Song of the Week – If You Wanna Be Happy, Jimmy Soul; First I Look at the Purse, J. Geils Band; When I Turn Off the Living Room Light, The Kinks

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A few weeks ago I had the idea bouncing around in my head to write a post about my favorite misogynistic, politically incorrect songs.  The deal was sealed when I was at a fantastic wedding in New Orleans last weekend and one of the songs that DJ Pasta played at the reception was on my list — Jimmy Soul’s “If You Wanna Be Happy” (#1, 1963).
If you don’t know the song, it has the lyric:

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So from my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

And has a spoken work dialog that goes like this:

Voice #1  Say man!
Voice #2  Hey baby!
V#1  I saw your wife the other day!
V#2  Yeah?
V#1  Yeah, an’ she’s ug-leeee!
V#2  Yeah, she’s ugly, but she sure can cook, baby!
V#1  Yeah, alright!

Now you can’t be too sensitive about this, because it’s all meant in good fun.  But at a wedding reception? Then there’s “First I Look at the Purse.”  The original was recorded by The Contours of “Do You Love Me” fame.  It was released on Motown’s Gordy label in 1965 and was written by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers and only managed to reach #57 on the Billboard Hot 100. But the J. Geils Band rescued the song, put it onto their eponymous 1970 debut album, and released it as their first single.
This one has offensive lyrics such as:

Some fellas like the smiles they wear
Some fellas like the legs that’s all
Some fellas like the style of their hair
Want their waist to be small.
I don’t care if their legs are thin
I don’t care if their teeth are big
I don’t care if their hair’s a wig
Why waste time lookin’ at the waistline?
First I look at the purse!

The last song I’ve selected for this little theme (though I’m sure there are many more that fit it) is “When I Turn Off the Living Room Light” by The Kinks.
“… Living Room Light” was released on The Kinks’ The Great Lost Kinks Album.  This 1973 set was a collection of previously unreleased tracks in the Reprise vaults that the label put out after the band had moved to RCA. More demeaning lyrics:

Your nose may be bulbous, your face may be spotty
Your skin may be wrinkled and tight
But I don’t want to see you, the way that you are
So I turn off the living room light

All intended with tongue firmly in cheek, so don’t be offended.  Just giggle a little! Enjoy… until next week.


Song of the Week – Strange Times, Moody Blues

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The Moody Blues were finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on April 14, 2018.  In the opinion of their multitude of fans, it was long overdue.  Other perennial “bridesmaids” have also crossed the finish line in recent years — Yes (2017) and Chicago (2016).  That leaves Todd Rundgren as one of the last artists that have been wrongfully omitted, though you may also have a favorite that is still in waiting. But back to the Moodys.  One thing you have to say about them is that they have been very consistent with their sound.  They hit with “Go Now” soon after their formation in 1964 and settled on their classic lineup – Graeme Edge (drums), Mike Pinder (keyboards, vocals), Ray Thomas (vocals, flute, percussion, harmonica), Justin Hayward (guitar, vocals), John Lodge (bass, vocals) – by 1966.  This is the group that recorded their catalog of well-known albums, from Days of Future Passed (1967) to Seventh Sojourn (1972).  Beyond the ‘70s, the band in various configurations recorded high quality releases.  Some even yielded hit singles like “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice” (1981) and “Your Wildest Dreams” (1986). Today’s SotW is the title track from the 1999 release, Strange Times.
This song is well played by the classic lineup, less Mike Pinder.  A highlight is their use of acoustic guitars and (as always) the harmony vocals.  The lyrics are hokey, hippy gibberish, but hey, this is the Moody Blues. This was the last album that included the work of Ray Thomas.  Thomas died just after the New Year 2018, so he missed the band’s Rock Hall induction.  Too bad. Enjoy… until next week.

Honey Lantree has died.

The Honeycombs were an English beat band from the early 60s, with jangly guitars and catchy tunes, good looking guys in suits and, surprisingly, a female drummer, Honey Lantree, who died in 2018 just before Christmas.

According to the NY Times obituary, Anne Lantree showed up for her guitar lesson, sat down at the drum kit in the studio and was such a natural that she was soon asked to join the Sheratons, an amateur band that then changed it’s name to the Honeycombs after Lantree changed her first name to Honey.

