Randy Rainbow is back, just in time for the Senate impeachment trial of Trump. And he's got a new song with, I think, some of his more fun parody lyrics in a while. This to the tune of the song from Beauty and the Beast about that bombastic, eqomaniacal villain, "Gaston."
As readers here know, I'm a big fan of the late folksinger/songwriter Bob Gibson, who had an admired solo career and also periodically teamed up with Hamilton Camp (who himself had a successful acting career, following his work at Second City). I've posted a bunch of Gibson -- and Gibson & Camp -- videos. I even had the chance to briefly meet and have a nice chat with him when he performed on the Northwestern University campus at their Amazingrace Coffeehouse.
Gibson, who passed away in 1996, was based in Chicago and part of the city's longtime folk scene that overlapped with people like Shel Silverstein and Win Stracke early on and later with Steve Goodman, John Prine, Bonnie Koloc and others. I share my great appreciation of Gibson with longtime reader here Eric Boardman (who himself is a grad of Second City, among many other things). And it's as a result of that mutual appreciation society that the Good Mr. Boardman informed me of a tremendous website -- BobGibsonfolk.com.
What's so tremendous about it is something I can't explain why it is. Like all such artists, there is a page of all of Gibson's albums. Unlike all such artists, you can click on any selection for any album, and it will play in its entirety. In a good, crisp recording. Even more remarkable is that it's all programmed for "continuous play," where when a song finishes, it jumps to the next song and plays that one, like listening to an album. This isn't single play, where you have to click one song at a time.
I have absolutely no idea why the Gibson folks have done this. The only theory Eric can come up with is that it's a way to interest people in buying the albums. And perhaps so -- except they make it so easy to listening to everything that I just don't know.
Mind you, I'm not complaining.
For thems folk folks who like such things, you can find the album page here. If I had to make two suggestions, both are albums of his with Hamilton Camp. The first is their classic "Gibson & Camp at the Gate of Horn," which was a folk club in Chicago. This was considered a legendary album that went out of print, and so several years later Gibson and Camp got back together and re-recorded the same songs at Holstein's in Chicago. The website not only has the "...Revisited" album, but the original, as well. And the second album is "Homemade Music," made in 1980 when they reteamed after years apart and recorded this at McCabe's Music Shop in Santa Monica -- a concert I attended.
(If you want a solo album, "I Come for to Sing" has a long of good selections, including my favorite "To Morrow," which I've posted an in-concert video of, and which is the song I talked with him about at Amazingrace. By the way, every version I've heard of this has been around three minutes long -- this, the original, to my great surprise is...11 minutes!)
But then if you closed your eyes and picked any one of the albums and selections, there's a good chance you'll enjoy the performance, whether or not the song is to your taste.
Here he is in 1991 with "Sing Us Some of the Old Songs" which he co-wrote with Shel Silverstein, mixed in with a couple of his more popular old songs -- "Well, Well, Well" and "Daddy Roll 'Em."
From the archives. The contestant today is Brent Sverdloff from Rhinebeck, New York. I was able to get the hidden song pretty quickly, and I think most people will, too. As the for the composer style, it came down to two people -- very different from one another. It seemed a touch unlike one of them, so I went out on a limb and guessed the person I didn't know well specifically because the piece was more "moody" than I associate with the other composer. And was wrong. It was that other composer.
After too long an absence, let's head back on board the U.S.S. Niemietz for another song from the wonderful Sara Niemietz. And this time she's back performing with Postmodern Jukebox, a group that takes current songs and arranges them in earlier music styles. And appropriately for all our ongoing boat references this one is Taylor Swift's song "ME!" done as a mid-80s / Yacht Rock Style. (I will admit to never having heard of "Yacht Rock Style," but that's their own description, and it seems to fit, so who am I to argue?)
Ms. Niemietz shares the stage here, so this is a duet, performed with Ryan Quinn. And the arrangement makes this rendition much more of an enthusiastic love song duet by two people who utterly adore one another, rather than a syncopated song about oneself and what the other person is missing,
From the archives. This week's guest is Judy Delaney from Rochester, New York. I got the hidden song surprisingly quickly, though I'm not sure if most people will. Even host Fred Child wasn't able to get it. But it's a song from an area of music that's in my wheelhouse. took a guess on the composer style, but it was just a stab in the dark, and I was wrong. Though as it turns out, I was closer than I thought I'd be.
This is a charming and exceedingly low-key video that Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made, singing "What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?" Not-shockingly, I figured that it was reasonably appropriate tonight. How low-key are the production values? At the end, Ms. Deschanel leans over to click off the camera.
On the site, she also posts the following explanation --
"I have known Joe Gordon-Levitt for going on 12 years. We first met in the summer of 2000 while doing a tiny movie called Manic, where we bonded over a mutual appreciation for Harry Nilsson and Nina Simone and I have been lucky enough to call him one of my dearest friends ever since. When we did 500 Days of Summer 8 years later, we spent every lunch hour dancing to Marvin Gaye in the hair and make up trailer; we had loads of fun. I hope to do a thousand more movies with him because he's simply the best. But in the meantime, we made a little New Year's duet for all of you! The original by Nancy Wilson. ENJOY!"
