Browsing Tag



TBT: Neil Sedaka, "Stairway to Heaven"

March 12, 2015

Long before there was Led Zeppelin, even before there were Yardbirds, there was Neil Sedaka. Brooklyn born and raised (his father was a cab driver) and trained to play classical piano in Julliard’s preparatory school program, Sedaka found his true love in pop music as a teenager. He and lyricist Howard Greenfield, a boyhood friend, became one of the songwriting teams–along with Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman–who had offices in the Brill Building, a 1931 vintage office building at Broadway and 49th Street with an elaborate art deco entrance (photo). Producers Don Kirshner, George “Shadow” Morton, and Phil Spector also had offices there.
Sedaka, like Carole King, was a singer as well as a songwriter. His recording career began in 1957 with “Laura Lee” on the Decca label. His first song to chart was “The Diary,” on RCA, for which he continued to record through the remainder of the 1950s and ’60s. He cracked the top ten in 1959 with “Oh! Carol,” which made it to number nine. In the summer of 1960 “Stairway to Heaven,” which apart from its title bears no relationship to the later Led Zeppelin hit, also reached nine on the hit parade.

I remember “Stairway” fondly because it was one of the songs that I heard many times on the car radio, along with Roy Orbison’s enthralling “Only the Lonely,” the Hollywood Argyles’ hilarious “Alley Oop,” and Ray Peterson’s bathetic “Tell Laura I Love Her,” when my parents and I went from Tampa to visit my mother’s relatives in Pennsylvania and my father’s in Indiana during the summer between my eighth and ninth grade years. I always enjoyed these road trips, and music I heard on them got engraved on my memory. An intriguing feature of “Stairway” is the rising “Bwaaaaah!” sound at the end of each chorus. The musicians credited on the song include Irving Faberman on timpani; this sound is likely produced by pedaling the drum. There’s also a sax bridge by the then almost ubiquitous King Curtis.

Sedaka continued to have hits for RCA through 1961 and ’62, when he reached the top of the chart with “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” His slow ballad version of that song, released on the Rocket label, reached number eight in 1975, but topped the “easy listening” chart, giving Sedaka the distinction of being the only artist to have topped charts twice with different versions of the same song.

Neil Sedaka will celebrate his 76th birthday tomorrow, March 13, 2015.

Brill Building photo: San Francisco Public Library.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Around Brooklyn, Bloggers

Why I’m worrying about the Mets already.

March 3, 2015

The Mets are in camp; they’ve yet to play a spring training game. That comes Friday, against the Tigers. Signs are good: Matt Harvey can throw well following Tommy John surgery; David Wright is healthy (at least for now); everything else seems to be in good order. So, first, why do I have a photo of Babe Ruth, a Yankees hero, although I managed to find a 1916 shot of him in a Red Sox uniform? More about that below.

Truth is, I got nervous when I read this New York Times story. Anything that indicates the Mets are doing something other than concentrating on playing baseball, especially if it smacks of premature triumphalism, puts me on edge. Sort of like Darryl Strawberry’s rap “Chocolate Strawberry.” recorded and released in 1987, just as the Mets were beginning their as yet interminable decline from their 1986 championship.

And the Babe? Thinking about players’ publicity appearances brought to mind a story I read some years ago. It was 1942, and everything had to be about the War Effort. The Babe was to be interviewed on Grantland Rice’s radio show, so one of the questions was how sports could contribute to that effort. Rice had scripted an answer; “Well, Granny, as the Duke of Wellington said, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” This was rehearsed several times until it seemed Ruth had it down pat, but when the show went live, he said, “Well, Granny, as Duke Ellington said, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Elkton.” Asked afterward why the deviation from script, Ruth said he didn’t know Wellington but did know Ellington, and while he’d never been to Eton, he married his first wife in Elkton, and would never forget that place.

Update: already the intra-squad sniping has begun.

Babe Ruth photo: Culver Images via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Brooklyn Bugle

TBT: The Candymen, "Georgia Pines," featuring Rodney Justo

February 19, 2015

Like last week’s TBT, this is a memory from my law school years; this one from the spring of 1968, when I was a first year law student and, as a transplant from Florida to Massachusetts, experiencing my first real spring since I was a child. I had spring fever bad, which wasn’t helping me concentrate on my studies. Many nights I stayed up late, trying to catch up on assignments and prepare for exams, and would always have WBCN, Boston’s first “underground” FM rock station, playing.

