Friday, November 1, 2019

Laugh, laugh some more!

Not a lot has changed in the world since I wrote Laugh, Laugh I Thought I'd Die last year. 

You can still turn on the news or open a paper and there isn't much to laugh about. If anything, things could be worse. Frankly, I'm so tired of depressing news my head wants to explode. 

So I did what I usually do when I need a break from stress and unpleasantness: I turn to music.

Over the years I've posted some music-related cartoons and jokes that have made me smile. Could you use a few more smiles just about now? 

I thought so. 

So here are some of my faves. 

                 Leave it to Mr. Spock to have the lyrics right!

                   Here are some others that tickled my funny bone.

The perfect cartoon for a former advertising copywriter!

                                      A few more funnies!

For all you "Sound of Music" fans.

Finally, I still laugh out loud every time I see this spoof on "Rikki, Don't Lose That Number." Ricky Ricardo had it all the time!!

                   Now, don't you feel better?? I thought you would.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Meeting the Beatles (55 years later)

On February 13, 1964, I was fortunate enough to snag a brief interview with the Beatles when they arrived at Miami International Airport to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was 13 and star reporter for my junior high newspaper.

55 years later it is still a thrill to remember that amazing day. My school friends from way back when still talk about it. If you’d like to read the story, just click on this link to find the posting “I meet the Moptops.”

Who could have predicted what the Beatles would go on to accomplish? And how decades later, we would still adore the Fab Four.

Today there is even a Beatles Channel on Sirius XM radio. I recently listened to Peter Asher hosting a show where he played the Top 100 Beatle songs as voted by listeners in a survey. The stories he told about many of the songs were really cool. I wish I’d taken notes.

So, I decided to mark my interview anniversary by compiling a few interesting tidbits about the Beatles and their songs. I hope you enjoy them.

* The Beatles received $10,000 for performing three times on the Ed Sullivan Show. 

* Elvis Presley sent a congratulatory telegram to the Beatles before their first Sullivan appearance.

* A front-row ticket to the Beatles first American concert cost $4.

* Paul wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” on his Dad’s piano when he was 16.

* John and Paul used to hang out in Woolton Cemetery in Liverpool. It adjoins St. Peter’s Church where the two first met. There were two headstones of note in the cemetery. One had the inscription Eleanor Rigby. A few yards to the right was a headstone for someone named McKenzie. According to Paul, the title character in the song “Eleanor Rigby” was originally going to be Daisey Hawkins. (Just doesn’t sound right, does it? “Daisey Hawkins picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been...”)
A Tommy Steele statue dedicated to Eleanor and "all the lonely people"

* Paul played the very inspiring piano opening on George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Eric Clapton played the guitar. George paid Eric back by co-writing the Cream hit “BADGE” under a pseudonym. 

* Mae West initially refused to have her image on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but changed her mind after receiving a personal letter from the band. Other famous women on the cover include Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Temple.  Elvis and Gandhi did not make the final cut. 

Who's who on the Sgt. Pepper cover (thank you whoever did this!)

* “Back in the USSR” caused a slight anti-Beatle backlash. The John Birch Society claimed it “encouraged communism.” Mike Love of the Beach Boys suggested Paul talk about girls around Russia like they had sung about girls across America in “California Girls.” It was Side 1, Track 1 on "The White Album." (Which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.)

* John was on acid when he wrote “I am the Walrus.” (Duh.)

* All four Beatles had to like a proposed song for it to be included in an album. If one didn’t fancy the tune, it could be vetoed.

* “Good Day Sunshine” was inspired by “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. John and Paul were huge John Sebastian fans.

* “Here Comes the Sun” was written by George Harrison in Eric Clapton’s garden. George said it expressed his relief to be away from Beatle turmoil if only for a day.

* Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” was inspired by Bach’s ‘Bourree in E Minor’. He recorded 32 takes and the final one was the keeper.

        * “The End” was the final song on the Beatles last recorded
album. Paul wrote these final words with Shakespeare in   mind. “I wanted it to end with a little meaningful couplet, so I followed the Bard and wrote a couplet.
              “And in the end the love you take
Is equal to the love you make.”
Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo for a brief eight years (1962-1970) of amazing music. And a special thanks from a certain junior high reporter who took a risk and got the story of a lifetime.

I discovered a Beatles photo exhibit in Australia in 2011.

