This week marks the 13th anniversary of the SotW. Thanks to all for your faithful support and encouragement after all these years.
It’s happened again! A coincidence that prompts me to write a SotW post. This time for “When the Stars Go Blue.”
I recently read Elton John’s 2019 autobiography, Me. In one of the final chapters, he mentions how much he likes and respects the music of Ryan Adams. Comparing his album The Big Picture (which Bernie Taupin hated) to Adams’ Heartbreaker, John reported:
“I’d been listening to Ryan Adams’ album Heartbreaker a lot. He was a classic country rock singer-songwriter, really – I could imagine him onstage at the Troubadour in the seventies. But there was a toughness and a freshness about it that did make The Big Picture sound weirdly dated and staid.”
Around the same time, I read an article in Far Out titled “From Bob Dylan to The Beatles: 8 songs horror hero Stephen King couldn’t live without.”
Adams’ “When the Stars Go Blue” was on the list. And it is a fabulous choice!
I think Adams’ recording is spectacular, but many of you may be more familiar with the version by the Irish family band, The Coors, that featured Bono as well. That version is awesome as well. You can’t beat a great song!
When the band I’m in, Rockridge Station, was formed over 10 years ago, “When the Stars Go Blue” was one of the first songs added to our repertoire. And there’s a good reason. You can’t beat a great song!
OK, so maybe I’ve lost my mind!!! Today’s SotW is a track that went viral on TikTok, the short-form, social media app that targets guys like me as their key demographic. Right!
As I put together my “best of 2020” playlist, one of my favorites was “Space Girl” by Frances Forever.
I’m a sap for a good power pop song and “Space Girl” checks all the boxes. It has energy, charm, and a good hook.
Frances Forever is a young Massachusetts based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. She grabbed some attention after a 2019 appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series featured “Space Girl.” From there it went viral on TikTok, then Spotify and Apple Music.
The lyrics remind me thematically of another power pop classic – “Another Girl Another Planet” by The Only Ones – the SotW on February 4th, 2012.
Let’s wait to see if this is a one-hit-wonder or if Frances Forever will show some lasting power.
Meet me in the middle of the day Let me hear you say everything’s okay Bring me southern kisses from your room
Back in 1979, singer-songwriter Steve Forbert had a Top 20 hit with “Romeo’s Tune” from Forbert’s second album, Jackrabbit Slim.
The sweet love song is driven by a lively piano riff played by Bobby Ogdin who was the pianist in Elvis Presley’s TCB band.
But the final arrangement of the song didn’t come easy. It was originally slated to be on his debut album, but he wasn’t satisfied with the recordings from those sessions and decided to hold it back. Over the next year, he tried various arrangements before he came up with the final with help from the album’s producer, John Simon.
Simon was responsible for producing several of my favorite records – The Band’s Music from Big Pink, The Child is Father to the Man by Blood Sweat & Tears, and Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel. He also produced the hit “Red Rubber Ball” by The Cyrkle (written by Paul Simon).
Forbert dedicated the song to Florence Ballard, of the Supremes, on the Jackrabbit Slim album cover, though it isn’t about her. He has often said that the track is about girl he knew when he was a teen but has never identified her by name.
On a side note, Forbert played Cyndi Lauper’s boyfriend in the video for her song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
Meet me in the middle of the night Let me hear you say everything’s alright Let me smell the moon in your perfume
Sometimes my favorite song by a particular artist isn’t one of their most popular hits. That could be because the big hits get overplayed, so the deeper cuts are a pleasure to hear as a change.
Take, for instance, “I’m Livin’ In Shame” by Diana Ross & The Supremes. “I’m Livin’ In Shame” made it into the Top 10, so it was hardly a failure. But by the standard set by The Supremes, it was a modest hit.
The Supremes got off to a slow start at Motown. None of their first six singles, released between 1961 and 1963, reached the Top 40. That earned them the Motown studios nickname “The no-hit Supremes.” But in 1963 “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” made it to #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. 1964’s “Where Did Our Love Go” began a hitting streak of five consecutive #1s – ending with “Back In My Arms Again.” Another four release streak of #1s began with “You Can’t Hurry Love” and ended with “The Happening.” Several other #1s and Top 10s were sprinkled all around.
“I’m Livin’ In Shame” was a sequel to “Love Child” (#1 in 1968). Its story goes like this:
The Love Child is grown up and embarrassed by her mother’s poverty.
Mama was cookin’ bread She wore a dirty raggedy scarf around her head Always had her stockings low Rolled to her feet just didn’t know
She wore a sloppy dress Oh no matter how she tried she always looked a mess Out of the pot she ate Never used a fork or a dinner plate
She needs to hide her background from her wealthier friends so she lies to them about her upbringing.
I was always so afraid that The uptown friends would see her Afraid one day when I was grown That I would be her
In college town away from home A new identity I found That I was born elite With maids and servants at my feet
She goes so far as to make up a story that her mama died.
I must have been insane I lied and said mama died on a weekend trip to Spain She never got out of the house Never even boarded a train
Then she has a baby and never tells her mom.
Married a guy, was living high I didn’t want him to know her She had a grandson two years old That I never even showed her
When she learns her mom really died, she has regrets and shame.
Came the telegram Mama passed away while making homemade jam Before she died she cried to see me by her side
She always did her best Ah cooked and cleaned and always in the same old dress Working hard, down on her knees Always trying to please
Won’t you forgive me mama For all the wrong I’ve done I know you’ve done your best Oh I know you’ve done the very best you could Mama I thought you understood Working hard, down on your knees…
The music is cooks along just as you would expect from The Funk Brothers. It’s also unusual (for Motown, at least) in that it doesn’t have a distinctive chorus.
