I still haven’t shaken it


“As a folk duo, how much could recording costs be?” asked the record producer who had been brought in to help Paul Simon get back into the studio during a bout of writer’s block. Unfortunately for Columbia Records the recording costs for Simon & Garfunkel could be memorable.

It was the summer of ’67, the Beatles had just released Sgt. Pepper, and the “duo” were working on a concept album of their own (exploring the cycle of life) called Bookends. 

The first session was for this track and after percussionists, brass and viola players had been brought in, everyone worked through the night to find just the right sound. Greatly influenced by Strawberry Fields Forever and Tomorrow Never Knows, the outcome is said to lyrically reflect Simon’s tenuous working relationship with his lifelong “frenemy,” Art Garfunkel.

The woman “entering” the tailor shop was folk singer Beverley Martyn, an associate of Simon’s who was good friends with (“the Scottish Dylan”) Donovan, whose last name is Leitch, hence the tailor’s name. Apparently Simon had wondered what his vocation might have been had he lived a century earlier and concluded that he surely would have been a tailor in Vienna or Budapest. Only later did he learn that his grandfather, whose name was also Paul Simon, actually was a tailor who’d lived in Vienna a century earlier.

Released as a single in June 1967 (the album itself was released the following year) the song’s running time is 3 minutes and 14 seconds, but since AM stations resisted anything that ran longer than 3 minutes, Simon slyly faked the time printed on the label to read 2:74.

Fakin’ It

When she goes, she’s gone

If she stays, she stays here

The girl does what she wants to do,

She knows what she wants to do

And I know I’m fakin’ it,

I’m not really makin’ it.

 I’m such a dubious soul

And a walk in the garden

Wears me down.

Tangled in the fallen vines,

Pickin’ up the punch lines,

I’ve just been fakin’ it,

Not really makin’ it.

 Is there any danger?

No, no not really,

Just lean on me.

Takin’ time to treat,

Your friendly neighbors honestly.

I’ve just been fakin’ it,

I’m not really makin’ it,

This feeling of fakin’ it.

I still haven’t shaken it.

 Prior to this lifetime

I surely was a tailor, look at me.

[Good morning, Mr. Leitch.

Have you had a busy day?]

I own the tailor’s face and hands

I am the tailor’s face and hands and

I know I’m fakin’ it

I’m not really makin’ it

This feeling of fakin’ it

I still haven’t shaken it.

When key ingredients were unobtainable a worthy substitution would be found


As a festive occasion, the fourth Thursday of November remains a favorite holiday. We each have our special Thanksgiving memories and mine flow in abundance, but the most gleeful of these reach back to England in the early 1980s. No one observes tradition as intensely as an expatriate and I held a Thanksgiving gathering on the fourth Friday of November (to accommodate those unaccustomed to having the day off) for the six years I lived in London.

Using New England recipes from an old church cookbook for the puddings and pies (except that brandy was added to everything) preparation began on Wednesday. When key ingredients were unobtainable a worthy substitution would be found. For instance, West Indian pumpkin was used for the pie.  Or I’d start from scratch, grinding my own “maize” into meal, using a coffee grinder, for the Indian Pudding and corn bread.  Or I’d concoct something new, as with my “signature” oyster/chestnut/pita stuffing.

Then I’d look to Harrods’ great Food Hall for the finest turkey that would fit the dimensions of my meager oven, and even more meager budget … and set to work.

The other essential ingredient was wine of course and my guests would bring “buckets” of it, invariably of dubious vintage (as if it mattered). Carving commenced promptly at 19:00 and after dessert we’d crank the stereo and slowly get up to dance.

The gathering grew more popular with every year and by the sixth go-round, with attendance approaching that of a wedding reception, I was no longer able to manage all my own cooking and some of the charm, alas, was lost. The “middle years” had the best celebrations with guests in the mere dozens and my culinary skills at their humble peak.

Some who read this may especially recall a particular soiree at my girlfriend’s large Battersea flat. The autumn moon was nearly full, and we ate – and we drank – and we danced – and we drank – and we laughed … a lot, late, late into that clear Albion night. As some of us were going through an early jazz phase that’s what dominated the play list, including this lively number. I give thanks for the recollection.