Probably because of my emotional state at the time, music I heard often got engraved on my memory. One night the DJ announced what he said was an example of  “Southern white soul,” a song called “Georgia Pines” by a group I’d never heard of called the Candymen. He also  mentioned that the singer’s name was Rodney Justo. The video clip below shows the Candymen performing “Georgia Pines” at Greenwich Village’s famous, and still extant, music venue The Bitter End in 1967:

Despite “Candymen” and “Rodney Justo” sticking in my memory, I didn’t follow them at the time. WBCN didn’t play the song again, at least not when I was listening, and no Candymen albums showed up in the record bins at the Harvard Coop. My principal musical interests at the time were the harder edged British Invasion groups–the Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds–along with Dylan and the country-tinged rock of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. From the last two I developed passions for, respectively, the “Cosmic American Music” of Gram Parsons and the protean Neil Young.

A few years ago I became Facebook friends with someone I had known in Tampa during my youth, and saw that one of that person’s other friends was a “Rodney Justo.” “Could it be?” I thought. I went to Rodney’s Facebook page and–sho’ nuff! It turned out we had both lived in Tampa and went to rival, though not arch-rival, high schools (I to Robinson; he to Chamberlain). Although I had never met him. I sent a friend request, which he graciously accepted. I learned that, before the Candymen, he had led a group called Rodney and the Mystics, which triggered a vague memory, as I’d probably heard of them during my Tampa years (they shouldn’t be confused with the Mystics who had the 1959 hit “Hushabye; those Mystics came from what is now my adopted home, Brooklyn).  What I didn’t know was that Rodney and the Mystics became the go-to backup band for many established rock stars. Roy Orbison asked Justo to join his backup group, called the Candymen as a reference to Orbison’s song “Candy Man”.  Although their principal commitment was to Orbison, the Candymen also recorded and performed on their own; witness “Georgia Pines.”

After the Candymen, Justo became a founding member of  Atlanta Rhythm Section; the photo at the top of this post is of him while he was with ARS. The video clip below is of a reunited ARS performing “Doraville” live sometime in the not-too-distant past; Justo is the lead singer.

Some years ago Justo left the full time music world and took a job with a beverage distributor because he decided it was more important to be a  successful father than a successful musician. Nevertheless, he still does gigs with Coo Coo Ca Choo, a ’60s-’70s revival band, in the Tampa area.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

From the Web

Around Brooklyn, Bloggers

Lesley Gore, 1946-2015

February 16, 2015

Lesley Gore, who died today at 68, is most remembered for her first hit, “It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry If I Want To),” which began a successful collaboration with Quincy Jones as her producer.

She was a Brooklyn native, but her family moved to New Jersey, where she attended the private Dwight School for Girls in Englewood. She was a sixteen year old junior at Dwight when Jones signed her to Mercury Records and she recorded “It’s My Party,” which went to the top of the Billboard pop chart in 1963. Her recording and performing career continued through high school and Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied drama and literature. She later did some acting; the photo above shows her as Catwoman’s sidekick Pussycat in the TV series Batman.

My favorite of her early hits (she continued to record, perform, and write music through much of her later life; her last album, Ever Since, reviewed favorably in The New York Times, was released in 2005) is “You Don’t Own Me,” described as an “empowering, ahead-of-its-time feminist anthem” by Daniel Kreps in Rolling Stone. The video clip above shows her performing it as part of the T.A.M.I. Show in 1964, when she was eighteen.

While “You Don’t Own Me” could be seen as an “answer song” to Joanie Sommers’ 1962 hit “Johnny Get Angry” (“I want a brave man; I want a caveman”), Gore didn’t see it that way, at least not when she recorded it. She thought of it as something a man could have as easily sung to a woman. Like all of Gore’s early songs, it wasn’t written by her. It was written by two men, John Madera and Dave White.

Gore was in college when she first realized that she was a lesbian. She didn’t announce this to the public until 2005, when she was hosting In The Life, a PBS show about LGBT issues. Her death was announced by Lois Sasson, her partner of 33 years.

