say right now

Tell me what’d I say

Tell me what’d I say yeah

 And I wanna know

Baby I wanna know right now

And-a I wanna know

And I wanna know right now yeah

And-a I wanna know

Said I wanna know yeah

Hey, don’t quit now! (c’mon honey)

Naw, I got, I uh-uh-uh, I’m changing (stop! stop! we’ll do it again)

Wait a minute, wait a minute, oh hold it! Hold it! Hold it!

Hey (hey) ho (ho) hey (hey) ho (ho) hey (hey) ho (ho) hey

Oh one more time (just one more time)

Say it one more time right now (just one more time)

Say it one more time now (just one more time)

Say it one more time yeah (just one more time)

Say it one more time (just one more time)

Say it one more time yeah (just one more time)

 Hey (hey) ho (ho) hey (hey) ho (ho) hey (hey) ho (ho) hey

Ah! Make me feel so good (make me feel so good)

Make me feel so good now yeah (make me feel so good)

Woah! Baby (make me feel so good)

Make me feel so good yeah (make me feel so good)

Make me feel so good (make me feel so good)

Make me feel so good yeah (make me feel so good)

Huh (huh) ho (ho) huh (huh) ho (ho) huh (huh) ho (ho) huh

Awh it’s all right (baby it’s all right)

Said that it’s all right right now (baby it’s all right)

Said that it’s all right (baby it’s all right)

Said that it’s all right yeah (baby it’s all right)

Said that it’s all right (baby it’s all right)

Said that it’s all right (baby it’s all right)

 Woah! Shake that thing now (baby shake that thing)

Baby shake that thing now now (baby shake that thing)

Baby shake that thing (baby shake that thing)

Baby shake that thing right now (baby shake that thing)

Baby shake that thing (baby shake that thing)

Baby shake that thing (baby shake that thing)

Woah! I feel all right now yeah (make me feel all right)

Said I feel all right now (make me feel all right)

Woooah! (make me feel all right)

Tell you I feel all right (make me feel all right)

Said I feel all right (make me feel all right)

Baby I feel all right (make me feel all right)