Happy Birthday Bette Midler!

In honor of Bette Midler’s birthday, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite Bette songs. You won’t find Wind  Beneath My Wings or The Rose on this list. They’re both great tunes, but we’ve all heard them a million times. Instead, I’d like to share some of the lesser known, but equally good tracks.

I didn’t really pay attention to Bette until I heard a radio interview sometime in 1980. I was a lost fifteen year old. I had few friends because I had no social skills. During this interview she recited the following quote…

“What’s underneath the mask isn’t as important as the mask that you choose to wear. That’s the true indication of your imagination and your spirit.”

That quote gave me the courage to be the person I wanted to be. I started making new friends, I got my first part-time, after school job, and a year later I came out. Surprise! 😉

My unofficial introduction to Bette Midler was her 1972 remake of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Want To Dance”, which appeared on her debut album, “The Divine Miss M”. The slower tempo gives it a more sultry feel than the original. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the deeper sexual themes of Bette’s version. It remains a favorite.

The third cut on Bette’s debut album, which also includes a beautiful cover of the Ethel Waters standard “Am I Blue”, is a percussion heavy, 1960s style  rock/soul tune called “Daytime Hustler”. It’s the style of song you’d expect to hear from an artist like Tina Turner. With lyrics like, “Fancy money doesn’t buy my love. Flashy Cadillacs won’t make me f❇k. I’ve been hustled by the best of them, and you ain’t nothing but a crazy, crazy man…”  It’s a fun song.

“Skylark”, from Bette’s 1973 self titled second album, is probably the most under-appreciated interpretation of the 1941 Johnny Mercer/ Hoagy Carmichael American pop classic. According to wikipedia, The yearning expressed in the lyrics is Mercer’s longing for Judy Garland, with whom Mercer had an affair.

On the other end of the spectrum from Skylark, is “Breaking up somebody’s home”, also from Bette’s second album. This is one of those little known gems that got buried in the past. It’s bluesy, raw, and more than a little bit sexy. You probably won’t hear this song at a wedding reception. …at least I hope not.

Bette’s fifth album, Thighs and Whispers (1979) contains her disco hits “Big Noise From Winnetka” and “Married Men” and a decent cover of Johnny Bristol’s “Hang on in There Baby”. Although “My Knight in Black Leather” did well in gay clubs, it never became anything more than a camp classic.

The real gems from her fifth album were “Cradle Days” and her beautiful, sad cover of James Taylor’s “Millworker”

“Cradle days” is an aching plea to first love. We’ve all been there. Bette’s voice is powerful in this emotional rock ballad. It’s my favorite tune on that album.

From Bette’s little known fourth album, the one that nobody bought, called Broken Blossom, came “Empty Bed Blues“, “Paradise“, and a really cool duet with Tom Waits called “I Never Talk To Strangers.”

The economy of 1970s was pretty much as it is today. Bette’s aptly named Songs For The New Depression contains a campy cover of “Marahuana” — originally sung by Gertrude Michael in the pre-code “Murder at the Vanities” (1934)

Bette was sick during the filming of Divine Madness, You can hear it in her voice. But the cameras, lighting and sound equipment were already paid for and the auditorium was booked. Canceling production would have cost millions. So they pumped her up with Vitamin C and sent her on stage. Yet, in my opinion, the Divine Madness performance of “Stay With Me Baby” is the best.

Happy Birthday Bette!

The 40 Year Search!

Ever have a tune stuck in the back of your mind that just won’t go away, but you can’t play it because you don’t know the name? So it sits there, and every once in a while rears it’s taunting head.

Carla Morrison – Eres Tú (letra)

I discovered the above tune while searching for a 1973 song, whose title I could not remember.

I searched for what seemed like forever. I tried every variant of “Et Eschtule” and “Edest Tu” and everything in between.

I even tried humming the mystery song to friends, but that only confused them more.

Part of the problem was that I thought it was an Italian song. I was eight years old when the song came out. The only language other than English that I had heard was Italian, so naturally I thought the song was Italian.

Finding this Carla Morrison song was a big break for me. Of course! Eres Tu! Seeing it in print made so much sense.

So I typed Eres Tu into the YouTube search bar and Lo and Behold…

“Eres Tu” by Mocedades

The sad part is, now that I’m hearing Mocedades again, I kinda prefer the Carla Morrison cut better. 🙂

Interpretation

Remember this song? I maintain that it is not about sailing on the open water at all.

Bear with me…

Take this verse, for instance.

It’s not far to Never Never Land

No reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy

Of innocence again

The canvas can do miracles

Just you wait and see

It’s not far to Never Never Land

1- According to Wikipedia

Neverland (also spelled Never Land or expanded as Never Never Land) is a fictional place featured in the works of J. M. Barrie and those based on them. It is the dwelling place of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and others. Although not all people in Neverland cease to age, its best known resident famously refused to grow up, and it is often used as a metaphor for eternal childhood (and childishness), immortality, and escapism.

The operative word here is “escapism” – as in losing oneself in dreams. …or art.

The canvas can do miracles

2- They don’t use canvas as sails. They use lighter, man made fabrics, like nylon or polyester. They DO however, use canvas for art.

Of course, I could be wrong. 🙂

Herbie Hancock – Watermelon Man

Herbie Hancock explains how he composed Watermelon Man and how Mongo Santamaria influenced it. He then performs both the original 1962 and the 1973 Headhunters versions.