Addendum: Friend Eliot Wagner has this observation:

While “You Don’t Own Me” was not an answer to any particular song, it responded to an entire era. The late 50s and early 60s were full of songs which instructed women on their role viz a viz men in society: not only “Johnny Get Angry”, which you mentioned, but also “Love and Marriage”, “Wives and Lovers”, and probably the most egregious of the lot, “Bobby’s Girl”. The fact that “You Don’t Own Me” was on the air was a grand signal that even if that era was not over, it would, in fact, soon be history.

It also occurred to me that 1963, the year “You Don’t Own Me” was released, was also the year that Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

From the Web


Taking the Tim Sommer Challenge: Here’s My Top Ten Song List

August 23, 2014

A few weeks ago Tim Sommer, whose Noise, the Column graces the Brooklyn Bugle, responded to his friend Tim Broun, publisher of the blog Stupefaction, by publishing a playlist of his top ten songs on the Bugle. He concluded the title of his post with, “Now It’s Your Turn.”

Here’s mine. If Tim should read this, he will likely be disappointed by most of my choices being what he calls “‘songs’ that conform to the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus virus.” My descent into old fart-dom has long been underway, and ingrained habits die hard. Still, I’d like to think I’m not beyond having my notion of how music ought to sound stretched a bit. Thanks to Tim, I’ll spend more time listening to the likes of Neu! and Liquid Liquid, though Scott Walker + Sunn O))) is, for me, a difficult stretch (I just listened to “Soused” a second time; it’s starting to grow on me). I will even look back and reconsider Van Halen.

1. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Like a Hurricane. If someone told me I had ten minutes to live, and could choose one piece of music to hear, I’d have a hard few seconds deciding between this and the first movement of Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio.

2. Chuck Berry, Promised Land. I never knew, until I just looked it up, that the tune is based on one of my favorite old-time country songs, Wabash Cannonball. Berry wrote the song in prison in the mid sixties, when L.A. was still the Promised Land. It was also a time when to be young, poor, black, and “stranded in downtown Birmingham” was a scary proposition, but Berry didn’t need to dwell on that; he just got his protagonist outta there, pronto.

3. The Astronauts, Baja. A surf guitar band from Colorado–yes, Colorado–got the sound just right.

4. Mahavishnu Orchestra, Open Country Joy. John McLaughlin and company start softly, building into a lovely opening theme that ends abruptly, followed by a ten second silence, then by a frenetic, sometimes dissonant variation that finally resolves itself into a triumphant restatement of the opening theme.

5. The Ramones, Rockaway Beach. Someone once wrote that the Ramones were New York’s answer to the Beach Boys. Was “Gabba gabba hey!” our “cowabunga”?

6. The Royal Teens, Believe Me. In 1959 I was thirteen and lovesick when I heard this song, announced as a “pick hit of the week” on WDAE in Tampa. I never heard it again on radio, nor did I find it on my occasional searches through bins of 45s in record stores, but every “ooh-wah-ooh,” every tinkling piano note, was indelibly engraved in my memory. Cut to the cusp of the ’70s-’80s. I’m in one of those West Village used vinyl emporia and come across a Royal Teens anthology LP. I bought it and dashed home to my then digs on East 11th to play the song I hadn’t heard in twenty or so years. The tinkling piano is by Bob Gaudio, who later joined Frankie Valli and the other Jersey Boys in the Four Seasons, and wrote several of their hits. According to this excellent bio by Bruce Eder, Al Kooper played guitar with the group in ’59, so may be on this cut.

7. Lou Reed, Coney Island Baby. From doo-wop to an homage to doo-wop. “The glory of love might see you through.” Yeah.

8. Eartha Kitt, Uska Dara. One afternoon when I was seven, and my parents and I were living in half of a thatched roof cottage in rural Hertfordshire, my mom had the radio tuned to BBC and the announcer said, “Now, here’s some Turkish music.” What followed was so hooky that, like “Believe Me” six years later, it got burned onto my mental hard drive–well, not perfectly; the tune I remembered, but not the spoken bridge, nor the sung words, except for the end of the chorus, which sounded to me like “nebrezary on a shoe.” Cut to the Bells of Hell, circa 1978. It’s four on a Saturday or Sunday morning, the place is closing, and Mike McGovern–if you’re a fan of Kinky Friedman’s novels, that McGovern–invites the few serious drinkers left, myself included, to his place for a morning-cap. As we sipped Jameson Mike put on an Eartha Kitt LP and there it was, that song I hadn’t heard since I was seven. I got my own copy soon after.

9. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Take It Inside. The album Hearts of Stone is on my top ten rock albums list; it’s the only one I’ve downloaded wholesale to my iPod. I chose this track for its showing of the group’s versatility, from the Beatle-esque opening phrase, “Try to understand,” leading into Johnny singing over a basic rock backing ensemble, then the entrance of the horns on the chorus. I also love it for its controlled but still white-hot passion.

So far, things were pretty easy. Tim suffered for his list; mine was a breeze. Then it got down to choosing that last number. I had two songs in mind. Both come from the British–one English, the other Scottish–folk-rock tradition. Well, I thought, it’s possible to have a tie for ten. So, I’ve numbered the next two songs “10.”

10. Mike Heron, Warm Heart Pastry.  Mike Heron was a founder of the Scottish acid-folk group Incredible String Band, which I saw in its death throes at the Bottom Line in the mid ’70s, on a tour in which they had expanded to about twenty members, mostly by picking up musicians in every place they performed, including my native city. In 1971 Heron made a solo album, Smiling Men With Bad Reputations. “Warm Heart Pastry” is the one straight-ahead rocker on the album, with a hot backing band credited as “Tommy and the Bijoux.” I later heard or read somewhere that they were The Who, playing under a pseudonym to avoid contractual problems. That proved to be partially true: they were The Who minus Roger Daltrey, but plus John Cale, who also appears on several other cuts on the album.

10. Richard and Linda Thompson, Wall of Death.  She was pregnant, and they were on the verge of marital breakup, when they recorded Shoot Out the Lights, one of the most emotionally harrowing rock albums ever. Richard was previously a guitarist and singer with Fairport Convention. The song has been described as “joyous,” but the underlying tension seems obvious to me.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

From the Web


Clothes in Pop Music, Part 1, 1955-63

July 28, 2014

My friend Moira Redmond has a blog called Clothes in Books. When she started it, I reminded her that Ayn Rand heroines favored high waisted gowns in the ‘Empire’ style, because she had, during her term as Fray Editor, remarked that any post mentioning Ms. Rand was likely to attract lots of comments.

Thinking about clothes in books led to my remembering the spate of pop songs about clothes, mostly “novelty” songs but a few straight-ahead rockers and sock hop squeeze ‘n’ shuffles, that crowded the airwaves during the late 1950s and early ’60s. One of the most memorable of these was Marty Robbins’ (photo above) 1957 ballad “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation.”

The clip above is of a 1981 live performance by Robbins, made just a year before the singer’s death.

 In 1956, Carl Perkins recorded “Put Your Cat Clothes On,” though the record was not released until 1970. Perkins refers to “Blue Suede Shoes” in the lyrics, a nod to another song he wrote in 1955 and recorded in January of ’56.

1957 was a big year for songs about clothes. A New Jersey group called the Royal Teens had a hit with “Short Shorts.” The piano player is Bob Gaudio, who would later join Frankie Valli in the Four Seasons and write several of their hits, including “Sherry”.

1957 also gave us “Black Slacks,” by Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones.

1957 was a big year in fashion as well, as couturier Cristobal Balenciega introduced his shape shrouding sack dress. In 1958, Gerry Granahan expressed his displeasure in “No Chemise, Please.”
  In 1959 thirteen year old Dodie Stevens (exactly my age then) hit the charts with “Pink Shoelaces.”

Bryan Hyland made the top ten and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1960 with “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” The modestly dressed woman in high tops who gives the spoken interrogatories is Trudy Packer.

Another 1960 release was the Coasters’ paleo-rap “Shoppin’ for Clothes,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had earlier penned “Hound Dog” for Big Mama Thornton, later covered by Elvis. Coasters member Billy Guy was working with the songwriters, and remembered a similar piece he’d heard on the radio. They searched record stores but couldn’t find it. Later they learned it was “Clothes Line,” written by Kent Harris and recorded by Boogaloo and his Gallant Crew. Harris was then given co-credit for “Shoppin’ for Clothes.”

