Good morning, September! As a child, this month meant back to school. Now for me it begins the journey to December winter (and Christmas. YAY!!!) So because I’m an old fart, this song has been my earworm all morning. Jerry Orbach originally sang it in the 1962 off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks.
I’m not sure whether everybody has seen Amazon’s Echo. This device connects to an artificial intelligence server named Alexa, a kind of competition for iPhone’s Siri. (I have one.) With the appropriate equipment, Alexa turns lights on and off, wakes you up and puts you to bed, answers questions, and walks the dog. Well, not exactly but that doesn’t mean that Amazon hasn’t been thinking about your four-legged friends. Enter Petlexa – for your pet. What could possibly go wrong?
Enjoy. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my birthday with a day of lazing followed by culinary overindulgence at a location known only to friends. Ta ta!
Back in the Jurassic Age, I was a lawyer. Courtrooms could be cavernous, swallowing up sound, so I plunked down money for state of the art hearing aids. That meant that they were molded in one piece and fit in the ear. I could control the volume on the piece and didn’t need a little black box that hung around the neck or fit in a pocket. I loved them until I realized they magnified all the noises I could already hear and nothing else. They drove me crazy. Into a drawer they went and years later, out with the trash.
So 27 years after my first failed experience, I decided to try again. Although I’ve been hearing impaired since birth (mostly deaf in the right, partially in the left), what remains has been gradually disappearing. Friends told me that I heard less. I found myself growing quieter and quieter in noisy social situations. I’d become so accustomed to the sound of silence that I didn’t realize how bad things were until the audiology test. To my dismay, the spikes and lines dipped much lower and the good ear had lost a great deal of word comprehension in noisy environments. Literature lying around warned that increasing deafness carried a higher risk of dementia. So I bought more state of the art digital hearing aids, fully programmable, and geared to amplifying the sounds I need. My geeky soul was thrilled. The audiologist stated he wouldn’t program the devices to full capacity so that the wall of noise wouldn’t knock me over. Instead he would increase the volume over a 45 day trial period which would allow my brain to adjust. Even so, the variety and loudness of sounds have been startling. Literally. I’ve jumped at every odd noise since beginning this post. Is the strangely loud washing really breaking down? I have clue.
The new high tech. Starkey Halo 2 hearing aid
Naturally my high tech gear has not come without glitches. The devices should be programmable with my iPhone allowing me to take calls and listen to music – that is if the damn phone will see them. One hour with the audiologist and two and half hours with Apple troubleshooting have yielded no fully functioning hearing aids. There’s another audiological appointment on Friday. Apple swears they are working on their end, and I’m about to bring Starkey, the manufacturer, into this. Needless to say, these iPhone friendly devices will be returned if they aren’t iPhone friendly soon.
All of this reminds me of another type of deafness which leaves people isolated in their personal bubble of silence. Simon and Garfunkel sang about it in Sound of Silence.
Tony award winning Hamilton is one of my fave musicals I’ve never seen yet. So I checked on YouTuber Peter Hollens to see if he had taken a shot at it. Lo and behold, there was the tribute video. So here is Hollens and company with a medley of hit from Hamilton.
One of my favorite animated films is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast released in 1991. Twenty-six years later, Disney decided to release a live action version. Naturally I wonder why they would want to do that when they had already achieved perfection? Still my curiosity is piqued, so I will go see it. I’ll tell you what I think.
In the meantime, you can compare the two versions of the title song. Here is the official 1991 video with Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion.
Ariana Grande and John Legend perform the new 2017 release. It is more lushly produced. What do you think?
Got waylaid last week, but thanks to antibiotics I’m back on track. So here I am, awake at 12:48 AM on a Sunday morning waiting for the clocks to change to Daylight Savings Time (I’m pro) and sifting through YouTube for something “serene.” Then I began reminiscing about my parents’ voluminous record collection and the ones I enjoyed.
For Once in My Life, as a song, isn’t technically in my top 10 list of best songs even though it’s been covered by many artists. Even when Stevie Wonder popularized it in 1967, I never cared for the upbeat rendition. Why? Because Jean DuShon’s version had captivated me first.
