OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR

Directed by Richard Attenborough

We watch it every year on Memorial Day, the best movie ever made about ‘the war to end war.’ It was just as good this year — in the same funny, awful way — as it was every other year.

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR

I first saw “Oh! What a Lovely War” when it was released in 1969 and never forgot it. Based on the long-running British stage production, it’s World War I — in song, dance, and irony. The catchy score sticks in your brain. The songs are those sung by the troops, and the cast includes everyone who was anyone in British stage or screen. The credits are a who’s-who of English actors.

World War I is hard to understand, even when you study it. No matter how many books I read, I’m not sure I do. Its causes are rooted in old world grudges that make no sense to Americans. So many ancient hatreds — thousands of years of scores to be settled.

My mother summed it: “Everyone was armed to the teeth. They wanted war. They just needed an excuse.”

Hers may be as good an answer as any. When the war began, it was the old world, ruled by crowned heads of ancient dynasties. When it finally ground to a halt in 1918, the world was remade — beyond recognition. The monarchies were gone. A generation of men were dead, the death toll beyond belief. The callous indifference to loss of life by those in command remains incomprehensible.

More than 9 million men were killed in battle. This does not include collateral damage to non-combatants and death by disease and starvation. It remains one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, paving the way for major political upheaval and revolution in many nations.

You can’t make this stuff up. And why would you want to?

Says the movie at the beginning: “The principal statements made by the historical characters in this film are based on documentary evidence, and the words of the songs are those sung by the troops during the First World War.”

The first World War could well be categorized as an organized international effort to murder a generation and they did a damned good job of it. The absurd statements and dialogue of the historical characters, all safely lodged a safe distance from actual fighting, sound ludicrous.

Did General Haig, looking at the staggering loss of life on both sides, really say: “in the end, the Germans will have 5,000 men and we will have 10,000, so we will have won.”? Apparently he said it. And meant it.

The arrival of the Americans, their takeover of the endless war and bringing it to a conclusion while there was still something left to preserve, is a great moment. I wonder how long it would have gone on without American involvement? Would they still be fighting it today? Would Europe even exist or would it be a wasteland?

The war is told with music and dancing. Songs are mixed with pithy comments by generals, kings, Kaisers and occasionally, soldiers. It’s a long movie — 144 minutes — and I can promise you that you will have a far better and more visceral understanding of this war and the meaning of those little red poppies the Veterans organizations give out (do they still do that?) to commemorate the war to end all wars. Until the next war. And the one after that.

The music is ghastly, funny and catchy. The movie is out of print. It was only in print for a couple of months. I had been looking for it for a long time and was thrilled to snag a copy. A few copies are still available through Amazon. If you are a history buff and also love great movies, grab one before they disappear. Over Memorial Day weekend, one of the movie channels usually plays it. I didn’t see it listed this year, but we own a copy, so I didn’t look very hard.

Great directing, biting sarcastic humor, terrific music and surprisingly informative, this motion picture is in a category all by itself. It was unavailable for more than 20 years. You will not be disappointed and you will never forget it. In the 45 years since I first saw it, I never forgot it.

SINGING IN THE RAIN

My Top 10 “Rain Songs,” by Rich Paschall

Every time I consider a Top 10 list of songs, I think I will never come up with ten.  The fact is, I always pass 10 and must consider which ones to toss.  Remember, this is my top 10.  Some make the list only by virtue of the fact that I heard them thousands of times as I grew up.  They seem to be woven into my life and have been there now for decades.  I have one of recent vintage to toss on the list, I think you will like it.

I did notice there are a lot songs that are well-regarded in this area, but I could not bring myself to add them.  One is the horribly overblown version of November Rain by Guns and Roses.  The over long video with the orchestra and strings is a self-indulgent piece of … (I digress), but it nevertheless makes the top of some lists.  Guitarist Slash said in an interview last year he has no idea what the 1992 video for the song is about.  Yeah, it makes no sense to him either.

Without further a do, or is it ado, or a dew?  Anyway it is not just dew, it is rain and here they are:

10. I Wish it Would Rain, The Temptations
9. Fire and Rain, James Taylor. Taylor has given various explanations of its meaning.
8. Here Comes the Rain Again, Eurythmics
7. Rainy Days and Mondays, The Carpenters Yes, it is pop fluff. I like it anyway.
6. Rainy Night in Georgia, Brook Benton There are a lot of versions, Benton’s is the best.