The Honeycombs were gifted with the perfect and enduring Have I The Right? by its songwriters, Alan Blaikley and Ken Howard. Have I the Right? is a pounding love song that I would say is not so much beloved by daylight, but is shouted along with, feet stomping, in any bar or pub that nears closing time. Which makes it near perfect, some of the time.

Have I the Right? topped out at No. 5 in the US and No. 1 in the UK. 

The Honeycombs had one other hit, That’s the Way, on which Honey shared vocals with regular singer Dennis D’ell.

Song of the Week – Reflections of My Life, Marmalade

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The obituary page of the New York Times was filled with musicians this week.  Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show was the first to draw me to the page.  Then I saw that Pegi Young, Neil’s long-time wife, passed away – as did Christine McGuire of the McGuire Sisters and “Honey” Lantree of the Honeycombs.

Finally, Dean Ford, singer in the Scottish group Marmalade died last Monday in LA.  He was only 72.

Marmalade’s most famous hit was “Reflections of My Life.”

Yeah, I know, it’s kind of sappy, but it brings back happy memories (for me) from a simpler time back in the early ‘70s.  Its harmony vocals and orchestration give the track an early Bee Gee’s sound.

Besides, it also has that “reverse” guitar solo by Junior Campbell.  Here’s how Wikipedia describes the solo (that begins at about 1:45):

The song is in the key of G major and the solo was recorded thus:

The first 4 bars were recorded as normal, with Campbell playing a long “G” note, tied over from the last beat of bar 3, through bar 4, with slight feedback sustaining the long note.

The eight track tape was then turned over, and Campbell played against the reverse sound of the track, including his initial first four bars ensuring that he played another long “G” near the same point which could be cross-faded against the original – the tape was then turned over to normal setup, and he selected just 4 bars from the reverse recording which are bars 4-7 inclusive – this was cross-faded with the original at bar 4 – he then picked up from bar 8 through to bar 16 as normal, so in fact, only 4 bars are actually “reversed”.

“Reflections…” reached #3 in the UK and #10 in the US.

Enjoy… until next week.

Ray Sawyer has died

Ray Sawyer, the lead singer for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show who wore a pirate’s eye patch, has died at the age of 81.  You can read his obituary in Rolling Stone here:

Rolling Stone – Ray Sawyer obituary

Dr. Hook was featured with a Song of the Week in February, 2014.  You can check that out here:

SotW – Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, February 15, 2014


Ellen Foley, Torchlight

I love this elpee.

Ellen Foley, Meatloaf backup singer, Night Court cutie, falls into bed with the Clash’s Mick Jones around Sandanista time, which is also Armagideon Time, if I’m right.

And makes a record that is individual, catchy, and well worth a listen for reasons beyond the historical ones.

For one, she can sing. 

For two, Strummer Jones write tunes.

And this band can play. Maybe not what you’d expect, but what you should give a listen. The Wikipedia page is like two sentences long, no one gives a crap, but I like this album warts and all. The best cuts are great, the weak ones are interesting. 

And it was made by the greatest band of all time, maybe, in mufti. Don’t believe the lack of hype.

Song of the Week – True Love Part 2, X

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Toady’s SotW is by the Los Angeles based band X.  X was formed in 1977 by John Doe (vocals, bass) and Billy Zoom (guitar) and included Doe’s girlfriend Exene Cervenka (vocals) and DJ Bonebreake (drums).

Due to the timing and proximity of their formation, they’ve often been thrown in with the “punk rock” movement.  But although the band initially played some fast and ferocious rock, they were not really all punk all the time.  They often incorporated rockabilly, folk and other genres into their recordings.

Take, for instance, “True Love Part 2” from their 1983 disc, More Fun in the New World.

The Doors’ Ray Manzarek produced cut starts off with a riff sounding like early Doobie Brothers (“Long Train Runnin’”) and quickly turns into something more like a Talking Heads funk work out, from the Stop Making Sense era.  Of course there are other influences too; like in the section about a minute and a half in, where they sing “true love is the devil’s” yes-man, hot house, lunch box, wishbone, door knob, pass key, etc.  When they get to “crow bar” the voice goes down to a low bass register that’s an obvious nod to Sly & the Family Stone.