By the time of the release of “I’m Livin’ In Shame” in 1969, the Supremes had become Diana Ross & The Supremes. But even that is a distortion. The background vocals were not sung by Supremes Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. They were provided by a group of session singers called The Andantes.
Shame. That word resonates today. After the horrible siege on the Capitol this week, we’re all living in a different kind of shame. At least we ALL should be.
Whew! 2020 is finally over. We can all agree that 2021 has to be better.
My final send off to 2020 is today’s SotW by the Mountain Goats.
This song is perfect for today if for no other reason than the signature line in the chorus – “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.”
The version above is the studio version from The Mountain Goats’ 2005 album, The Sunset Tree. But the song translates even better live, including the performance of it that the band did with Stephen Colbert in July 2019. Wow, how did Colbert have such prescience?
Today’s post is an example of what can happen when you get an idea for a topic and it sends you down a rabbit hole.
I was listening to some old Beatles albums (I got a new turntable) and the verbal “count in” on “I Saw Her Standing There” caught my attention. I thought to myself “It’s very cool that they left the count in on the released recording.” Then I began to tickle my brain to try to remember other songs that are better for having the count in left on them.
If you don’t know what I’m referring to, a count in (sometimes called a count off) is used by a band to set the tempo and help the musicians all start at the right time.
I’m breaking my usual format of analyzing the songs’ music and lyrics to make more room for the recordings. Today I’m a man of few words – except 1-2-3-4!
There are plenty of other examples.
Lawyers, Guns, and Money – Warren Zevon
Ball of Confusion – The Temptations
The Ocean – Led Zeppelin
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (but in the middle, not at the beginning)
Wooly Bully – Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (in Spanish!)
Today’s post was written by repeat guest contributor, Michael Paquette. This is Michael’s third SotW essay this year. Merry Christmas! TM
Before launching his career as a blues artist B.B. King worked as a disc jockey for a radio station in Memphis in the late 1940s under the name Riley B. King. There he became known as the “The Beale Street Blues Boy” which was later shortened to Blues Boy and eventually to B.B.
He recorded more than a dozen hit songs in the 1950s and 1960s before he released “The Thrill Is Gone” in 1969 which became a global sensation and introduced him to a much wider audience. It also earned him a spot as an opening act for The Rolling Stones. In his time his career would last more than 50 years and he would become America’s most famous blues musician. He traveled the world with his trusted guitar Lucille, thrilling audiences with his brilliant solos and his heartfelt vocal treatments.
In 2001 he released his 39th studio recording which was a Christmas album — A Christmas Celebration of Hope — and one of my favorites of this genre. It peaked at 151 on the Billboard Top 200 and it hit number one on the Billboard Blues list. The album earned him two Grammy Awards for the Best Traditional Blues Album and his take on “Auld Lang Syne” earned him the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
The “title cut” is my choice for SOTW.
It showcases King’s distinctive jazz-influenced blues style with a big band arrangement that features a rhythmic piano accompaniment punctuated by short bursts of rhythm and blues brass. This song was originally recorded in 1960 and it harkens back to his earlier big band style.
The lyrics are appropriate for an intimate gathering on Christmas with the singer professing his love and holiday wishes to his sweetheart. As many couples will likely enjoy a more secluded holiday gathering this year this song seems to fit the bill.
The last part of the song says:
We’ll enjoy ourselves together, Christmas dinner and everything
We’ll share every bit of pleasure, every Christmas brings
Here’s to you
May Christmas bring you happiness
I want you to have a good time
Like we did on all the rest.
I wanna be home with you baby when New Year’s rolls around
We’ll make our resolutions before the sun goes down
Here’s to you honey
May Christmas bring you happiness
I want you to have a good time
Like we did on all the rest.
Merry Christmas to all from the King of the Blues.
In the mid-’70s, the McGarrigle sisters – Kate and Anna – put out two outstanding albums. The first, self-titled album (1975) included “Heart Like a Wheel” which was made famous a year earlier by Linda Ronstadt.
Key to that record’s success was the stellar slate of session musicians that played on the album, including on today’s SotW – “Kiss and Say Goodbye.”
Kate wrote the song, played rollicking piano and duets with Anna on vocals. Tony Levin (King Crimson, Bowie, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, and many more) played bass. Steve Gadd (Steely Dan, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, and many jazz greats) played drums. The cut used four guitarists! David Spinoza, Greg Prestopino, Hugh McCracken, and Lowell George. Anna has disclosed in interviews that only one note by George was left on the recording… but it was an important one. “… it slides up.” And the icing on the cake is the tenor sax solo by the great Bobby Keys.
The melody is a real earworm and uses clever rhymes that lodge in your head. It’s a sweet story about a woman that’s looking forward to a hookup with a lover that’s coming into town.
Call me when you’re coming to town Just as soon as your plane puts down Call me on the telephone But only if you’re traveling alone Counting down the hours Through the sunshine and the showers Today’s the day You’re finally going to come my way
I do believe the die is cast Let’s try and make the night-time last And I don’t know where it’s coming from But I want to kiss you till my mouth gets numb I want to make love to you Till the day comes breaking through And when the sun is high in the sky We’ll kiss and say goodbye
Sadly, Kate died in 2010 after a long battle with cancer. Her musical legacy lives on through Anna and her two children – Rufus and Martha Wainwright – that she birthed when married to Loudon Wainwright III.