I’ll close, as did many a school dance, with Bobby Vinton’s 1963 prom belly-rubber “Blue Velvet,” which later inspired a David Lynch movie.

I’ll do a second installment featuring songs from the late 1960s to the present. If anyone can think of clothes-themed songs from the period covered in this post or later, please let me know.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

From the Web


Break on Through: Remembering The Diamond

July 21, 2014

The studio light would blink. I’d answer the phone, expecting a buzzed request for Metallica or Aerosmith. “KDDX, this is Dan.”

“Dan. This is Diamond. Tighten the fuck up!” Click.


In a radio studio the phone never rings, but the light is always blinking. Nighttime radio is great. Broadcasting from the Black Hills of Western South Dakota a 100 thousand watt FM signal travels across five states of prairie towns, military bases, and truck stops. Thousands of people all dial in to the same chatter of music, local low-budget ads, fast jokes, and rock ‘n’ roll.  The listeners talk back to the radio. The phone rings and the studio light blinks.

I used to work the afternoon drive at a big rock station in the Black Hills region. It’s a small but fun radio market, and we were a highly-rated station. When the drive time shift ended I would stick around on-air as I recorded my evening voice track recording for the weekend hours. Punching the ‘on-air’ button is a lot of fun regardless of market size, and our station had a big and rowdy audience. Answering the phone at X-Rock station was frequently an adventure. Sometimes the caller just wanted to hear that one Alice in Chains song. Again. And sometimes the listener was roaring backstage at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Talking up and down the ramp of Walk This Way is fun every time, though, and with a big audience it’s easy to get a little cocky on-air. I turned up the studio monitors, glance at the music and production list, cut an ad, punched a talk set, and repeated the cycle through the hot-clock. The station light blinked. I had just cut the air and was expecting to get a buzzed request for Metallica or Aerosmith.

The light blinked. I answered.

“KDDX, this is Dan.”

“Dan. This is Diamond.”

“Hey Diamond, thanks for-”

“I’ve been taping your show all night. Tighten the fuck up!”



In May my friend and mentor Dave Diamond passed away. Here’s the post from his website, and a eulogy from The Hollywood Reporter:

In 1967, Diamond was one of the first disc jockeys to play “Light My Fire” by The Doors, then a largely unknown L.A. band, and he connected listeners to The Seeds, Iron Butterfly, Love, Linda Ronstadt and other acts who at the time could not find airplay.

Through his Black Hills Music publishing company, the South Dakota native was the publisher of “Incense and Peppermints,” the psychedelic pop hit from The Strawberry Alarm Clock that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in May 1967.

Named one of “America’s Early Radio Idols” by Billboard, Diamond was one of the few radio reporters to tour with The Beatles during their first trip to America.

And on a 1967 edition of The Dating Game, Diamond was one of the three bachelors attempting to woo actress Yvonne Craig (TV’s Batgirl.)

Diamond was an academic and a rock ‘n’ roll radio jock. His influence was both personal and vast. “Tighten the fuck up” is the closest I can come to a story that properly (impossibly) summarizes the personal impact of a guy who also influenced thousands listeners and students. I’m willing to be that a lot of Diamond’s friends and family have similar stories and feel the same way about their relationship with him.

“Tighten the fuck up” became a mantra that was always coupled with a productive and inspiring session of granular critiques. Always tough, never negative Diamond expected work to be good, rehearsed, and repeatable. This value was one many Diamond’s Laws to Live By to which he attributed his personal and professional success.

Here’s one of my favorite Diamond’s Laws to Live By:

Life is short. It can be snatched from you instantly … that is why we must do our best to do good, to love, and not waste too much time! Time bleeds!

Of course, Diamond taught more than just the value of practice and hard work. From him I learned a ton of practical lessons about the media industry, the history of rock ‘n’ roll, and his home, the Black Hills. Diamond helped coach me through the process of running a radio station, starting a business, and managing people. Sure, Diamond was a successful guy and taught a lot of lessons. The practical lessons, however, were always coupled with his consistent reminders about healthy and smart living.