Later the song references “Land of 1000 Dances” and quotes lyrics from a potpourri of American roots music including:

Be-bop-a-lula – Gene Vincent

D-I-V-O-R-C-E – Tammy Wynette

Skip To My Lou – 19th century traditional children’s song

Burning Love – Elvis Presley

I’ve Been Working On the Railroad – American folk song

Black Betty – Ram Jam

Freddie’s Dead – Curtis Mayfield

Land of 1000 Dances – Cannibal & the Headhunters

Shake your booty!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Livin’ With a Flashlight, Lawr Michaels

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Today’s SotW is very personal, and has been very difficult to write.  I hope you will indulge me.

My friend Lawr Michaels died this week.

Lawr and three of his friends (Gene, Peter and Steve) that are all famous in fantasy baseball circles started this blog as an outlet for their other passion — music.  In June 2013, Lawr invited me to share my weekly SotW posts here.  I was honored that he asked me to join the group as the only writer that wasn’t also part of his fantasy baseball group.

Last March Steve Moyer, one of the original Rock Remnants 4, passed away at the age of 57.  Now Lawr is gone and we’re down to three (including me).

Lawr was one of a kind.  He suffered substantial pain in his life – chronic illness, loss of loved ones (including a wife and special needs child) – but always had a positive, inspirational spirit.  He was kind, generous and always, always considerate.  His passions for his wife Diane, baseball and rock and roll were palpable.  When he spoke of these things he lit up like a pinball machine.

The first time I met Lawr our conversation led us to discover we both loved the album 801 Live.  He’s still the only person I’ve met that even heard of the record, let alone cherished it.  I later came to learn that’s what you should expect from Lawr – a deep and fervent knowledge of many subjects.

Lawr played in bands.  I was in a band with him only once through the Oakland based BandWorks.  Unfortunately, I missed our performance when my brother died unexpectedly and I was called back east.  Lawr was also in The Biletones, a band that gigs occasionally in the east bay.  His musicianship further extended to the recording of an album of original tunes – Downward Facing Dog – that’s available through Amazon.  I reviewed the album on Amazon when it was released in 2011 and wrote:

Lawr Michaels’ recent release, Downward Facing Dog, is a gem. Its songs were written at a time of significant personal loss – his wife, son and dog all died within a very brief period – but the record isn’t an exercise in self pity. Rather, it is a celebration of the journey toward “happiness and contentment” that the tragedy imposed. Only a couple of the songs (I Miss You and Between Sorrow And Beauty) explicitly address the situation.

Today’s SotW is “Livin’ With a Flashlight,” from that album.

Lawr Michaels – Livin’ With a Flashlight

“… Flashlight” shuffles along like a JJ Cale number with Tom Verlaine-like vocals and tells a humorous story of coping with a power failure.

Like George Bailey in the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, Lawr probably had no idea how he impacted so many people’s lives.  He will be missed profoundly.

Rest in peace, brother!

Enjoy… until next week.

Lawr Michaels, Have Fun Til the End

I became friends with Lawr, like most, because of our mutual loves of baseball (real and fantasy) and rock ‘n’ roll, but much of our chatter when we would get together was about literature and storytelling, or food and cooking, or politics and wishing.

For most of the history of the Fantasy Baseball Guide Lawr put together the Mock Draft, assembling All-Star casts from his wide circle of friends and experts. Back in the early days his wife, Cathy, worked as proofreader and copyeditor on the Guide. She passed away not long after from cancer, and as one got to know Lawr one learned that his grand passion and enthusiasm for doing things came from a shadow of tragedy that trailed after him his whole life.

In 2011 he released a full album of original songs called Downward Facing Dog. I reviewed it on Amazon, where you can now find a copy for $32 cheap, to support my friend but also because I think it’s a terrific piece of work. 

Lawr was diagnosed a few months ago with some potentially serious problems and set himself on an even better diet than the good diet he already followed, and he tried to strengthen up by taking care. He said he would work on the Guide this year, but then stepped back. He passed on our Tout Wars meetings, and said he had Rock Remnants pieces to write but had to get better first. When I heard he’d taken a turn for the worse a few days ago I thought of his love for the Kinks and Richard Thompson, but when I’d heard the bad news this morning I thought of this Lawr original song.

Well, I thought of the studio version, which is neater, but this rougher version has video of Lawr himself, which is just a moment of comfort at this sad time.