Archive for the ‘Five Songs’ Category

Five Songs, Part 106 (The Black 47 Edition)

March 17, 2013

black47logoMarch 17, 2013

I don’t do a hell of a lot of drinking, so that aspect of St. Patrick’s Day is lost on me. I prefer to stay clear of the pubs and the drinking thang on one of America’s three biggest amateur days (along with Cinco de Mayo and New Year’s Eve). So I’ve brought Five Songs out of cold storage (aka Winter) and will commemorate in my own way — with a band long near and dear to my half-Irish heart, Black 47. In particular, a magnificent seven of songs that have to do with Ireland or the Irish-American experience.

I was disappointed when “The Big Fellah” wasn’t used in the film Michael Collins, but surprised when it eventually turned up in, of all places, a series about a California biker gang (Sons of Anarchy).

Also here, of course, is the other big Irish martyr in Larry Kirwan’s pantheon, James Connolly, as well as the instrumental “The Reels,” a highlight of any of their shows, when girls usually come up on stage and show their stepdancing prowess; and the cheeky (is it true or not?) “I Got Laid on James Joyce’s Grave.”

The other three songs deal with the Irish-American immigrant experience. “Funky Ceili” recounts the circumstances behind Larry leaving Wexford for New York in the mid’-’70s. “Living in America” speaks for itself. And, since Black 47 has always been against playing the traditional Irish fare (and, as such, paved the way for Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys), there’s Larry’s spin of “Danny Boy” into a tale of a young gay Irishman in the City.

Anyway, it’s time to go. Slainte!

The Big Fellah — Black 47

James Connolly — Black 47

The Reels — Black 47

Funky Ceili — Black 47

Livin’ in America — Black 47

Danny Boy — Black 47

I Got Laid on James Joyce’s Grave — Black 47

Five Songs, Part 105

January 4, 2013

Jan. 4, 2013

This Koach stops at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

This Koach stops at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

Welcome to the first Five Songs of 20(Lucky)13 — so I hope. Yesterday, my old college pal, dormmate and frat brother Jim brought up something numerical that hadn’t hit me: yesterday was 1/3/13. So, I lead off a day late with a couple of 1313 references, because they sound so much sexier than 1413. A throwback to the residents of 1313 Mockingbird Lane: Grandpa, Herman, Lily, Eddie and Marilyn.

What did you expect — 13 songs? Just five this week. Have fun and stay warm …

Tilt-A-Whirl — 1313 Mockingbird Lane

Munsters — Comateens

13 Women — Bill Haley & His Comets

13 Steps Lead Down — Elvis Costello

13 Ghosts — Marshmallow Overcoat

Five Songs, Part 104

December 29, 2012

45misentoDec. 29, 2012

Time for Five Songs to blow off this bizarre, haywire, anguish-filled year of great change. Hopefully, what so many misread as the Mayan apocalypse is actually the end of a strange era, just a table-setter for the start of things evening out and reverting to some sense of normality.

(Grammar Bitch interjecting here: It’s “normality,” not “normalcy.” That was a grammatical error foisted on America in the 1920 presidential campaign by Warren Harding, who ran on a “Return to Normalcy” campaign after Wilson and the Great War. Imagine — a onetime newspaper editor who saddled us with bad English en route to what was, until Cheney, the worst presidency in American history. And nearly a century later, people are still getting it wrong in droves.)

Anyway, I snuck a couple of these Five Songs onto my Facebook wall yesterday to honor the birthdays of Shangri-Las lead voice Mary Weiss (now 64) and Box Tops/Big Star voice Alex Chilton (who would’ve been 62). The Box Tops one, with Chilton rasping “Cry Like a Baby” en italiano, is pretty hard to find; I have it on a long-deleted Rhino Best of the Box Tops LP from the ’80s, but it’s never been released digitally, far as I know.

Go blow off some steam. Enjoy these Five Songs-plus and do what I do at the stroke of midnight every January 1 — yell “ONWARD!”

Out in the Streets — The Shangri-Las

Cry About the Radio — Mary Weiss

Mi Sento Felice — The Box Tops

Dalai Lama — Alex Chilton

Pretty Girl — The Bugs

Little Town Flirt — Altered Images

Time to Change — The Brady Bunch

Five Songs, Part 103 (the Weird Christmas edition)

December 24, 2012


Dec. 24, 2012

Well, it’s been a weird year — why not a weird Christmas, too?

