Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Play Misty for Me...

Misty was written as an instrumental piece in 1954 by Jazz pianist Erroll Gardner. The following year lyricist Jimmy Burke added lyrics and Lounge Lizards everywhere rejoiced. Today we take a look at a few of the countless interpretations of this jazz standard.

Ella Fitzgerald

Sarah Vaughn

Here's an intersting interpretation by Liberace - what's with the seagulls?

Johnny Mathis made Misty his signature song

Here's the ever-sultry Julie London

In closing, here's Erroll Garner performing his classic...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Things I've Learned This Summer

First in a series...

Lesson 1: A dead frozen dog placed in a freshly dug grave filled with rainwater will float unless large rocks are placed on top of it.

Last month the Chirichella Pet Cemetery had a new addition; Jackson, our long-frozen dog was finally interred. He died in January 2008 and was kept in storage at the vet's until they ran out of room in the freezer (as well as running out of patience; originally we'd promised to pick him up as soon as the ground thawed in the Spring (that was Spring of 2008) well one thing led to another and before you know it, here it is 18 months later).

The day before Jackson was scheduled to be picked up, I dug a grave for him. Overnight it rained (we've had a particularly wet summer here in the Northeast). The rain combined with our naturally high water table led to a miniature swimming pool. The following occurred while I was at work. My mother-in-law picked up Jackson (now a giant dog-shaped Popsicle wrapped in a green plastic body bag) from the vet and brought him home. Neither my wife nor my mother-in-law wanted to touch him, so they turned to Art for assistance. Art is our neighbor and go-to guy for everything from plumbing and electric work to taking care of the horses and euthanizing dying rabbits (I'll spare you the details but they involve a hammer). Jackson was placed in the watery grave (in my head, I'm speaking that phrase in a pirate voice), wherein he sunk and then bobbed to the surface. Eventually, some well placed large stones secured him in place long enough for dirt to be shoveled on top of him.

I've never really thought about the buoyancy of dead, frozen dogs before but it occurs to me that it wasn't the paucity of life boats that doomed so many of the passengers aboard the Titanic; it was the lack of dead, frozen dogs. Imagine how many lives would have been saved had there been a few dead, frozen Great Danes or Saint Bernards on board when the ship hit that iceberg!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The King of Pop and Rose the Stripper

A Michael Jackson memory...

In case you missed it, Michael Jackson died in June. Now that the orgy of media coverage has died down somewhat, I've decided to share a memory of MJ that begins almost 30 years ago in, of all places, a strip club on Long Island. Sometime during my freshman year at college, some friends and I, having the urge to see naked women (not as readily available back in the pre-internet/cable age) decided to see some strippers (that's what we called them back then; they weren't erotic dancers or adult entertainers yet). At that time there were laws on Long Island prohibiting totally nude dancing in establishments serving alcohol. To get around this, some clever entrepreneur came up with the idea of opening a private social club. The idea was you became a member by paying a cover charge (and were issued a nifty paper membership card). Then you could purchase alcohol and enjoy naked women to your heart's (or any other organ's) content.

Our destination was The Salem Social Club in Port Washington, on the north shore of Long Island. I don't remember too many details about the place, but I clearly remember one of the strippers; Rose was an attractive blonde with wholesome looks (the kind of girl you'd call All-American). She had a small rose tattoo on her calf (and as I write this, it occurs to me that Rose probably wasn't her real name). One of the songs she danced to (it might have been her first one but details are lost in the mists of time) was Rock with You, one of the hits from Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album. I'm sure she danced to other songs and I know there were other dancers, but for some reason, Rose dancing to Rock with You is the only thing I remember. I won't pretend to understand the workings of the human mind (least of all my own), but it is a fact that to this day, almost 30 years later, whenever I hear Rock with You, I think of Rose. My brain is now wired so that Rock with You and Rose are forever intertwined; a Pavlovian meeting of King of Pop and 1980's Stripper.

My best friend Richard was at the strip club in the winter of 1980 and he also remembers Rose. I called him recently to ask him to clarify some of the details of that long-ago night (his memory is even better than mine). He corrected me on the name and location of the club for example. He also associates Rose with Rock with You but I think it's just conditioning from me talking about it over the years. Anyway, here is Michael Jackson before his coronation as King of Pop performing what has long been (and probably will remain) my favorite of all his songs.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Miss My MTV!

Back in the dark ages, before the Internet and iPhones and YouTube and Hulu (well you get the picture) if you wanted to see your favorite band or artist performing, your options were limited. You could hope they'd come to a venue near you so you could see them live; you could watch them lip-synching on weekly music shows like American Bandstand or Soul Train; you could see them perform on one of the assorted concert shows such as Don Kirschner's Rock Concert or The Midnight Special. Or you could hope they'd make an appearance as the musical guest on one of the late night programs (SNL, Tonight Show etc).

That all changed on August 1st, 1981. MTV was on the air with the then innovative concept of 24 music television (yes kids, there was a time when the "M" in MTV actually stood for "Music" - as opposed to Mediocre, Moronic, Mind-numbingly bad, etc). There was something exciting about those early days - maybe it was the chance to see what your favorite performers looked like; or maybe it was watching a channel aimed at my age group; or maybe it was the unsophisticated (some might say "cheesy") videos from bands I'd never heard of. I suspect it was a combination of factors. Whatever it was, I'd never seen anything like it before. We didn't have cable in my house at the time, so for the first year or so I had to watch it at the homes of friends who were more fortunate. When my parents finally relented and we got cable (sometime in late 1982) MTV was always on; often as background noise providing a soundtrack to my daily life.

Guiding us through the videos were the five original VJ's: J.J. Jackson - the hip one with real music creds as a former DJ; Cute-as-a-button Martha Quinn (who had attended NYU around the same time I did -although I don't recall ever seeing her on campus); sexy, husky-voiced Nina Blackwood; funny Alan Hunter, and cool Mark Goodman. It is either a tribute to my long term memory or a sign of my pathetic inability to let the past go, that I can remember each one so distinctly.

During the early years, the channel ran a series of "I want my MTV" ads featuring pop stars enticing viewers to call their local cable stations and demand that they carry MTV. This one features Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, David Bowie and Boy George:

28 years later it must be hard for someone who only knows MTV as it is today - a wasteland of reality shows - to imagine the impact the channel had back in the 1980's. It created stars out of unknown performers, and influenced what people listened to, how they talked, and what they wore. I'd like to close with this short clip of the first 30 seconds of MTV programming (to this day I can't watch scenes of the moon landing without hearing the MTV guitar riff)