From the archives. This week's contestant is Bob Lagerquist from Eugene, Oregon. This was one of those puzzlers where I was sure I knew the hidden song, but couldn't quite get it. And then, about halfway through I moved closer...and then I got it. I think my problem was that at first it sounded like another song, and when that happens it's hard to get the song out of your head. As for the composer style, well...no, I couldn't figure that out. Knowing the answer now, I understand it, but it's not part of the composer's style I'm most familiar with.
This is a video that a Dutch radio station posted yesterday. It came during a performance by the British metal band Architects, which they were giving at the Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands. After finishing a song, lead singer Sam Carter stops the show and notes that he was undecided whether to say something about what he saw in the crowd during the previous number -- and then makes abundantly clear that he will say something.
What follows is Carter angrily reaming out a fan for sexual assault against a young woman that he saw while she was "crowd surfing." His passionate is furious, and even more wonderfully, he repeatedly gets huge cheers from the crowd.
The video has gotten a lot of attention, and Carter a lot of praise.
From the archives. This week's contestant is Richard Baum from Houston, Texas. On the positive side, I was able to get the composer style. On the other side of the coin, I had trouble with the hidden song, and I think most people will. However, I'm almost ready to give myself a win on it, or at the very least bonus points. I guessed the composer of the hidden song, and even had a strong feeling of what it's from (and was right) -- and though I couldn't think of the song's proper name, my thought was, "It sort of sounds like that song whose title is something like..." And that's what it was.
It's not a totally unknown song -- and the composer is renowned, and so is the encompassing work. But this isn't one of the better-known tunes.
This is a pretty cool video. It's a duet of sorts -- more like a sextet, but that's not right either -- between two of arguably the greatest "women's trio" pop music groups of all time, but from completely different eras -- The Andrews Sisters and The Supremes!
And to show you how early this performance is, it's not "Diana Ross and the Supremes." Just the plain ol' "The Supremes." In fact, Diana Ross doesn't get the center position. Florence Ballard does.
But then, it's pretty easy to figure out that this is early and vintage. After all, it's all three Andrews Sisters here -- Laverne, Maxene and Patty. (Laverne passed away in 1967.)
And making this all the more fun is the clever conceit of this "duet" -- the two groups don't challenge each other with whose songs are better...but they sing each others' songs! The Andrews Sisters sing The Supremes...and The Supremes sing The Andrews Sisters.
Not to worry -- at the end, they do finally join forces and all six sing together.
And just to toss one more feature into the mix, it's all hosted by Sammy Davis, Jr. From a bit of research, I think I've tracked down where this appearance is from. It appears to be a 1966 TV series, The Sammy Daivs Jr. Show which lasted seven episodes. The timing is most fortuitous since Laverne Andrews passed away only a year later.)
From the archives. This week's contestant is Scott Hollopeter from Grand Blanc, Michigan. I didn't get the composer style on my first guess, but...it was my second guess, at least. As for the hidden song, though -- I could hear where the song was , but just couldn't get it. Then, near the end I took a stab at the only thing it sounded like, and...to my my shock (because it was not a well-known song), I was right. I'm sure there will be people who've never heard of the song, though enough will have. Ultimately, though, whether or not you know it, it''s a very nice piece to listen to.
Over on his site, Mark Evanier posted a video of Tony Bennett and Elvis Costello teaming up for a song last year. Two things stood out for me -- one is how incredibly good Tony Bennett is for 90 years old. Wow. (In fact, he celebrated his 91st birthday just yesterday!) And the other thing is that it hit me halfway through that, as odd a teaming as that video is of these two very different singers, what's equally odd is I've crossed paths with both fellows.
Neither are significant connections, most-especially with Elvis Costello, but still... Hey, come on, give me a break here. This is Tony Bennett and Elvis Costello. And me-ish.
Back in 1982 I was working at Universal Studio in the P.R. Department. We had just released E.T., one of the most-fun times to be in the awful business of P.R., as you can imagine. And in the midst of that, the chance for a big promotion fell into our lapse. At the height of the E.T. phenomenon -- and it really was a phenomenon -- composer John Williams was going to be conducting his work at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And through Steven Spielberg's office came word that he would be making E.T. available for his first-ever public appearance -- to walk out on stage after Williams conducted a suite from the film.
It was my job to get the little creature and secretly bring him to the Hollywood Bowl in the afternoon, before even the orchestra arrived, and stay on duty protecting him out of sight of everyone in the bowels of the Bowl.
Along with John Williams, the other performer that night was Tony Bennett. (See! I knew I'd get around to him in the story.) He too was kept in the dark about E.T. being there, but only until the very last minute when we had to let him in on what was going to be happening. He came downstairs, excited, and even asked to have his picture taken with E.T., which we happily obliged. And as everyone was rushing to get ready and head upstairs, since the orchestra had started the E.T. suite, I did something that probably wasn't highly approved in the P.R. Standards Handbook -- though with the concept of "P.R. standards" that's more a pamphlet with a lot of wiggle room: I asked everyone in the room to hold off going upstairs for 30 seconds -- a risky thing, since we were on a very tight timetable with the music playing -- but I wasn't going to let the moment pass without me too having my picture taken with E.T. (The person who took the picture alas did a lousy job, and it's out of focus, but hey, it's still a keeper.)