Be a good person. Do the right thing. But don’t take no shit from fools.

I was fortunate to be one of many young people Diamond mentored. As a great DJ, one of Diamond’s many skills was his ability to develop intimate and sincere relationships with a diverse and large group of people. His method was hands on, cerebral, and personal. Diamond’s friends and students now work in media across the country. And with the success of his friends comes the inherent dissemination of Diamond’s values and creativity.

As he was in life and on-air, with his passing Diamond remains a broadcaster. His values are the transmitter, and the people he taught are the signal.

Turn up the radio. Thanks for listening. Break on though.

– Dan

Here’s Diamond during the final hour of Burbank’s KBLA rock program:

Filed under: Blog, Culture, Friends, Radio, Regular Tagged: AM, Archive, Blog, Boss Rock, Dave Diamond, Diamond, FM, Music, Post, Radio, rock and roll, The Diamond, The Doors

Source: Dan Patterson

From the Web

Around Brooklyn, Bloggers, Books

Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem, "The Green Fields of France"

June 28, 2014

Today, June 28, 2014 is the centenary of the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. This started a series of events that led, within two months, to the outbreak of a war unprecedented in its ferocity and breadth; one that would cause about ten million military and seven million civilian deaths. It may have created the conditions that led to the 1918 influenza pandemic that is estimated to have killed between fifty and 100 million people; perhaps as much as five per cent of the world’s then population. The war’s economic and political aftermath certainly contributed to the outbreak of an even greater war two decades later. It caused the breakup of two empires: the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire in central and eastern Europe, and the Ottoman Empire that encompassed much of the Middle East. The carving up of the latter by victorious Britain and France, as described in David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace, resulted in the creation of the existing national boundaries in the Middle East; many of which boundaries are contested today.

World War I also helped to precipitate two revolutions: the Russian and the Irish. British recruitment of Irishmen to fight in the war (see poster image above) was a factor leading to the Easter Rising of 1916. As the rebel song “The Foggy Dew” declared:

Right proudly high in Dublin town
Hung they out a flag of war.
‘Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky
Than at Suvla or Sud el Bar.

“Suvla” and “Sud el Bar” were  disastrous amphibious landings on the Turkish coast in which British troops, including many Irish, took terrible casualties. Another verse, not included in the lyrics on the linked post, has the words

‘Twas England bade our wild geese rove
That small nations might be free.

The second line is ironic. One of Britain’s appeals to prospective recruits was to fight for “small nations,” in particular Belgium (again see poster above) that had been or might be invaded and occupied by German troops.  The irony is that Ireland was a “small nation” that wanted to be free, but Britain would not allow it to be. The term “wild geese” in the first line was originally applied to the Irish Jacobite army that was allowed to go to France following the Irish defeat by the army of King William in 1691. It was later used for Irish soldiers who served in the Royal Army in European wars.

“The Green Fields of France,” sung in the clip above by Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem, is one of the saddest songs I know. The name “Willie McBride” suggests Protestant Irish (William is not a popular name among Catholic Irish because of King William’s defeat of the Catholic rebellion in the late seventeenth century). The line “Did the pipes play ‘The Flowers of the Forest’?” at first indicated to me that he served in a Scottish regiment, as “Flowers” is a traditional Scottish lament, but the notes to this YouTube clip say it has become “[t]he traditional lament for the fallen in forces of the British Commonwealth.” So, the song was co-opted, after excising the lines

Sad day for the Order,
What’s happened to the border?
The English, by guile,
For once won the day.

We all live in the world the Great War (I still call it that; the Second World War was vastly more destructive, but the effects of the First include the Second and much more) created. I pray we do not have to see its like again.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

From the Web

Around Brooklyn, Bloggers

Planxty: "Raggle Taggle Gypsy/Tabhair dom do lámh"

May 20, 2014

This is great stuff. I’ve loved Planxty (about whom I’ve posted before) since I got a copy of The Planxty Collection at a little shop, no doubt long gone, somewhere on Bleecker Street between Sixth Avenue and Christopher Street, in the late 1970s. I especially like this medley of two songs.