I was hoping my first Christmas home for good for now would be a fantastic one. But as we near the finish line, the last two weeks have made me wish Christmas would come and go, like, yesterday: an epic job-hunt fail (rejected six weeks after a six-hour interview), the crud, the feeling of uselessness that comes with not being able to work and not being able afford to buy gifts for my loved ones — and all dwarfed by the Newtown massacre, which really hit home, as one of the teachers that that psycho took was the daughter/stepdaughter of two old friends.

Anger, frustration, depression and, finally, stun-shock, rage and sadness.

But at the final sixteenth pole, maybe there’s a strong finish to this race, after all.

Saturday night, I saw Christine Ohlman’s Christmas show at Cafe Nine in New Haven. Lots of great catching up — with Christine, the Beehive Queen herself (and why isn’t she famous yet?); with Dawn, an old acquaintance who’s turned into a friend thanks to the magic of Facebook, and her hubby, Harry; with Laura, who freelanced a weekly club photo feature for me when I was the Register’s entertainment editor, and her hubby, Matthew; and rock’n’roll pal Cary.

Christmas Eve Eve was even better. Spent a wonderful afternoon into evening with two of my oldest friends from the early New Haven music days, John and Mary Lawler, at their house among the woods and rivers of central Connecticut, as Mary plied your hostess with homemade caramelized pecans and veggie antipasto, and John broke out the Yuenglings, the Buffalo Bop Rockabilly Xmas CD and a mix of holiday tunes and ’50s stuff on Sirius XM.

Came home and logged in to see a Facebook photo from California posted on my wall by Todd, a friend from Kingsburg, a town 20 miles south of Fresno (noted for its Swedishness and for being the headquarters of Sun-Maid Raisins). It was a fabulous photo taken at the home of my first Fresno friend, pop guitarist/thereminist/writer extraordinaire Blake Jones. Blake and his wife Lauri, Todd and his wife Pam, Mike and his wife Darla — Lauri holding up a copy of Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True, Blake holding up a copy of The Fleshtones’ Speed Connection, the ensemble holding up  8 1/2 x 11 sheets that, all together, said, WE MISS YOU FRAN! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! I was overwhelmed with joy and humility and gratitude.

And Christmas Eve, barring a blizzard (but 1-2 inches is expected), should find me catching up with an old childhood friend and former newspaper colleague and his wife. After Mom’s traditional fish dinner with my brother Ken’s family. Dinner on Christmas is at his house, followed most probably by catching up with more close friends.

Maybe there’s a silver lining in this dark Christmas after all.

Hope yours is an enjoyable one. Or at least a peaceful one. Or, if this is a trying time, that your darkness makes way for some light as well.


Five Songs, Part 102

December 7, 2012
Dave Brubeck with his classic quartet (Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright).

Dave Brubeck with his classic quartet (Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright).

Hopefully, this is the end of the memorials for a while. Again this week, Five Songs honors two musicians who lived long and productive lives.

On Wednesday (Dec. 5), close to home, it was one of Connecticut’s favorite adopted sons, Dave Brubeck, the day before his 92nd birthday — ironically, of a heart attack as son Darius was driving him to his appointment at the cardiologist’s.

Mr. Brubeck was one of my favorite interviews as the New Haven Register’s music writer. I had a phoner with him in the summer of 2000 as a preview to a New Haven Jazz Festival concert on the Green. The story lede and interview startoff point was that he was nearing the ripe old age of 80, and how it was just a number. We talked for about an hour. His manager/assistant called me the next day to ask how it went. I told him it went well, and that we talked for an hour. He said, “Whoa, he must have really liked you!” “Why’s that?” I asked. “Well,” the manager explained, “if he doesn’t like the way a line of questioning is going, he’ll find a way to get off the phone in 10 minutes.”

Let’s face it — newspapers generally don’t pay well, and I worked two-and-a-half workloads for one lousy paycheck, so one of the most intangibly rewarding aspects of the job was at least making a positive connection with my interview subjects and getting a good story out of it. Brubeck’s interview was right up there with Sonny Rollins and my first phoner with Brian Wilson  among my favorites. I never did meet him in person, but I did go to the show that Saturday night and sat up close, and it said volumes to see the smile on the man’s face practically the entire length of the performance.

The other passing, yesterday (Dec. 6), was a surprise — not that he died, but his age when he passed. Ed Cassidy, the drummer and founder of Bay Area psychedelic

Ed Cassidy in a vintage Spirit photo.