Born in New Orleans in 1885, Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, aka Jelly Roll Morton, was a pivotal pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger. His “Jelly Roll Blues” was the first jazz composition to be published, in 1915, proving that a genre rooted in improvisation could retain its essential spirit, even when notated.

With laughter provided by comedian “Laughing” Lew Lamar, who specialized in animal noises and provided the goat sound for Jelly’s “Billy Goat Stomp” in the same session, “The Hyena Stomp” was recorded with the Red Hot Peppers on the 4th of July 1927. What better way to wish you and yours a most JOVIAL Thanksgiving?

… one of those days for taking a walk outside


“Life is not linear, it’s organic,” affirms education revisionist Sir Kenneth Robinson and although it was linear thinking that made me think of this song on a balmy autumn Sunday (after listening to one of Robinson’s popular TED talks), its actual genesis is about as meanderingly organic as you can get … much as this posting.

In the early years of the last century a new genre of dance music that blended military marches, African rhythms, and field hollers (among other influences) with spirituals and syncopated jazz took hold in the red light district of Memphis. The musicians were of the medicine show/street corner variety and their home-crafted instruments regularly featured: banjos made with metal pie-plates and discarded guitar necks, washboards, stovepipe or washtub basses, guitars fashioned from flattened gourds, spoons, comb and tissue kazoos, and the stoneware “instruments” that gave the genre its name, Jug band music.

Roundly recorded in the early 1920s, many a future Jazz and Swing great began in a Jug band, including: Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Jack Teagarden, and Glen Miller.

Although it fell out of favor during the Depression, new life was blown into the genre during the Folk era of the mid-to-late ’50s at the same time that a strikingly similar resurgence, minus the jug, took place in Britain. There it was called Skiffle and many a future rock star cobbled together his own instrument and joined a Skiffle band: Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, Ronnie Wood, Jimmy Page, Robin Trower, David Gilmour, and Graham Nash.

Back in the States, the Jug band resurgence hit its peak in the early ’60s, with the Rooftop Singers’ Number 1 hit, Walk Right In, and, yes, many a well-known act would evolve from its homespun origins: The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, The Mommas and the Papas, and after she married Geoff Muldaur of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Maria Muldaur of the Even Jug Band.

This song, so well suited for a balmy Sunday morning, was one of many written by Maria’s former Even Jug bandmate, John Sebastian, after he’d formed the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1964. Released on the group’s second album of the same name, it reached Number 2 on the Billboard Charts in 1966.

It is very much an organic chain of events that, later that year, led to the first track of the second side of the most famous ex-Skiffle band of them all’s seminal album, Revolver … (This) was our favourite record of theirs,” says Paul McCartney about the Lovin’ Spoonful song.  “Good Day Sunshine was me trying to write something similar to Daydream.” 


What a day for a daydream

What a day for a day dreamin’ boy.

And I’m lost in a daydream

Dreamin’ ’bout my bundle of joy.

And even if time ain’t really on my side

It’s one of those days for taking a walk outside

I’m blowing the day to take a walk in the sun

And fall on my face on somebody’s new-mown lawn

I’ve been having a sweet dream

I’ve been dreaming since I woke up today.

It’s starring me and my sweet thing

‘Cause she’s the one makes me feel this way.

And even if time is passing me by a lot

I couldn’t care less about the dues you say I got.

Tomorrow I’ll pay the dues for dropping my load

A pie in the face for being a sleepy bo-joe.

And you can be sure that if you’re feeling right

A daydream will last long into the night.

Tomorrow at breakfast you may prick up your ears

Or you may be daydreaming for a thousand years.

 What a day for a daydream

Custom made for a daydreaming boy.

And I’m lost in a daydream

Dreaming ’bout my bundle of joy.

Those gentle voices I hear, explain it all with a sigh …


Rest assured, I waited until both my kids were 21 before candidly responding to their questions about this topic. In looking back I’m neither proud nor ashamed. I’m in no position to moralize, except to say that it made me a scofflaw (imagine the sniggers that have accompanied that statement) and I do my best not to rationalize, except to say that it was a different era.

