One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show

…or, How a 2:AM distraction became an obsession.

I have been in a foul mood all winter. It hasn’t helped that Mother Nature also seems to have been in a pissed off mood. Seriously. It’s almost May and we’re still dealing with temperatures as low as 30°F a few nights this week. Will someone please make Ma Nature a cup of espresso or something?

When I’m in a foul mood, I tend to stay away from people. It’s a lot better that way. Otherwise I wind up snapping at folks for no reason. It’s not pretty. Like so many others, when I’m in a bad mood I turn to music. What usually works for me is Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979). For some reason, the Waters, Gilmore, Mason and Wright classic has a way with working out my aggression. It’s amazingly therapeutic. But I couldn’t seem to shake it this time. The winter was brutal. I still have a cold that just-won’t-go-away. On top of everything, cancer took three close friends within a two month period. It’s essentially why I haven’t been writing very much. Three funerals in such a short amount of time sends me right back to the early 90s, when everyone I knew was dying. I sat at my keyboard on more than one occasion to try to express the feeling of loss, but it was too overwhelming. I’d start a draft but then lose focus, which is what this post is about to do if I don’t guide it back to the point. 😉

On a mindless surf though YouTube, I stumbled onto Bette Midler’s cover of ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’ (Rose Marie McCoy, Charlie Singleton) It’s an old favorite. In this video, she’s performing it at the 1998 Billboard Awards.

It’s a fun song. Bette’s Studio version is better but, as with all of Bette’s live performances, there’s something about the attitude she projects on stage that brings a song to life. I guess it’s the same for most singers.

Because Bette Midler is a vocalist, she’s introduced me to many great artists. I’m always searching for the original singer of composer of any particular song she might have made popular. So of course I wanted to know the who, what, where, and maybe even the why of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show. The earliest version that I was aware of is the one made famous by the truly wonderful Big Maybelle.

Truly, Big Maybelle doesn’t get the attention she deserves.

My appetite whetted, I wanted to know more. Who was this Rose Marie McCoy? Did she record a version of One Monkey?  So… I checked everyone’s favorite source of misinformation, Wikipedia!

According to the Wiki page, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show was “recorded by Stick McGhee and His Buddies in 1950, credited to McGhee, released on an Atlantic Records in 1951″

Hmmm… It’s not at all like Big Mabelle’s version. It’s good in it’s own right, but where Big Maybelle’s classic is about a woman tellin’ her man, “Buh bye! Don’t let the door hit ya on your way out!”, Stick McGhee’s version is about making your way through life without letting things get in your way. The themes are similar, but… Now I was on a mission.

According to Wiki “…another version was recorded by Joe Tex in 1965. In 1966 it was covered by The Animals.”

Here’s Joe Tex…

…and here’s The Animals.

It’s hard to choose between the two. I can see the appeal of The Animals but I like the rawness of Joe Tex. The most glaring thing so far is that now there are three completely different versions of this song.

But wait, there’s more!

“In 1972 the all-girl group Honey Cone took its altogether different version to number five on the R&B singles chart” – Wiki 

Here is Honey Cone on the Sonny Bono Show

If those funky outfits aren’t enough, there’s a coked up DISCO version by Jessie Rogers. I’ll spare you. If you really want to hear it, you’ll have to click the link. I think it’s a little too peppy, If you ask me. 😐

So, what does the phrase “One monkey don’t stop no show” really mean? To me it’s fairly obvious. It’s another way of saying “Life will go on” or “This too, shall pass”. But could there be more? One could find himself deeply entangled within the interwebs, searching for a deeper meaning, but I gave it a go.

Curiosity killed the cat. …and kept this blogger up all night.

In their wordpress post, Yeah, But do you know what that song is actually about? #1 The guys at Old School Record Review put it perfectly. They wrote in part, ““one monkey don’t stop no show” is a perfect lyric for pop music because it shares so much in common with the music itself. It is ambiguous, emotional, catchy and supports introspection and interpretation.” They’re right, of course. Music is art and art is open to interpretation.

But what’s all this have to do with my pissy mood?

Haven’t you figured it out yet? Winter is over. We’re almost halfway through spring. Love and I are shopping for new plants for the tiny patch of concrete behind our tiny South Philly home.  With spring comes a new chapter. Hopefully a little brighter than the last, but it’s new. Life goes on.

PS: You really should navigate on over over to Old School Record Reviews and see what they’re up to. They did and excellent job exploring the meaning of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show lyric. I would have abandoned it here had it not been so essential to the point I was trying to reach.

Bonus Track! Here’s Bette’s Studio version, just for fun. 🙂

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EXTRA BONUS!

Pink Floyd The Wall (Full Album) 😀

 

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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).

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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. 🙂

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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!

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

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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.”

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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. {:-]

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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.”

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.” 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 😀