Here is a perfect example of how the appeal of a song grows exponentially after you learn from where it came.

on youtube

July 4th and the Soundtrack of Summer

July 4th is upon us once again, and with it comes parades, picnics, fireworks, and of course, great music. Independence Day ushers in the lazy days of summer, warm evenings gathered with family and friends, and a steady stream of feel-good music. Music heard through a neighbor’s open window, on a friend’s boombox, or from a passing car’s stereo is the soundtrack of summer.

Everybody’s got their favorite summer tracks.

What follows are a few of mine.

When I hear the opening guitar riff of The Rolling Stones’ classic, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, I think of The Steel Pier TV Show, which used to air on Philadelphia’s WPVI Channel 6 (the local ABC affiliate).

line

K.D. Lang’s Summer Fling is such a happy fun song. It’s so full of optimism. It makes me long for the beach. My favorite line, “Laugh, oh how we would laugh at anything.” …Indeed we did. 🙂

line

It was a B 52s toss up between Rock Lobster and the classic Love Shack. Both scream summer, but everybody’s movin’ everybody’s groovin to the Love Shack baby!

line

I was a part-time DJ at a local bar in 1991 when Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff released their seasonal hit, Summertime.

line

Whatever happened to Dee-Lite?  Technically released in August of 1990, Groove Is In The Heart set the tone for the summer of ’91. Everybody danced to this tune. Lady Miss Kier Dressed in groovy Mod Sixties hipness, assured us that she “couldn’t ask for another.”

line

I was 11 years old. I remember being in a car with my Grandmother and two of my cousins. Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music started playing on the car’s AM radio. Upon hearing the lyrics “Play that funky music white boy”, my Grandmother was scandalized. “That’s terrible” she said. “What if the whites said that about the blacks?” To which my cousins burst into laughter. “Mom-mom.” said cousin Cheryl “Wild Cherry IS a white band!” My grandmother backpedaled a bit with, “Well, I still think it’s terrible.” — Happy Times. {:-]

line

In 1993 the London based Jazz-Rap group released a remake of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Cantaloupe Island’ called Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia). It’s still one of my favorites. “Diddy diddy bop. Funky funky.”

line

During my last summer living at home with my parents, I spent a lot of time at the community swimming pool. It was a fun summer. The Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue was a favorite of one of the life guards. So it was played repetitively. It didn’t help that it was heard through their PA system, which was equipped with cone shaped aluminum paging speakers. It sounded awful. But the song is now synonymous with summer. There’s a fun Emotional Rescue remake by Freedom Dub on the Bossa N; Stones CD. but the original brings back that summer at the pool.

line

Virtual Insanity was my introduction to the British Acid Jazz band, Jamiroquai. It’s a fun song. Lead singer Jay Kay has a singing style reminiscent of 1970s funk and soul, which I love. The moving floor in this video is inventive take on the famous scene in Royal Wedding where Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling. (Later recreated in Lionel Ritchie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” video)

line

Hot In The City is one of my favorite Billy Idol tunes. It was hard for me to choose between it, White Wedding or Thighs Around Your Face, I mean Eyes Without a Face for this post. They’re all good tunes.

line

There are few things better than New York City in the summertime? Empire State of Mind, Alicia Keys’ love letter to New York makes me want to jump on a train and head to the Big Apple. It’s changed a lot. I really do miss the “colorful” element that used to populate Times Square, but it’s still a fun place to be in the summer. You might recognize the chorus from the Jay Z hit.

line

I love, Love, LOVE Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes. This 1987 live performance in Athens featuring Youssou N’Dour is quite possibly the most achingly beautiful version of the song… Accepting all I’ve done and said, I want to stand and stare again, ‘Til there’s nothing left out, oh whoa whoa It remains there in your eyes, Whatever comes and goes Oh, it’s in your eyes.” 

line

I must not forget the ultimate summer classic. Under The Boardwalk by The Drifters. This tune was remade by many artists, including Bette Midler, for the movie, Beaches. Those are okay, but I prefer the Drifters’ version best.

line

Special Thanks to James Stafford for this little gem, More, More, More by Carmel (not to be confused with the Andrea True Connection song of the same name) It was featured on his June 27th “Why It Matters” Word Press blog, From The Stacks: Carmel More, More, More (12″ single) which inspired this list.

line

BONUS: Summer (The Very First Time) was a Bobby Goldsboro hit, but I think Millie Jackson does it better. If you don’t know who Millie Jackson is, I feel sorry for you.

line

Dear Readers: As I stated above, everybody has a special song that connects them to a happy summer memory. I’m gonna borrow a page from The Accidental Cootchie Mama, and ask you to share it. Post a favorite summer tune with it’s link in a comment below. Maybe we can make a killer summer playlist before Labor Day. 😀

Prince Recaps SXSW 4 U

Funny or Die asked Prince to write a blog about SXSW.

tumblr_mjywdsTme61qzx3jto1_500

This was the best thing I’ve read in a while. It made my day. 🙂

“…samsung mobile said 2 me, “hi prince. we r a company. please bring us pleasure.”

 

 

“…when I got there, they couldn’t find my credentials. 😦  i said, “hello i am prince” and they said, “we can’t find u in the system.” i cried in2 some roses and then they found my pass. i decided 2 give my pass 2 a swan because i do not need a pass because i am prince.”

Please, read more…