There are a number of fan videos of Hunter Hayes performing Rainy Season, but nothing official.  Since I have not found a good one, I will give you this audio version from the Encore album.

5.  Rainy Season, Hunter Hayes

Neil Sedaka had a string of hits that go well back into the 1960’s.  His early rock songs made him a star.  In 1974 he composed Laughter in the Rain with lyrics by Phil Cody.  It was a come back for Sedaka and the song made number 1 by February of 1975.  Forty years later, at the age of 76, he gave the following performance.  Yes, I can find earlier versions where his singing is a little better, but I just love it when the old guys can still deliver the goods.

4. Laughter in the Rain, Neil Sedaka

There are a LOT of versions of “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  The Ray Charles version is particularly good, and I highly recommend it.  My addition to the list may surprise you.  Jerry Lewis was not known as a singer and yet, he had a successful album after the breakup of the comedy duo of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  Jerry was eager to prove he had more talent than just as a slapstick comedian.  My mother owned the 45, or was it a 78 rpm, recording and we played it ad nauseam.  The A side was Rock a Bye Your Baby and certainly got a lot of radio and juke box play, but the B side was well-regarded also. There is a You Tube video of Lewis performing the song at one of the 1990s telethons.  I decided to just go with the actual recording he made famous.

3. Come Rain or Come Shine, Jerry Lewis (Jerry Lewis Just Sings)

Whenever I hear this hit song, I think of Paul Newman riding a bicycle in the 1969 movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The song was written and produced by the song writing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  It was offered to others, but the B.J. Thomas version is the only one that matters.  It was the first number 1 hit song of the 1970s.  On the version recorded for the film, Thomas was recovering from laryngitis.  It is why that version does not sound the same as the hit record.

2. Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head, B.J. Thomas

Seriously, what do you think of when you think about rain songs? Purple Rain? Have You Ever Seen Rain? Who’ll Stop the Rain? What one song immediately comes to mind? All fans of movie musicals will think of my number one. Is there any other?

The 1952 film, Singing in the Rain, got its title tune from a 1929 (or earlier) song that appeared in 1929’s The Hollywood Music Box Revue.  It was recorded a number of times before it was recycled to great success as the centerpiece of the classic movie.  Gene Kelly directed and starred in the film, recording one of the most famous dance sequences ever shot.  The remarkable part is that Kelly was ill and running a high fever at the time of the performance.

1. Singing in the Rain, Gene Kelly

SOME OF THE GOOD STUFF

Worldly Encounters

What would I share with a casually met alien? The same stuff I’d share with anyone. Stuff that makes me smile, tap my toes, sing along.

Life is complex and uncertain. Eat dessert first.

These are favorites. Take them seriously at your own risk!

Life is messy and we are messy creatures. No easy explanations, so let’s just try to make the best of it.

Have a little taste on me.

WAXING NOSTALGIC

My Top Albums On Vinyl, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Those who have lived through the eras of music on vinyl, reel to reel tape, 8-track and cassette tapes, CDs and digital formats may tell you that the best of all was the vinyl era.  Yes, audiophiles will tell you that the best sound actually comes off of records, not the other formats.  As records and recording equipment, speakers and headphones evolved over many decades, the sound steadily improved.  Before the giant rush to tape formats, recordings on actual vinyl records became quite advanced.  When mono became stereo, and stereo advanced to multi channel sounds, people were piling columns of speakers around their rooms in order to make it feel like the music was being played right there in the room with you.

There were people who could tell you which albums had the best “channel separation” and would place speakers where certain instruments would appear in one place, while others could be heard from elsewhere in the room.  As recording techniques became sophisticated, so did the listeners’ equipment.  If you had a great turntable, receiver, speakers and headphones, you probably needed an equalizer so you could balance your sound perfectly.  I had a friend who loved classical music.  His many speakers were placed strategically so as to have the symphony orchestra placed perfectly.  With a little mixing magic on the equalizer, you might feel you were hearing the music live.

Those days are gone and no matter how much you insist the sound is better today, no one with a “sophisticated stereo system” in the 1970s will agree with you.  Why that diamond needle riding along groves in vinyl produced such a great sound is definitely a wonder I do not understand, but it did.  Every now and then I hear a CD in my car that impresses me with some channel separation that produces different instruments from different speakers, but that is rare.  It does not compare with recordings of older times.

