She always loved to swim away


At the age of 18 he was the youngest person to play on the main stage at Woodstock. Born in Brooklyn in 1951, Henry Gross had already performed summers in the Catskills when he became a founding member of Sha-Na-Na, while at Brooklyn College.

With a name derived from part of the doo-wop chorus of the Silhouettes 1957 single, “Get a Job” the Columbia-based a-capella group initially called themselves the Kingsmen and featured a broad repertoire.  But after it became clear that their send-ups of classic ‘50s songs were a hit they changed their name, began to wear leather jackets, gold lame suits and boots, and slicked-back D.A.s, and hailed themselves as being “from the streets of New York.”

Sha-Na-Na’s local popularity soon led to an engagements at Steve Paul’s Scene and Fillmore East, which then led to their big break when (“…We’ve got just one thing to say to you fucking hippies, and that is that rock and roll is here to stay!”) they preceded Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and memorably appeared (for 90 seconds) in the Woodstock film.  None of which is what Henry Gross, who sang and played guitar, is most remembered for…

After leaving Sha-Na-Na (which still tours to this day) in 1970, Gross set out on a solo career and with a few albums under his belt, toured with the Beach Boys in 1975/76.  Having befriended Carl Wilson he mentioned his beloved Irish Setter, Shannon and was surprised to learn that Wilson had also had a beloved Irish Setter named Shannon (probably not an uncommon name for that particular breed) who had recently been hit and killed by a car.

Upon returning to his New York apartment Gross began to work on songs for his next album and as he later noted, had put on a natural sounds record called “The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore” to drown out a neighbor’s blaring stereo.  While glancing at Shannon he thought of Wilson’s loss and… “The song seemed to write itself, taking no more than ten minutes and with almost no cross outs on the paper.”

Charting at Number 6 in the US and Number 32 in the UK, the decisively named single was featured on the “veteran” doo-wopper’s 1976 album, “Release”

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Saturday 12 January

Shannon

Another day is at end

Mama says she’s tired again

No one can even begin to tell her

I hardly know what to say

But maybe it’s better that way

If Papa were here I’m sure he’d tell her

Shannon is gone, I heard

She’s drifting out to sea

She always loved to swim away

Maybe she’ll find an island

With a shady tree

Just like the one in our backyard

Mama tries hard to pretend

That things will get better again

Somehow she’s keepin’ it all inside her

But finally the tears fill our eyes

And I know that somewhere tonight

She knows how much we really miss her

Shannon is gone, I heard

She’s drifting out to sea

She always loved to swim away

Maybe she’ll find an island

With a shady tree

Just like the one in our back yard

Ah, just like the one in our back yard

Ah….
Just like the one in our back yard

Somebody must change

When the band was formed in 1968 its members were already famous, making it one of the first “super groups.”  And it wasn’t hard to ascertain their origins, as the stylistic similarities to Traffic and Cream were all but apparent.

The idea began when Steve Winwood began to jam with his good friend (“God” himself)  Eric Clapton at Clapton’s home in Surrey.  Ginger Baker then sat-in on drums and all they needed was a bass-player.  After inviting Ric Grech to join-in they soon began to record an album and decided to call themselves “Blind Faith” in light of Clapton’s warranted cynicism about the group’s durability.

Between recording sessions they played some live engagements. But since they were still working on their first album and didn’t have all that many original songs they were forced to resort to the old Cream and Traffic catalogs.  Clapton in particular was unhappy with this situation, referring to the group as “Super Cream” and not long after the release of Blind Faith’s eponymous album in 1969 the band dissolved.

As for the album, it quickly topped both the US and the UK album charts although some may best recall the controversy provoked by its nameless (only the wrapping paper named the band) cover.  Whereas the US record company issued the record with an alternate cover (of course), featuring a picture of the band, the British release used the “original” cover with a topless pubescent girl holding a silver space ship.