According to our pal Wiki, the demo of the song was recorded as a ballad by Barbara McNair but first released by DuShon in 1966. Then through DuShon lost the right to sing it.
“Jean DuShon was one of the singers who was originally tapped by Ron Miller to demo the song as he was fine-tuning the composition. Miller was impressed by DuShon’s rendition, and her version, produced by Esmond Edwards, was issued as a single on Chess Records’ Cadet label in October 1966. It was chosen “Pick Hit of the Week” by Detroit’s WXYZ radio. Although the record label gave the sole songwriting credit to Murden, Motown CEO Berry Gordy discovered that Miller – who was contracted to Motown – had co-written the song, and reportedly asked Chess not to promote the single. DuShon dropped “For Once in My Life” from her nightclub act and later said: “It was a very big disappointment in my life. I stopped singing it ‘cause I didn’t have the song. I didn’t have anything. It wasn’t mine anymore.””
DuShon’s version was overshadowed and forgotten which is unfortunate. It was DuShon’s powerhouse singing and the soaring orchestral arrangement that gave the lyrics the deep soulfulness it required. Some people may prefer a simpler version but I’m a sucker for power ballads. As the joke goes, “back in my day, singers could sing, and we liked it.”
By the way, my record was broken during the move. Thank goodness for YouTube.
Two of my favorite Whoopi Goldberg comedies are Sister Act and Sister Act 2 made in the early 1990s. Goldberg plays a lounge singer in 1968 who is placed in protective custody as a convent nun in order to escape a mob boss. Sister Act was popular, grossing 231 million worldwide. The soundtrack album debuted at #74 and eventually reached #40 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart where it charted for 54 weeks. Having attended parochial schools from the 8th grade starting in the early ’70’s (complete with nuns in full habit), this movie struck a chord with me.
One of the issues facing the Catholic Church today is how to make religion relevant to current times. In the movie, Whoopi as Delois, demonstrates one way by using music with a modern flair to attract young people to the church. The resulting choir scene is fun.
Since you couldn’t get enough of Takeo Ischi last week, I found another YouTube video to satisfy your fascination with this chicken yodeler. He even has his own wiki page. Here’s a snippet about this 69 year old wonder:
“Ischi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. In high school, he was a loner, but it was during this time that he first heard yodeling on the radio. Following his father, Ischi went to university for mechanical engineering. In his spare time he became engrossed with the zither and the hammered dulcimer, and learned to play these instruments. Using Franzl Lang‘s records, he taught himself to yodel, and began performing on Japanese television. During a six-month period where he studied abroad in Germany, Ischi went to Switzerland, where he sang at a beer hall in Zurich. He soon started earning money from this. From there he sang in front of Lang, his idol, and Lang took him under his wing. He performed on television with Maria Hellwig, and after that became known in German language circles as the “Japanese yodeler.”
When I was a child, my parents still listened to 78 rpm records. (Now if you don’t know what those are, don’t feel bad. Record companies had stopped pressing them by the time I was born. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. *Cough*)
Anyway, I inherited the collection which included many jazz greats. My favorite was “After Hours” performed by Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, and Sonny Rollins. There was something about the sensuous horns and tinkling of the ivories that caught my attention. The 78 version was a bit shorter than this LP version (remember those) found on YouTube. Listen and you can see why these gentlemen were considered among the best at what they did.
Alright then. That was one heck of long pause in scheduled programming. I went to NYC in November to see Richard Armitage in Love, Love, Love and then – fell off the face of the earth. During a strange mixture of after-trip fugue, post-election shock, holiday depression and winter doldrums, a strong reluctance to write. This has been especially problematic since I’m taking a self-publishing course – only with no finished manuscript. Cart before the horse much?
So what caused you to break through today, you ask. Well, today would have been my usual Surreal Saturday and guys and gals, I just had to share my love of the bizarre with you and this video doesn’t disappoint. I saw this Japanese yodeler in a previous video which I can’t find now but he’s back in another surreal but oddly catchy and mesmerizing one. You’re going to love this. Trust me. Watch to the end.
Yes I’m back from NYC (with no picante sauce). Have been trying to get my thoughts together about Love, Love, Love but the political change has come as a shock. However, this is the U.S. process and something I will have to accept. I’m giving myself a little time to grieve and ruminate about where we’re heading and what I can do. As soon as I sort things out, I’ll review the play and Richard Armitage’s performances.