“Raggle Taggle Gypsy” is one of a myriad of variations on the same song found throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, and the former British colonies. I also have a version, with the title “Black Jack Davy”, by Scotland’s Incredible String Band. Another, “Black Jack David”, was recorded by Warren Smith, a rockabilly pioneer who was briefly more popular than Elvis. In his book Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll, my erstwhile Bells of Hell and Lion’s Head companion and friend Nick Tosches tells of an interview with Smith in which Nick asked him where he got “Black Jack David.” Smith’s reply was, “I wrote it.” Nick’s next paragraph:

Cut to Athens, fourth century B.C. In his Symposium, Plato refers to an attempt made by Orpheus, mythical poet and son of Oegrus the harper and Muse Calliope, to rescue his wife from the land of the dead. This is the earliest known mention of Orpheus’s wife, Eurydice, and of his adventure in the lower world. It’s also the beginning of “Black Jack David.”

Nick then traces the Greek Orpheus legend* through various developments by the Roman writers Vergil, Ovid, and Boethius. Nick writes, “It was King Alfred’s ninth-century translation of Boethius that ushered the Orpheus myth into medieval Britain.” After this, Nick follows its development into poems and ballads in various parts of the British Isles. He notes a syncretic development in Ireland, where the story melds with pre-existing Celtic legends. Such are the roots of the many songs about the abduction and failed attempt to recover a nobleman’s wife, or sometimes daughter, that include “Back Jack David” and “The Raggle Taggle Gypsy.”

From “The Raggle Taggle Gypsy” Planxty segues into Tabhair dom do lámh, an instrumental featuring Liam O’Flynn (photo at left) on uilleann pipes. This enchanting tune is credited by Bunting in Ancient Music of Ireland to Ruairí Dall Ó Catháin, a chieftain from County Tyrone whose reputation for skill as a harper and composer may be second only to that of the great Turlough O’Carolan. The story behind Tabhair dom do lámh, as told in Ask About Ireland, is that Catháin was traveling in Scotland when a noblewoman, Lady Eglinton**, thinking him to be a simple itinerant musician, demanded that he play a tune. Angered by her effrontery, Catháin refused. When Lady Eglinton learned of his high status, she apologized, and he composed Tabhair dom do lámh for her.

My friend Larry Kirwan’s band Black 47 gives the translation of Tabhair dom do lámh as either “Give me your hand” or “Let’s be friends.” Another source, Donal O’Sullivan, in his Carolan: The Life, Times, and Music of an Irish Harper, quoted by “Sarah” in the comment thread under a post about the tune in The Session, in turn quotes Arthur O’Neill as claiming Catháin’s original title for it was the Latinized Da mihi manum, which also translates as “Give me your hand.” The tune was later used for an Irish rebel song, “White, Orange and Green” (the colors of the Irish flag) which you can hear by Spailpin here. Later, the Wolfe Tones performed it as “Give Me Your Hand,” with lyrics that seem both a simple love song and a plea for reconciliation between the sectarian factions in Northern Ireland; hear it here.

In the first comment in the thread below The Session post, “Zina Lee” includes this:

I’ve read the following regarding this tune: Note that the tune is pentatonic until the final phrase. The mixolydian seventh appears four measures from the end, while the fourth does not appear until the final measure.

Maybe this explains why, when I asked the uilleann piper who played at our wedding if he could play Tabhair dom do lámh, he politely declined, saying it was too difficult.

The musicians in the video above, other than Liam O’Flynn on the pipes, are: Christy Moore on guitar and vocal; Andy Irvine on tenor mandola (I was introduced to Andy by my date following his solo performance at the old Eagle Tavern on West 14th Street in 1989, and later learned that my future wife and her date were there the same evening); and Dónal Lunny on Irish bouzouki (as the linked Wiki tells, Lunny owned the first bouzouki specifically made for use in Irish music; he later became a member of The Bothy Band).

*The Orpheus legend bears an interesting resemblance to the Biblical story of Lot and his wife. In the Orpheus tale, the hero is told that he may lead his wife back to the land of the living so long as, on the way, he does not turn to look at her. He does, and she disappears. In the Bible story, Lot and his wife are allowed to escape the destruction of Sodom on the condition that they not look back toward the doomed city. She does, and is turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).