You can be sure I’ll be back to celebrate the 60th anniversary February 13, 2024. Mark your calendars and join me.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

P.S. On a different topic, I am really annoyed by the song writers/owners/whoever who sold out some great tunes to drug advertising like “Oh, Oh, Oh it’s Magic” performed by Pilot. And Michael Jackson’s “ABC.” They almost certainly be condemned to hang along with the “Ring Around the Collar” copy writer.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Joy to the World (and I don't mean the Three Dog Night version)

Friends, I thought I'd share this posting again from two years ago. Enjoy and Merry Christmas to all!!

Not long ago I received a message from Facebook reminding me of a “memory”, a posting I’d written back in 2011.

In that posting I talked about a holiday special that was coming up – “ A Very Gaga Thanksgiving".  

Here was my comment from 2011: I guess I'm showing my age but I fondly recall the Perry Como specials. It wasn't Thanksgiving without Mr. C singing “Bless this House”.

For those of you who loved those programs as well, here's Perry's version of “O Holy Night”. With all due respect to Lady Gaga (and I do like many of her songs) I can’t imagine her doing justice to “There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays”.

Five years later I still love the traditional tunes from “Up on the Housetop” and “We Need a Little Christmas” to  “God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen”. We used to sing these songs in school (again, I’m showing my age.)

But I also have come to love some of the new takes on old treasures. Who could resist Kermit the Frog belting out “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”?

Some newer songs and performers have joined my holiday playlist. I was blown away by Jordan Smith’s rendition of “Mary Did You Know” on The Voice last year. It literally gave me chills. Small wonder Jordan won the entire competition.

Perhaps my favorite of all time is a little known tune by Peter, Paul and Mary called “A ‘Soulin”. There’s just something about it that strikes a chord with me. Sorry for the poor video quality – simply close your eyes and listen.

You can find some lovely lyrics in holiday songs.  “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.”  “Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.”

And some dumb ones, like this line from “Little Saint Nick”: “Christmas comes this time each year.”

No matter what your musical tastes, we all have a favorite we long to hear every year.  What is your special song? Listen and enjoy because the season is short.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Laugh Laugh, I Thought I'd Die

Turn on the news or open a paper these days and there isn't much to laugh about. Frankly, I'm so tired of the bickering and lack of civility my head wants to explode. 

So I did what I usually do when I need a break from stress and unpleasantness: I turn to music.

Over the years I've posted some music-related cartoons and jokes that have made me smile. Could you use a smile just about now? 

I thought so. 

So here are a few of my faves beginning with an original Rick Kollinger cartoon he created for my piece about "MacArthur Park".  If you'd like to read the posting, here you go:

 Later, I spotted this lost and found ad:

Here are a few others that tickled my funny bone.

And this just goes to show that what goes around, comes around.

Finally, I laughed out loud when I saw this spoof on "Rikki, Don't Lose That Number." Ricky Ricardo had it all the time!!

Now, don't you feel better?? I thought you would.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What ingredients make a great summer song? (Hint: Justin Beiber isn't one of them.)

Ah, those Summer Nights

Last week, the NPR program Marketplace did a feature on how music companies go about crowning the biggest “Song of the Summer.”

The segment described a tune released by DJ Khaled that was expected to be the hot hit of the 2017 vacation season.
The song was titled “I’m the One” and featured Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne. In the music video, “they’re at a mansion hanging by the pool. Bieber is in a bathing suit and women are dancing around in bikinis.”

The piece went on to talk about the evolution of the summer song from Tin Pan Alley to 60s surf tunes. Then at some point, according to the story, the song of the summer changed. It no longer had to be about summer! It didn’t have to be about sunshine, beaches, sweltering cities, romances (and broken hearts), parties or road trips. It just had to be popular in summer.

Say what??

Come on NPR, wake up and smell the Coppertone!

Now here’s a real summer song:

Or how about this classic?

You can almost feel the ocean breeze with this one. 

By the way, the guy on the left in the video is my good friend Don Dannemon. The Cyrkle is touring again and Don’s voice is as great as ever. (And in case you wondered, that “boing” towards the end was a sitar.)