Ed Cassidy in a vintage Spirit photo.

stalwarts Spirit, was truly a nonconformist,  which you would hope and expect from a drummer — in the height of long hair and mod clothes, he went cleanheaded (hence, the nickname Mr. Skin) and wore black.

Someone posted on Facebook a few days back about rockers who are still working after 70 — the Stones, Brian Wilson, Chuck Berry, Ian Hunter, etc. I didn’t know Cassidy was five months shy of 90. Yes, nine-zero. Or that he had such a wild and eclectic and cool resume — playing in swing and show and country bands (which must’ve been something, having grown up in Bakersfield) and the San Francisco Opera; having played jazz in the ’50s with Roland Kirk, Art Pepper and Gerry Mulligan; and having played in a group with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder before starting Spirit with his guitarist and stepson, Randy California. And having acted, with bit roles on General Hospital in recent years.

Two full lives. Two classic tunes, one of them downright iconic. And three bits of fun to round out the week. Salut!


Take Five — The Dave Brubeck Quartet

I Got a Line on You — Spirit

Merry Christmas From the Family — Robert Earl Keen

Cleveland Rocks — Ian Hunter

Hooray for Santa Claus — The Fleshtones

Five Songs, Part 101

December 1, 2012
Earl "Speedo" Carroll (top) with The Cadillacs. Photo: James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty, via

Earl “Speedo” Carroll (top) with The Cadillacs. Photo: James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty, via

Happy December. Five Songs this week honors both the dearly departed and those who are still with us — those who are still with us and performing tonight (Dec. 1) at Cafe Nine in New Haven.

In the dearly departed category, the honorees are two guys who checked out this week: Mickey Baker and Earl “Speedo” Carroll.

Guitarist Baker was one of the flat-out pioneers and influences of rock’n’roll guitar sound with his plucky, wiry style. He appeared on a ton of great recordings — “Money Honey,” “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” the originals of “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On” — but he’s best known for his 1957 duet with another future influence, Sylvia Vanderpool. The same Sylvia who recorded the

Mickey & Sylvia -- big beneath-the-surface influences on pop music.

Mickey & Sylvia — big beneath-the-surface influences on pop music.

orgasmic 1973 single “Pillow Talk” — and, as Sylvia Robinson, launched hip-hop as a commercial force when she and husband Joe started Sugarhill Records.

Carroll, who in his later years was a beloved janitor at P.S. 87 in Manhattan, was one of the most spirited voices of doo-wop, as the lead voice of The Cadillacs and later with The Coasters. And his angry rejoinder one day at being called by his nickname (“My name is Earl!”) was turned into one of the best-loved doo-wop tunes of all.

On the living side, there are Andre Williams and Barrence Whitfield. The 76-year-old Andre, one of the people on the ground floor of Detroit soul, has been recording since a lot of you were born (1957).

Mr. Andre Williams. Photo: Bloodshot Records.

Mr. Andre Williams. Photo: Bloodshot Records.

And the cat’s lived several lives now, professionally and personally. Mr. Rhythm, The Black Godfather, Mr. Dirty, King of Sleaze Rock — all the names fit! And not only has he had his own recording careers (’50s-’60s, 1996-present and going strong), he wrote Little Stevie Wonder’s first single as well as “Shake a Tail Feather” and “Twine Time,” and also managed Edwin Starr.

Barrence, a mainstay of the Boston music scene, was actually born Barry White, but he realized at a young age that the town wasn’t

The mighty Barrence Whitfield.

The mighty Barrence Whitfield.

big enough for two of them, and the other one was Barry White first. I haven’t seen in 15 years, two moves and one gender. How they packed so much power into that short and squat body, I have no clue. But he’s still bring the noise. And his sound transcends genre — rock’n’roll, R&B, jump blues, country.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough — I have a show to get ready for! Have a blast.

Gloria — The Cadillacs

Speedo — The Cadillacs

Love Is Strange — Mickey & Sylvia

Bacon Fat — Andre Williams

Jail Bait — Andre Williams

Stop Twistin’ My Arm — Barrence Whitfield & the Savages

The Girl From Outer Space — Barrence Whitfield & the Savages

Five Songs, Part 100

November 24, 2012

Joe Franklin — the man, the myth, the legend. But not a singer. He left that to Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker.

Well, nothing stupendous or colossal or big! big! big! or any of those other stellar adjectives that Joe Franklin, the self-styled “King of Nostalgia,” used to use on his show as I put together this mini-milestone 100th installment of Five Songs.