And so I dabbled recreationally with: Phenylalanine, Benzoylmethylecgonine, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, Tetrahydrocannabinol and other stimulants, which long before leaving college I also left behind, because they made me too self-conscious, or diminished my sense of control, or because the euphoric effect never outweighed the after effect, or – especially – because they didn’t help my grade point average.

Occasionally certain songs will bring me back to those callow, capricious days, such as this track from The Moody Blues’ first concept album, Days of Future Past, released in 1967. Written by Justin Hayward at a time when he was experimenting with LSD, it strikes me as an accurate depiction of what it was like. More baroque than cosmic in nature (at least for me), you find yourself being pulled along, while looking for an answer to some imponderable question or riddle. I even wrote about it once *as excerpted from an old copy of The Daily Free Press below.

Although I never experienced a “bad trip,” I did pay in other ways. It invariably took a couple of days to recover and more than once I ran into somebody I knew while in an embarrassingly inexplicable state. Then, some years later, there was the lost job opportunity with a certain government agency. The interview proceeded swimmingly until, with a polygraph in the offing, I answered truthfully when asked if I’d ever taken hallucinogens (they were very specific). Although it ended politely, the interview was over as quickly as you can say flashback.

Still flashback free, I’m now exceedingly grateful for the way things have gone. And I certainly don’t believe that I’d be a better man had I not (to steal a Nilsson line) “done what I did when I was a kid” … a brighter man perhaps, but not a better one.

 Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)

 Tuesday, afternoon,

I’m just beginning to see,

Now I’m on my way,

It doesn’t matter to me,

Chasing the clouds away.

Something, calls to me,

The trees are drawing me near,

I’ve got to find out why

Those gentle voices I hear

Explain it all with a sigh.

I’m looking at myself, reflections of my mind,

It’s just the kind of day to leave myself behind,

So gently swaying thru the fairy-land of love,

If you’ll just come with me and see the beauty of

Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon.

 Tuesday, afternoon,

I’m just beginning to see,

Now I’m on my way,

It doesn’t matter to me,

Chasing the clouds away.

Something, calls to me,

The trees are drawing me near,

I’ve got to find out why

Those gentle voices I hear

Explain it all with a sigh.

*January 1978 – The initial reaction comes about an hour after ingestion, when a squirrel on a tree starts to spin like a clock before scurrying on its way. It’s winter in Boston, and the Lysergic Acid Diethylamide that came across the river from MIT is said to be the best in the east. Meandering down Commonwealth Avenue the Prudential Building illuminates the gray sky at dusk. Like the Emerald City, it attracts.

And lo, an enormous green scuttle-bug with a big ‘T’ rumbles up. Perhaps the driver has pulled the reigns too tight because the great creature squeals as it slides to a stop. Then, much like Jonah and the Whale, one stumbles inside. Again the pained beast squeals and bucks with a vengeance, while those not seated tumble deeper into its bowels as it rumbles down the avenue. It’s actually kind of hilarious, but no one else laughs.

Eventually it descends into a murky catacomb and proceeds underground, stopping at well-lit caverns along the way with the words KENMORE then AUDITORIUM painted on their walls. By now a warm glow emanates from inside the skull and the metal handrail feels like running water ‘neath clutching fingers. Surrounded by voices that seem to be spoken through old-time megaphones, one wonders if this is all a movie.

The subterranean zoon rumbles through the darkness, stopping next at COPLEY, where spacemen bundled in survival jackets shuffle off and, amidst their verbal echoes, others shuffle on. It’s cramped and stuffy by the time ARLINGTON comes into view, and it’s now apparent that the stop for OZ must be on another line. Suddenly there’s an urge to walk … no … march … through the crowd, down the platform, up the stairs and out into the frigid night air.