Here are a few more nominations worthy of Summer Song of the Year. 
“Sunny Afternoon” -  the Kinks
“School is Out”  -  Gary US Bonds
“A Summer Song” - Chad and Jeremy
“Summer in the City”-  Lovin’ Spoonful
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” - Sly and the Family Stone
“Summer Breeze” – Seals and Crofts
“Under the Boardwalk” – The Drifters
“Summer Nights – John Travolta and Olivia Newton John
“Good Vibrations” – The Beach Boys
"Sandy" - Ronnie and the Daytonas
And one of my all time favorites
“California Nights” – Leslie Gore
"Dancing in the Streets" - Martha and the Vandellas
Ken Merson, the "Merson Person" and host of the fab 60's Countdown (#Sirius 60s on 6 channel ) on Saturday afternoons told me about his favorite summer song: 
"It's got to be "Dancing in the Street" by Martha & The Vandellas. The second I hear that drum intro hit followed by the brass section intro, I'm ready to dance with reckless abandon. Once Martha Reeves sings "Summer's here and the time is right for Dancing in the Street", then it's official!

In the old days, lots of kids went on vacation with their parents and had to leave a boyfriend or girlfriend behind. When we had to say goodbye for the summer, we wrote letters! Some arrived with this inscription on the back: SWALCAKWS. 

Did it ring a bell? Did you remember?
Sealed With A Lick Cuz A Kiss Won't Stick.

Now here is our final tune. It’s a slow dance.

And of course, a Ladies Choice. Enjoy. And happy summer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The summer song inspired by war

Ken Burn’s recent series on PBS about Vietnam brought back all manner of memories about those distressing days. It got me thinking about high school friends who were sent there to fight and never came home. And friends who did return but were never quite the same.

Vietnam has been called the first rock and roll war. Certainly many of the tunes we heard on the radio during mid to late 60s came to be connected with the era.  The The Vietnam War soundtrack contains 120 songs from artists including Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Pete Seeger, Wilson Pickett, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. 

Some, like Marvin Gaye’s“What’s Going On”, were inspired by stories of family members who were serving at the time. 
One song not on the soundtrack also has a link to the Vietnam War –  “Mr. Dieingly Sad” from the summer of 1966. At the time, none of us listening knew the catchy beach ditty came to be as a result of the conflict.

I recently learned the writer, Don Ciccone, penned the tune just before shipping out to Vietnam. His girlfriend at the time had an unfailingly sunny disposition while he was frightened and worried about what was to come. He was Mr. Dieingly Sad.

Just a breeze will muss your hair
But you smile away each little care
And if the rain should make you blue
You say tomorrow is anew
Blue be your eyes, blonde your hair
You realize beyond a care
Life's in a hurry, but
You've got no worry, you're
So mystifyingly glad
I'm Mr. Dieingly Sad.”

Don Ciccone was born in 1946 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He started playing the guitar at age 12 and was performing two years later.  At 15, he auditioned for a popular Jersey band, The Vibraphones. At the time, the band was looking for a rhythm guitar player who could also sing.  

In 1964, the band changed its name to The Critters to sound more like other popular acts of the day such as the Animals, the Byrds and of course, The Beatles.

The band’s first single was “Younger Girl”, a cover of Lovin Spoonful original. While taking a break during the recording of John Sebastian’s tune, Don started rehearsing a song he’d written. The band’s producer Artie Ripp overheard Don practicing “Mr. Dieingly Sad”.  Ripp was so impressed, he stopped working on “Younger Girl” and went immediately into the studio to record “Sad.” 


“Sad” is a hauntingly wistful song that seemed to be about a boy in love who wishes his girl would adore him as much as he adores her. And time is running out! Summer is almost over, fall is on the way and the romance will likely end.

But in a 2010 interview with Goldmine magazine. Don Ciccone said it wasn’t about love gone wrong at all.  “The whole story is I knew that I was going to get pulled into the military. We were at war, and the draft was happening. So that was the reason for the lyric of the song. Everything was great for her, and I said it in a nice way. I was glad that it was great for her. But it wasn’t so great for me, because I could see myself going to war.”

The “Younger Girl” album was released while Don and two other members of The Critters were in Vietnam. “Girl” only made it to #42 on the charts but “Mr. Dieingly Sad” topped out at #17.

After release from the Air Force, Don went on to join the Four Seasons for ten years. He sang lead vocal on “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” and “Who Loves You”. He later toured with Tommy James and the Shondells. 

Don passed away after a heart attack last October. We’ll never know if he ever saw his beautiful, lighthearted summer love again.

Did she write to him? Did she wait for him?

As for me, every time I hear the song, the melancholy melody takes me back to Miami Beach the summer before I started 11th grade. I can hear my friends talking about what a new school year might bring. I can hear the sea gulls cackling. I can almost smell the salt spray and the Coppertone.

And before long, a gentle ocean breeze will muss my hair.