In the meantime, here’s a video of the November 5, 2016 stage door.
We are five weeks from the start of the official holiday season in U.S. Interestingly, Pachelbel’s Canon in D comes to mind because I usually hear it played around the holidays. So who is Pachelbel and why is this piece heard at Christmas? My old pal Wiki states the following:
“Pachelbel’s Canon is the name commonly given to a canon by the German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel in his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo (German: Kanon und Gigue für 3 Violinen mit Generalbaß) (PWC 37, T. 337, PC 358), sometimes referred to as Canon and Gigue in D or simply Canon in D. Neither the date nor the circumstances of its composition are known (suggested dates range from 1680 to 1706), and the oldest surviving manuscript copy of the piece dates from the 19th century.
Pachelbel’s Canon, like Pachelbel’s other works, although popular during his lifetime, soon went out of style, and remained in obscurity for centuries thereafter. A 1968 arrangement and recording of it by the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra became unexpectedly popular over the next decade, and in the 1970s the piece began to be recorded by many ensembles; by the early 1980s its presence as background music was deemed inescapable. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, elements of the piece, especially its chord progression, were used in a variety of pop music songs. Since the 1980s, it has also been used frequently in weddings and funeral ceremonies in the Western world.”
To paraphrase, Pachelbel was known as a composer and organist during his lifetime but today is known for his church and chamber music. In 1968, the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra made a recording of the piece. A classical San Francisco radio played it in 1970 which garnered many requests. In 1974, London Records, aware of the interest in the piece, reissued a 1961 album of the CorelliChristmas Concerto performed by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, which happened to contain the piece, now re-titled to Pachelbel Kanon: the Record That Made it Famous and other Baroque Favorites. The album was the highest-selling classical album of 1976.
As you may have heard, creepy killer clown sightings have gone viral and caused enough hysteria that even Stephen King, (the author of the ultimate killer clown, Pennywise), has been trying to tamp things down. My friend posted about scary clowns of the political kind so I hoped to show you some scary killer clown videos but they were all much too disturbing. Then I remembered before Pennywise in 1990, clowns were not a scary thing. I grew up with Bozo from Bozo’s Circus televised from 1961 to 1980. Watch a few moments of the 1968 episode. He wasn’t scary, was he?
And let’s not forget the most famous international clown, Ronald McDonald and his strange little nemesis the Hamburglar. Here’s a video from the 1980’s:
Ronald never appealed to me probably because I was too old to enjoy the humor by the time he debuted. But then, I wasn’t into Bozo either. Clowns just weren’t that funny to me. I devoured Pennywise, as I did all of King’s books; it never occurred to me that clowns could be scary. Apparently many people think they are.
I’m behind in writing again. While looking for the Catholic hymn “Kyrie,” I came upon this song “Kyrie Eleison” by Mr. Mister. “Kyrie, eleison” (or “Lord, have mercy”) is a liturgical response of the people to intentions mentioned in the Prayer of the Faithful. Mr. Mister used the phrase for this 1985 hit. Even though I’m no longer Christian, it’s spiritual message somehow strikes a chord.
The wind blows hard against this mountainside
Across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road
My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gem-like flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again
Down the road that I must travel
Through the darkness of the night
Where I’m going, will you follow?
On a highway in the light
When I was young, I thought of growing old
Of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
Or only wished what I could be
Down the road that I must travel
Through the darkness of the night
Where I’m going, will you follow?
On a highway in the light
Weathering a bit of post-NaNoWriMo and pre-holiday blues, so I’ve returned to blogging on orders of Dr. G. Write, she said. Wrote it on her pad and everything. So, here am I writing. I think.
Anyway, I finally saw Desolation of SmOUg by accident, by that I mean my nose caught a whiff of fresh popcorn as I walked by the building and led me in. Hey, I’m dieting so my sense of smell is very acute. A review will follow next week, so all I will say is that I enjoyed it.
I caught the Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire a few months ago when Peter Jackson posted it on YouTube. Naturally, artists are doing covers of the song. The following one, by Peter Hollens, has been my favorite. Actually prefer it to the original.