Here looms the Public Gardens, where George Washington sits atop a sculpted horse. The horse wants a sugar cube but a snowball thrown into its open mouth is the best one can do before marching on to Beacon Hill. When the sidewalk begins to ripple there’s cause for alarm and people begin to stare. But there’s money for a cab … except that what appears to be a taxi is actually a police car, which thankfully doesn’t stop as the hand that hails is quickly shoved into a pocket.

Then visual forms become a blur, city sounds a whir, and passing cars become streaks that go whoosh. Green streaks, blue streaks, yellow streaks trail by, while leafless tree branches become oscillating genie fingers and sights, sounds, smells and sensations blend together. Total disorientation leads to aimless ambulation … until some time later when some semblance of familiarity arises on the Esplanade by river. In the distance the Citgo sign flashes over Kenmore Square. Beyond is the warmth and comfort of home. Drifting along, memories and plans sporadically throb through the mind, and problems work themselves out.

A rest at the BU boat dock offers an opportunity to look back at the “Hub of the Universe” brilliantly lit like a birthday cake. Tears well up with the notion that thousands are living their lives unaware that someone out here is watching.

Home at last. Greeted by friends. The rest of the night is spent listening for new symbolism in old rock songs on the turntable. Sleep comes at dawn.

… I’m never coming down


New love will get you there. Then there are those phases in life when, living from moment to whimsical moment, you’re especially open to its embrace. Euphoria, without it the sporting life would hold meager reward. Without it there would be no vice.

But intense and transcendent joy can come to us in many ways, and for those in touch with their innermost selves it can come coupled with tremendous contentment. Many faiths are dedicated to such pursuit, some through prayer or meditation … some through spinning, as practiced by those Sufi mystics known as Dervishes.

When a Dervish is in a traditional whirl it’s to search for the source of all perfection, by symbolically imitating the planets orbiting the sun. With the left foot planted firmly on the ground and the right foot providing the momentum the “whirling Dervish” revolves round the heart, from right to left, his eyes affixed on his left hand, which is turned toward the earth, his right hand open to the sky. All the while his arms remain fully stretched and ready to embrace all of humanity with love.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1946, Syreeta Wright seems to have taken to the marvels of spinning naturally, with dreams of becoming a ballerina. After her father’s death in the Korean War, she and her sisters moved with their mother to Detroit where, as a talented dancer with no money for formal training, she chose to sing and, much as singer Martha Reeves had done, landed a secretarial position at Motown Records.

Soon she was stepping in as a background vocalist for Martha and the Vandellas, and for the Supremes, for whom she became a “demo” singer, recording potential Supremes songs on behalf of the label. By the time Berry Gordy had signed her as an artist in her own right, she had begun to date label mate, Stevie Wonder, who sought her collaboration as a songwriter. Reaching Number 14 on the Billboard charts, their first effort “It’s a Shame” was performed by … The Spinners.

Also co-writing and singing background on such hits as she “Signed Sealed, Delivered” and “If You Really Love Me,” she married Wonder in 1969. Divorced a few years later (Wonder’s album “Talking Book” largely features autobiographical detail about the rise and fall of their marriage), the two remained friends and would continue to collaborate for decades.

In addition to releasing a number of studio albums, Syreeta went on to work with Billy Preston and Smokey Robinson, and would eventually join the national touring cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the role of Mary Magdalene, before succumbing to breast cancer in 2004.

Written by a woman who clearly knew how to spin, this is the second track from the 1974 album, “Stevie Wonder Presents: Syreeta”

Spinnin’ and Spinnin’

Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ around

Painting the town, I’m never coming down

Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ around

I’m out on the town, I’m never coming down

God Almighty I wanna’ live

A man will shower me with expensive gifts

And of course there’s his love

I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be

Just another feather in a cap you see

So if you offer me, know that I want to be

Just Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ around

Painting the town, I’m never coming down

Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ around

Out on the town, I’m never coming down

 Not that I want everything

Just a few of those little precious things

That there’re smiles in my eyes

I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be

Just another toy that is put away

So I’m glad I am free, know that I’m on the wild

And I’ll be Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ around

Give me one or two compliments

Tell me that my love is heaven sent

And that living is free

Free enough to go everywhere

Just to drop a dime and we’re in the air

Yes of course there is love

Wonder how much I’ll see…

And I’ll go Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ around

Painting the town, I’m never coming down

Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ and Spinnin’ around

Out on the town, I’m never coming down….