**The linked source spells her name “Eglington”; others spell it “Eglinton,” which I think is correct. There is an Eglinton Castle in North Ayrshire.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Ken Radnofsky and Damien Francouer-Krzyzek play the third movement, "Christopher Street," of David Amram’s Greenwich Village Portraits.

March 24, 2014

I’ve been fortunate to know David Amram since my Bells of Hell and Lion’s Head days. Last month he presented a performance of his recent works at Le Poisson Rouge, a performance venue that occupies the space once belonging to Art d’Lugoff’s Village Gate. My wife and I attended, along with a good number of other Lion’s Head alums. One of the compositions on the program was Greenwich Village Portraits, with three movements dedicated, respectively, to Arthur Miller, Odetta, and Frank McCourt. The last of these, titled “Christopher Street,” evokes the memory of the Lion’s Head, which was Frank’s favorite bar. It was performed by saxophonist Ken Radnofsky and by Damien Francouer-Krzyzek on piano. I made the video above from our table, some distance from the stage, which explains the people walking past and the unfortunate clattering of flatware. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised that the sound came through as well as it did.

The movement begins with a sprightly Irish jig tune, the name of which escapes me (perhaps a reader can help) announced on piano, then developed in variations on sax. At 2:40, the piano announces the second theme, based on “Wild Mountain Thyme (Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?),” picked up by the sax at 3:50. At 4:59, Radnofsky begins a variation at turns happy and mournful, but at 6:00 this gives way to a lively development that resolves back briefly to “Wild Mountain Thyme” at 7:50 before ending joyously.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” was a traditional closing song at the Lion’s Head. The video above is of David playing it, and assembled Lion’s Head veterans joining in voice, at the Cornelia Street Cafe two years ago.

Addendum: David offers the following news about future events:

They are presenting an evening of my chamber music, performed by members of the New York Philharmonic,  The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Boston Symphony April 29th. Woody Guthrie’s daughter , Nora Guthrie will also be there to speak about the   formal release of my new CD THIS LAND: Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, which I conducted with the Colorado Symphony, based on her father’s iconic song, and the evening will be dedicated in memory of Pete Seeger, with whom Amram often collaborated with for the past half century.

The opening event will be April 26th with a screening of Lawrence Kraman’s new documentary film “David Amram:The First 80 Years”.

following the Q.and A. after the screening, there will be an urban hike through the Upper West Side, where I will revisit many of the places where I have collaborated musically over the last  60 years with a great variety of gifted people

We’ll begin our hike by visiting The Lincoln Center itself, where Leonard Bernstein appointed me as the New York Philharmonic’s first-ever composer -in-residence, and go the the park outside near the fountains where i did concerts of every variety for years. 

We’ll go to the old site where  Birdland once stood, as the final remaining landmark from the golden days of 52nd street, where i played with the jazz greats during the 1950s.

We will see some of the Broadway theaters where I composed incidental music for fifteen dramatic productions

We will walk by  Thelonious Monk’s old dwelling (which now is landmarked by the city), where he took me under his wing and mentored me in the early 50s, when i was playing with Charles Mingus at night and studying composition at Manhattan school of /music during the day.

We will take a stroll to the old site where Shakespeare in the Park had their first season, before the Delecourt Theater was built, where Joseph Papp had me as the festival’s first composer and musical director for 12 seasons, where i composed  scores for 30+ productions,

We will visit  the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater where i worked with Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan as their first composer for three years, while the building was being completed and many other venues in the neighborhood  where i conducted free out of doors Symphony concerts, played jazz.folk and world music concerts, performed for peace gatherings, political campaigns, jazz/poetry readings and all kinds of events. 

Programs, photographs, articles and videos of all of these endeavors are now documented in my archive which the Lincoln Center Library has acquired.

 I hope these activities and viewing of the archive itself  will be of value to young people who may come to any of the events this April and then check out the archive.

Hopefully it will make them feel that everyone of us can have a great life if we work hard, stay the course, refuse to accept career councilor’s advice (which is usually to give up pursuing your path before you are even sure what that path is) and just go out start all over every day with renewed energy, share what blessings we have with others, show respect for every person who crosses our path, try to always do better than is expected and ENJOY life!!

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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