For the sake of accuracy, she's wrong about a couple of things. For starters, it is not "by" Nancy Wilson. Yes, I know she (like many singers) is referring to who recorded it, but who a song is "by" is personal bugaboo of mine. And it's especially notable here because this particular song was written by the great Broadway composer Frank Loesser (who wrote Guys & Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, among others), though it wasn't for any show or movie, just a standalone song.
She's also wrong that the original was recorded by Nancy Wilson, missing by almost two decades. The original recording was performed by Margaret Whiting in 1947. (Wilson didn't record it until 1965, though she had a big hit with it, reaching #17 on the Billboard charts.)
But those are details. The performance itself is the lovely point of it all --
I've posted this once before after my dad passed away, but I realized that after this year it seemed like a really good way to end 2019.
This is the Phil Och's song, "When I'm Gone." It's not his version, though, but an absolutely exquisite cover by two groups, Kim & Reggie Harris and Magpie. I first heard it years ago when the long-running Saturday night show, The Midnight Special on WMFT in Chicago played it as their closing song each week. They used it for a great many years, and as far as I know they still may be. I just haven't heard the ending of the broadcast in about five years. But they were still using it then.
My folks absolutely loved the song. Loved it. They enjoyed The Midnight Special, a great deal although they liked it more in its earlier years and not the selections as much in its (and their) later years. But they always listened and, if not always all the way through, they always made sure to listen to the ending, just to be sure to hear The Song.
The song is about all the things to do in life now, because this is your chance to see them through.
Okay, so this isn't particularly unknown, given that it's Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. But what the heck, it's a great, uncommon video that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus made only a few years ago under the baton of Riccardo Muti. (They pretty much never release full videos, but this was funded as a special memorial tribute, which the video explains.)
The whole thing is glorious, but If you only want to celebrate the season with the Ode to Joy section, that comes in at the 52:12 mark, and you can just jump directly to it.
Today's song comes from what I believe was the first season of the animated series South Park. It was their initial Christmas special, centered around the adventures of Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo, which brought the show even more attention. I have a tangential story connected to the song, "It's Hard to Be a Jew on Christmas."
As I think I've mentioned, back in my dark days of P.R. I was the unit publicist on the movie BASEketball, which was directed by David Zucker (of the Airplaine! and The Naked Gun series, which was why he brought me along) and starred Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who did -- and still do -- South Park. During the movie's production, which overlapped with them being in production on South Park (so, in essence, they were doing two jobs at the same time), Matt and Trey mentioned that the only reason they signed to do the movie is because they were sure the TV series would be canceled after 10 episodes, and they'd have plenty of time to make the movie. Ha. So much for the best laid plans. It was during the movie's production that the TV series started peaking -- for instance they made the cover of both Time and Newsweek during the film. They said that if they had any idea that the TV show would still be going on, they never would have agreed to be in the movie. It was a crushing schedule -- including having an editing trailer for them on the set every day, and going back to their production offices after the day's filming -- but they handled it seriously impressively.
Anyway, going back several months, we had a read-through of the movie script one night, and given that it was the "South Park guys," families and kids were invited. And as it happened, the read-through took place the night after their Christmas special aired.
In the milling around phase of the evening, I went over to Trey and Matt to introduce myself, and I also wanted to tell them how much I particularly had love this specific song. Given the fame of South Park at that time, they were not surprisingly surrounded by a bunch of young boys gushing about the show. But in particular, they were gushing about another song in the TV special. So, I stood off to the side and waited for their fans to finish.
The other song in the show as sung by the character 'Cartman," and lasts about 30 seconds, with the words basically being, "Kyle's mom is a big fat b*tch, she's a b*tch, b*tch, b*tch, she's a big fat b*tch," over and over for half a minute. The little boys just loooooved that. And one after another, they enthused to Matt and Tray about it, singing the song.
After they all departed, I finally walked over. I said hi, we chatted a bit, and then I said how terrific I thought the song, "It's Hard to Be a Jew on Christmas" was. That the lyrics were so funny, yet touching, and the music was wisftul, and it was just really nicely crafted. And what was hilarious and memorable was how their faces suddenly filled with a smile of relief. They completely understood why the little boys all loved the "Kye's mom is a b*tch" song -- but this other was an actual song. And one they took great pride in. So, they were SO relieved to have someone praise it, rather than the one getting all the attention.
I also had one question for them. About a minute into the song, the character Kyle singing it mentions some Hebrew phrase which I couldn't make out, words from some Hebrew Hanukkah song he has to sing instead of getting to sing "Silent Night." I asked what it was, since I didn't recognize the song, and if they did research to find it or what. Trey broke out with a big laugh, "Oh, that," he said, "we just made the words up. We didn't know any Hebrew, so we just wrote some gibberish that sounded right."
(Note: Though this is the audio track of the song from the special, it's only a still of the scene. I couldn't find a full video of the song.)
If you haven't read it -- or even if you have -- here is Mark Evanier's glorious tale about his crossing paths with Mel Tormé, who co-wrote "The Christmas Song." I love this story for two reasons: one is that's it's so wonderful and told so beautifully. And the other is that my mother went to high school in Chicago with Mel Tormé, at Hyde Park High. (I got to tell him this personally when he had a cameo appearance in the movie Naked Gun 2-1/2 that I was working on.) You can find the story here.
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, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. 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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