Being good isn’t always easy


With her blond bouffant and panda eyes she was a veritable “Swingin’ ’60s” icon, at the very forefront of the British Invasion, having hit the American Billboard’s Hot 100 a mere week after the Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your Hand. She was also one of the finest white soul singers of her (or any) era.

But by 1968 the invasion was over. Popular music had changed. Though long accustomed to recording (and often self-producing) in England, she made the bold move of crossing over to American-based Atlantic Records, and headed down to Memphis with something different in mind. Now enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame as one of the greatest albums of all time, Dusty in Memphis was all that and more … Then again, this wasn’t the first time Dusty Springfield had been to Tennessee.

Born into a musically-inclined family in 1939, Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien earned her nickname early, while playing football with the boys in her North London neighborhood. By the time she was 18 “Dusty” and her brother, Tom had become folk club regulars, eventually forming a trio with fellow singer, Tim Feild, and using a name they’d come up with while rehearsing in a Somerset field one spring day: the Springfields.

Looking for an “authentic” Appalachian sound, they soon travelled to Nashville, only to become deeply influenced by the R&B scene instead.  The result was a pop-folk style that helped to make them Britain’s top vocal group until the Springfields’ disbandment in 1963. Then, while Tom continued to produce and write songs (including “Georgy Girl”) and Tim became a renowned Sufi mystic (really), Dusty Springfield came into her own with “I Only Want to Be With You,” one of the first singles to be played on BBC-TV’s legendary Top of the Pops.

An uncompromising perfectionist who deplored the quality of her record company’s London studios, she preferred to record in the ladies room where the acoustics were better. Nor would she compromise on her sense of justice, and was famously deported from South Africa after performing for an integrated audience near Cape Town.

Voted Britain’s top female singer throughout the ‘60s, Springfield loved to sing backup for other performers too, using the pseudonym, Glady’s Thong on recordings by Elton John, Kikki Dee, Anne Murray, and (her own one-time backup singer) Madeline Bell.

It was Elton John, in fact, who helped to induct Dusty Springfield into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, two weeks after her death from breast cancer in 1999, saying, “I’m biased but I just think she was the greatest white singer there ever has been … Every song she sang, she claimed as her own.”

That would include this, the third track on Dusty in Memphis, written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins.  A top ten hit in both the US and UK, it was originally offered to Aretha Franklin, who eventually recorded it after hearing this version. 

Post Scriptus: During her Memphis sessions Springfield urged Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler to sign on a newly formed group that included one of her favorite session musicians, John Paul Jones. The group was Led Zeppelin, whom the label signed to an historic contract – sight unseen, according to Wexler – based largely on the recommendation of Dusty Springfield.

Son Of A Preacher Man

Billy-Ray was a preacher’s son

And when his daddy would visit he’d come along

When they gathered round and started talkin’

That’s when Billy would take me walkin’

A-through the backyard we’d go walkin’

Then he’d look into my eyes

Lord knows to my surprise

The only one who could ever reach me

Was the son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

Was the son of a preacher man

Yes he was, he was

Ooh, yes he was

Being good isn’t always easy

No matter how hard I try

When he started sweet-talkin’ to me

He’d come and tell me everything is all right

He’d kiss and tell me everything is all right

Can I get away again tonight?

The only one who could ever reach me

Was the son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

Was the son of a preacher man

Yes he was, he was

Lord knows he was

Yes he was

How well I remember

The look that was in his eyes

Stealin’ kisses from me on the sly

Takin’ time to make time

Tellin’ me that he’s all mine

Learnin’ from each other’s knowing

Lookin’ to see how much we’ve grown

And the only one who could ever reach me

Was the son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

Was the son of a preacher man

Yes he was, he was

Ooh, yes he was

The only one who could ever reach me

He was the sweet-talking son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

I kissed the son of a preacher man

The only one who could ever move me

The sweet-lovin’ son of a preacher man

The only one who could ever groove me