(And if you didn’t grow up in the New York area and/or are of a younger generation: The imitable-yet-inimitabe Joe was the king of late-night television, having hosted a talk show in New York (and Jersey, when Channel 9 relocated across the river to Secaucus) for 43 years (1950-93). While he interviewed hundreds of thousands of nobodies, there were a few somebodies as well: Jerry Lewis, boyhood pal Tony Curtis, Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, Buster Keaton, The Ramones, “Weird Al,” They Might Be Giants, occasional visitor Tiny Tim. First time I really tuned in, in college, The J.Geils Band was on, Freeze-Frame era, splattering the studio with paint and having a couple of beauties present Joe with a six-foot-tall trophy for being the “King of Television.” One day, I’ll tell you about how I helped start an international Honeymooners fan club with his help. And the first link above is to a wonderful documentary called 50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can’t Be Wrong.)

That’s because, well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m wondering if anyone would even be looking at what I have to read, since everyone’s wrapped up in the post-holiday. (Hell, I wonder if anyone even reads it in the best of times …)

So, I digressed. Anyway, I wasn’t gonna hit the Christmas tunes yet, but since I butchered this song and smeared the reputation of Ms. Veronica Bennett Spector Greenfield at the tail end of the annual Thanksgiving-night Vomitorium at Cafe Nine in New Haven, I had to somehow make amends. So one Christmas song and the rest totally random. Enjoy the remainder of the holiday:

Frosty the Snowman — The Ronettes

Couldn’t I Just Tell You — Todd Rundgren

Omaha — Moby Grape

Rhythm — Major Lance

On Easy Street — Freda Payne

Five Songs, Part 99

November 16, 2012

The Elegants, turning a preschool ditty into a doo-wop classic. But those suits had to go.

Well, while I try to finish the last installment of my epic Going Home saga and wait to see Lincoln (which opens tonight) and wait for Thanksgiving and wait for Mercury to come back out of retrograde and wait to hear on a big job I interviewed for two weeks ago, might as well keep myself amused with the latest installment of Five Songs.

Two things to captivate your interest: 1) The second “Little Star” link is to the 1957 demo version of the doo-wop classic (interesting, but doesn’t hold a candle to the classic single version); and 2) Note the similarity in the ending sax parts on the following two songs (an early-’70s rock classic and a rare mid-’60s Northern soul gem, respectively). Anyway, have fun …

Little StarThe Elegants

Walk on the Wild Side — Lou Reed

Wee Oo I’ll Let It Be You Babe — Louise Lewis

The Waiting — Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

I Tell No Lies — The Escapades

Five Songs, Part 98

November 9, 2012

Lou Christie Sacco — just a good-looking kid from Pittsburgh with a great falsetto.

Hi. Nothing too elaborate this week in Five Songs, just some music for a chilly mid-November Friday evening. And something to distract me from my latest writing in the Going Home series. Just some quick hits that came up through a combination of a fertile imagine and the shuffle play on my media player. Have fun and stay warm:

Lightnin’ Strikes — Lou Christie

The Oogum Boogum Song — Brenton Wood

Stoned Love — The Supremes

She’s My Baby — The Fleshtones

Bring on the Dancing Horses — Echo & the Bunnymen

Five Songs, Part 97 (special no-‘Monster Mash’ Hallowe’en edition)

October 30, 2012

Your hostess as Madonna (Susan version), Hallowe’en 1986, The Grotto, New Haven.

Okay, I’ll get into the holiday spirit, even though I don’t do the Hallowe’en thing anymore. (After several years in drag — most notably the Susan-version Madonna in ’86, when I won the costume contest at the Grotto in New Haven and was hit on by more women than any other night in my life — every day is a wonderful Hallowe’en when you’re trans and out.) And even though there are quite a few places here in the Northeast whose holiday has been horribly interrupted by Sandy.

The only self-imposed rule (which I can break whenever I want, but I donlt feel like it): No “Monster Mash.” No slag against the late Mr. Pickett (Bobby, that is), but asking a deejay to play “Monster Mash” at Hallowe’en is like asking the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” (especially as the Saints go limping in, as they’re doing this year).

So here you go — no way is it the definitive Halloween anything, but it’s 31 songs for 31 days of October. (Well, actually, 32, considering I couldn’t make up my mind between two versions of one song.) Trick or treat!