Designed by Clapton’s friend, Bob Seidemann who was then renowned for his pictures of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, rumors ran rampant that the girl was either a groupie or (as they had similarly colored hair) Ginger Baker’s illegitimate daughter. In reality she was a London suburbanite who, for a fee of £40, posed with the written consent of her parents.

Here’s the album’s second track, written and sung (in those rather strange days) by Steve Winwood.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 11 January

Can’t Find My Way Home

 Come down off your throne and leave your body alone

Somebody must change

You are the reason I’ve been waiting so long

Somebody holds the key

Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time

And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home

Come down on your own and leave your body alone

Somebody must change

You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years

Somebody holds the key

Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time

And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home

And here’s a New Orleans tune

For one last January we’re packing the old man off to college in New Orleans. Once graduated, who knows where our Giles will be a year from now. Personally I’m bucking for Canada, but will miss him in any event.

As has been melodically portrayed in a number of his autobiographical songs, Randall Stuart Newman was born in Los Angeles “in November ’43”. According to his rousing song, “Dixie Flyer” Newman’s father “was a captain in the army, fighting the Germans in Sicily.” 

Since his “poor little momma didn’t know a soul in L.A” they boarded the “Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans” where she’d been bred. The somewhat sardonic story continues with this selection about Newman’s early childhood in the Crescent City during the Jim Crow-era.

“Willow Street in the Garden District” runs right through the Tulane University campus. The long-gone Sugar Bowl was Tulane’s football stadium (they now play in the Super Dome). Right across St. Charles Ave. is Audubon Park, where you’ll doubtless still find macaroons and red balloons and people reading the “Picayune” (now the “Times-Picayune”) but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who even knows what an octoroon is.

And that’s progress.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 10 January 

New Orleans Wins the War

 Don’t remember much about my baby days

But I been told

We used to live on Willow in the Garden District

Next to the Sugar Bowl

Momma used to wheel me past an ice cream wagon

One side for White and one side for Colored

I remember trashcans floatin’ down Canal Street

It rained every day one summer

 Momma used to take me to Audubon Park

Show me the ways of the world

She’d say,

“Here comes a white boy there goes a black one,

That one’s an octoroon

This little cookie here’s a macaroon,

That big round thing’s a red balloon

And the paper down here’s called the Picayune

And here’s a New Orleans tune”

 In 1948 my Daddy came to the city

Told the people that they’d won the war

Maybe they’d heard it, maybe not

Probably they’d heard it and just forgot

‘Cause they built him a platform there in Jackson Square

And the people came to hear him from everywhere

They started to party and they partied some more

‘Cause New Orleans had won the war

(“We knew we’d do it, we done whipped the Yankees”)

Daddy said, “I’m gonna’ get this boy out of this place

Bound to sap his strength

People have fun here and I think that they should

But nobody from here every come to no good

They’re gonna pickle him in brandy and tell him he’s saved

Then throw firecrackers ‘round his grave.”

So he took us down to the airport and flew us back to L.A.

That was the end of my baby days

Blue, blue morning, blue, blue day

All your bad dreams drift away

It’s a blue, blue morning of a blue, blue day

Lose those bad dreams

Those gray clouds above you,

What you want them around with you for?

You got someone to love you

Who could ask for more?

It’s a blue, blue morning, of a blue, blue day

All your bad dreams drift away…

She’ll always give you peace of mind

Let me state, emphatically, that not a single friend of mine, male or female, has ever taken this advice, as written by Sicilian-American Frank Guida in 1963 and based on a 1934 calypso hit called “Ugly Woman.”

Although I do know a few who have followed the enlightened suggestion proffered in the 1991 film, “Queen’s Logic” by Joe Mantegna’s character, Al:  “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, fall in love with your wife.”

Today’s selection was performed by gospel singer, James McCleese, who was born in North Carolina in 1942 and had become a preacher by the age of seven. After acquiring the stage name, Jimmy Soul from his congregation he began to tour and was discovered by Guida, who also happened to be Gary U.S. Bonds’ record producer.