(For what it's worth, I have a photo of E.T. alone that I took myself which is far better and actually in focus. But since I'm not in it, it sort of defeats the purpose here...)
Anyway, we rushed upstairs and waited in the wings as John Williams and the orchestra were finishing up the suite. The audience was going crazy, because the movie's craze was at its peak and the were just thrilled to hear the composer playing That Music. What they didn't know is that after the piece came to its big final crescendo, and they began cheering, the Hollywood Bowl had been outlined with fireworks. At the last chords, the fireworks began to explode, and the Bowl looked like a spaceship taking off. And the audience, as you can imagine, went wild, thinking that this was the unexpected surprise. What they didn't know was that they hadn't seen the real surprise at all, and that it was was yet to come.
There were about four of us in the wings during all this. And Tony Bennett came up to join us. Even he understood what a fun, dramatic moment this was -- and even though he was going to be performing soon, he decided that rather than prepare in his dressing room, he wanted to watch. He was as excited as anyone, and charming, and he really impressed me through it all.
As the 18,000 people applauding and yelling started to die down at last, we say, "Go!" and E.T. waddled out onstage towards John Williams. At first, the massive audience broke out into an huge roar -- but then to my surprise, they became instantly silent. Apparently, everyone didn't want to miss a thing and wanted to listen in case he said anything. (He didn't.) But E.T. wandered over to John Williams, the two shook hands, and then E.T. turned to the crowd, bowed and then wandered back offstage. And it was only as he near the side stage that the audience began cheering again.
I have a video of the entire E.T. segment -- music, fireworks and appearance. It's on VHS tape, though, not digitized. At some point, I'll probably get it done. I'm guessing there aren't many of these tapes around. But I made sure to get one.
My time with Elvis Costello was far less dramatic...
At the end of 2007 and into 2008, the Writers Guild went on strike against the AMPTP film studios and TV networks. I was assigned to picket outside Paramount Studios, and went there whenever I was called for.
On this one day, it turned out that Elvis Costello -- to his fine credit -- joined the picket line in solidaritiy and marched around Paramount with all the striking writers holding there picket signs. When my time was done, I turned in my sign, signed out and headed over to the parking lot for my car.
As I headed through the lot, I looked over and saw that Elvis Costello had finished for the day, as well, and was going to his car, too. I looked over and caught his eye. I gave him a thumbs-up in appreciation, and he returned it in thanks.
That's it. No music and no fireworks, and no little alien, unless that's how you think of Elvis Costello.
I was going to send you over to Mark Evanier's site to see the video -- and would if he had written extensively about it. But he just identifies the piece, so I figure it would be silly sending you there. You should check out his site anyway, on general principle, which you can get to here. But this is the video. You will not see me in it, but I'm there in spirit and in absentia...
When tracking down that video last week of Peter, Paul and Mary singing "Blowing in the Wind," I came across a lovely, and simple version of "Puff the Magic Dragon." What's so affecting about it is that this video comes from 1965, only two years after it was written. So, this is the song performed at its most basic, long before it became a The Required Song at Peter, Paul and Mary concerts, far longer before it became one of the most iconic songs in American music history, and parents would bring their children to hear it -- or their grandchildren.
It does appear that the song was a hit by this point, but it's also before the song became SO famous and utterly beloved that Peter, Paul and Mary divided the performance up into solos for all three of them. This is just Peter Yarrow (who co-wrote the song with Leonard Lipton), with Paul and Marry doing the background chorus. (I'm not saying one version is better than the other, just that this is the original way it was done.)
It's been too long since we've had a song from the wonderful Sara Niemietz here, so I figured it was time to correct that. This is another video of her fronting for the group PostModern Jukebox. That's the group that arranges current songs to be in much earlier music styles. In this case, we have the song by The Cars, "Just What I Needed" done in the style of '60s pop.
What I love about this joyful video is not just what a vibrant vocal performance it is from Sara Niemietz, showing off her range and skill at interpretation, but it also offers something that most singers can't bring to the table, no matter how well they too may sing, and that's an utterly infectious and ingratiating stage presence.
Short version: she's just really good.
This week's contestant is Cynthia Sibitzky from Haslett, Texas. I don't get the sense that the hidden song is really all that hidden, and you get it in about three seconds -- and only that long because there's a bit of an introduction into the piece. Though it's very lovely. As for the composer style, I had a choice between three people who are somewhat similar. The contestant's first guess was mine, as well, but...we were wrong.
A running sketch that they've been doing periodically on The Tonight Show is something called, "First Drafts of Rock." These are (supposedly...) earlier performances by famous musical groups singing the initial version of some of their most-popular songs, before they got the lyrics right. The results of these "first drafts" are intentionally awful. Fun, too, is the attention to detail for the re-creations of the musical groups themselves.
This may be my favorite of those I've seen. It is the "first draft" of the song "Blown' in the Wind" as performed by Peter, Paul and Mary. (Though written of course by Bob Dylan.) And the group here is portrayed by Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. Fallon, of course, is known for singing and playing the guitar in numerous sketches, and Bacon was part of an actual musical group, the Bacon Brothers. But it's a pleasant surprise to see what a good job Sedgwick does.
By the way, as lunatic as the song is, they're able to give it a very amusing "twist" ending, so it's worth sticking around all the way through.
For those of you who might be curious about how the song got eventually worked out, here is the final draft version --
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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