When Bonds turned down a couple of the songs that Guida had penned for him they were given to Soul who hit the Billboard charts with the first one, “Twistin’ Matilda” in 1962 and topped them with this one, even though it was banned on many radio stations by those who were not amused.  It also reached Number 39 on the UK Charts in 1963 and Number 68 when it was re-released in 1991.

After a lack of further success Jimmy Soul (whose enthusiastic falsetto “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” can be heard at fade-out) abandoned his singing career, joined the US Army and, sadly, died of a heart attack at the age of 45.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Wednesday 9 January

If You Want To Be Happy

 If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

 If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

 A pretty woman makes her husband look small

And very often causes his downfall

As soon as he marries her

Then she starts to do

The things that will break his heart

But if you make an ugly woman your wife

You’ll be happy for the rest of your life

An ugly woman cooks her meals on time

She’ll always give you peace of mind

 If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

 Don’t let your friends say

You have no taste

Go ahead and marry anyway

Though her face is ugly

And her eyes don’t match

Take it from me she’s a better catch

 If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

 If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

 If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

I’ll be home, I’ll be beside the phone

Here’s one of those songs you can pull out late in an evening when the weeknight dance party begins to get a little tired.  It’s a veritable tonic. Fun to dance to it also strikes people like an epiphany…“Oh I remember this!”

Hailed as the first British band to authentically emulate the Motown Sound, the Foundations were remarkable for their size (eight members), for their ethnic and musical mix and for their diversity in ages. Jamaican Saxophonist Mike Elliot was 38, while local-born drummer Tim Harris was barely 18.

The group came together in Bayswater (London W2) in 1967, practicing in their basement establishment called the Butterfly Club (still can’t figure out if it was on Westbourne Grove or Queensway, but where else would it be?). Well and truly the Butterfly Club was theirs because before they hit it big with a string of hits, in addition to performing nightly, all eight members of the group also managed the club, including the cooking and cleaning.

Legend has it that they’d get to bed at around 7 a.m., sleep until 4 p.m., and again get ready to open at 8 p.m., at times living off the leftovers and barely making enough money to pay the rent. Intriguingly they were eventually forced out by a protection racket and compelled to carry on next door in a dingy, unused mini-cab office.

Written by Mike D’Abo (lead singer of Manfred Mann) and Tony Macaulay (who also brought us “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”…another fun song to dance to) and released in 1968, today’s selection reached Number 2 on the UK charts and Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for 11 weeks.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Tuesday 8 January

Build Me Up Buttercup

 Why do you build me up (Build me up)

Buttercup baby just to

Let me down (Let me down)

And mess me around

And then worst of all (Worst of all)

You never call baby

When you say you will (Say you will)

But I love you still

I need you (I need you)

More than anyone darlin’

You know that I have from the start

So build me up (Build me up)

Buttercup

Don’t break my heart

I’ll be over at ten

You tell me time and again

But you’re late

I wait around and then

I went to the door

I can’t take any more

It’s not you

You let me down again

Baby, Baby

Try to find a little time

And I’ll make you happy

I’ll be home

I’ll be beside the phone

Waiting for you.

 Why do you build me up (Build me up)

Buttercup baby just to

Let me down (Let me down)

And mess me around

And then worst of all (Worst of all)

You never call baby

When you say you will (Say you will)

But I love you still

I need you (I need you)

More than anyone darlin’

You know that I have from the start

So build me up (Build me up)

Buttercup

Don’t break my heart

 To you I’m a toy

But I could be the boy

You adore

If you’d just let me know

Although you’re untrue

I’m attracted to you

All the more

Baby, Baby

Try to find a little time

And I’ll make you happy

I’ll be home

I’ll be beside the phone

Waiting for you.

 Why do you build me up (Build me up)

Buttercup baby just to

Let me down (Let me down)

And mess me around

And then worst of all (Worst of all)

You never call baby

When you say you will (Say you will)

But I love you still

I need you (I need you)

More than anyone darlin’

You know that I have from the start

So build me up (Build me up)

Buttercup

Don’t break my heart…

 

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

“…well, how did I get here?”

Chris Frantz, David Byrne and Tina Weymouth, all alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design were looking for a new name for their band (then called the Artistics) when a friend mentioned an interesting piece in “TV Guide” that referred to the term that studios used to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking with all content but no action.

The name was a match and within a few years Talking Heads were at the very crest of New Wave, combining elements of punk, pop, funk, art rock, avant-garde and world music, with Byrne’s fanciful and esoteric lyrics.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Monday 7 January

First released in 1981 on the group’s fourth album, “Remain in Light” the music video for “Once in a Lifetime” became an MTV staple, featuring a bespectacled Byrne dancing like a marionette. Now on permanent exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art, it’s fascinating to note that some of Byrne’s mannerisms were inspired by choreographer, Toni Basil (“Hey Mickey”) who’d shown him footage of epilepsy sufferers.

A live version from one of “the great” concert films, “Stop Making Sense” was released in 1985….

Once In A Lifetime

 You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

 Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by, water flowing underground

Into the blue again, after the money’s gone

Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

 And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”

And you may ask yourself, “Where is that large automobile?”

And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house”

And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife”

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by, water flowing underground

Into the blue again, after the money’s gone

Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Water dissolving and water removing

There is water at the bottom of the ocean

Under the water, carry the water

Remove the water from the bottom of the ocean

Water dissolving and water removing

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by, water flowing underground

Into the blue again, into the silent water

Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

Leting the days go by, water flowing underground

Into the blue again, after the money’s gone

Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

 You may ask yourself, “What is that beautiful house?”

You may ask yourself, “Where does that highway go to?”

You may ask yourself, “Am I right, am I wrong?”

You may say to yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

 Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by, water flowing underground

Into the blue again, into the silent water

Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by, water flowing underground

Into the blue again, after the money’s gone

Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

 Same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Same as it ever was, look where my hand was

Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Same as it ever was, hey let’s all twist our thumbs

Here comes the twister

 Letting the days go by

Letting the days go by

Once in a lifetime

Let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by

 

Beautiful Way

Born and raised in Rochester, NY in 1940, Charles Frank “Chuck” Mangione joined his brother Gaspare (Gap), at the Eastman School of Music in the late ‘50s.  While Gap studied piano, Chuck concentrated on the trumpet and in their spare time the two Mangiones released a number of records with their bop quintet, the Jazz Brothers.

Soon after graduation Chuck landed gigs with the big bands of Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson before joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  In 1968 he formed his own quartet, after switching over to the instrument that he once referred to as “the right baseball glove.”

Originally used on the battlefield to summon the flanks of an army, the German word flügelhorn literally means “wing” or “flank” horn. It resembles a trumpet but has a wider, conical bore and while some consider it to be a member of the “Saxhorn” family, as developed by Adolphe Sax (think saxophone), others hold that it actually descends from the valve bugle as developed by Michael Saurle of Munich.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that neither man foresaw the popularity of the flügelhorn in popular music (it figures into many of Burt Bacharach’s arrangements), particularly jazz, with such noted players as Woody Herman, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Hugh Maskela…and Chuck Mangione, who has recorded more than 30 albums.

Despite his ongoing critical acclaim, international success was a long time coming, finally arriving with that jazz-pop single that is sure to shepherd you back to 1977, “Feels So Good.” But Mangione actually won his first Grammy (Best Instrumental Composition) with the title track from a 1975 album that was dedicated to his parents, “Bellavia” (i.e. “beautiful way”).

Although he is said to have pretty much drifted away from the music scene in recent decades (his greatest “visibility” has been as a recurring character in the animated television series, King of the Hill), the 72 year-old Mangione occasionally makes appearances with his brother, Gap in and around their old hometown.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Sunday 6 January