Albums continue to be released on vinyl but they do not match the numbers from the eras before cassette tape.  I must remind you here that 8 tracks were a “flash in the pan” and I am pleased to say I never owned one.  In 2014 more albums were sold on vinyl than any year since 1991, still, the numbers are paltry compared to the decades before that.  I laughed when I heard the biggest selling vinyl album of 2014, according to Billboard.com, hit 87,000 copies.  It was Jack White’s “Lazaretto.”  If you said “Who?” join the club.  Apparently, 10,000 copies is considered a hit.  Like I said, the vinyl era is gone.

So, with that in mind I offer my eclectic selection of 5 vinyl albums I have for decades and still think worthy of playing often.  The first is from my dear departed mother’s collection.  Her collection featured show tunes, which I guess is appropriate for me, as well as Caruso and Mario Lanza.  I can not tell you how many Saturday afternoons were filled with Mario Lanza.  Perhaps that was to drive us out of the house to play outside, I am not sure.  I still have an album called Andy Williams Million Seller Songs.  They were not all his million sellers, but a few were hits for him.  I like the whole thing.  It was released in the fall of 1962 and hit Billboard’s Top LPs in January 1963 and stayed there for 43 weeks.


If I loved a group, I inevitably wanted their Greatest Hits album.  A lot of my early favorites were by The Hollies.  The group was formed in 1962 and have continued on with various members. They had so many early hits they actually put out a greatest hits album in 1967.  Some of the songs were co-authored by one of the founding members, Graham Nash.  He left the group in 1968 to form another group on my list.

One group I have mentioned before in The Time It Is Today.  The Association were known for songs with a message.  I just about wore out their Greatest Hits album as it is filled with my favorites from the late 1960s.

I actually had the next album on cassette first.  Later, someone gave me Willie Nelson’s Stardust on vinyl.  This 1978 album was a revelation to me as I heard Willie sing standards from other eras.  Willie picked his favorites and did them proud with his unique interpretations.  This is a treasured piece of my surviving vinyl collection.

In my humble opinion, one of the greatest vinyl albums of all time is actually a double album by a group formed of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young.  The 1970 album 4 Way Street was recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York, The Chicago Auditorium, and The Forum in Los Angeles.  All four individually wrote the songs on the album.  The harmonies were classic and enduring.  The messages were timeless.

FOR MOTHERS EVERYWHERE, A SONG – MOTHER’S WALTZ:

Mother’s Day – May 10, 2015

FROM Serendipity: The big weekend has arrived. Mother’s Day has come around again. The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago … but of course, it is brand new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8 with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong. Memories in music for all mothers everywhere.

FROM swo8: Mother’s Day is May 10th and the great American author and photographer (blush), Marilyn Armstrong and I have worked on another collaboration. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The first couple in the video are my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother died in childbirth leaving 3 babies and a husband.

When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised. The aunt is the lady sitting by the fire-place. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavours to under take in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 


Other posts you might enjoy:

POSTING IN THE TROT BY SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

FOREVER WALKING BY SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

FOREVER WALKING BY SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

I’VE GOT THE WINTER BLUES – SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

WAYFARING STRANGER

I am a poor, wayfaring stranger.

Traveling through this land of woe.

PL-6 window, cat, forsythia

PL-6 window test

Winter weary, we wander. Why does cold linger? What to do?

We were going north, but wonder now if that’s wise. If, when we wend our way so high into those mountains, will winter still linger there?

Watching out my window. I’m waiting for the world to renew itself. And me.

Will you bring me sunshine? If you do, I too will bloom. Yesterday, I noticed the Columbine shoots, dozens of shafts that herald tall lilies. Tulips by the score. Solomon’s seal almost ready. It too needs just a little encouragement. One sunny day is all we need. The roses have gone wild and will need cutting back.

What have we here? Another gray day. More coffee, I think.

Waiting is. I will work on my garden later, if the rain holds off. The flowers grow undaunted. They have hardier souls than me.

Fearful Symmetry

BARTERING MY LIFE AWAY

The Barter System

Bartering may be “old style” in the U.S., but I think that’s just in cities. Because in the country, a lot of bartering still goes on. The countryside … where the cows outnumber people and only the horses look fat and happy.

July - Farm Stand

“I’ll write your brochure if you’ll frame couple of pictures.” Done!

“I’ll clean your kennel if you’ll groom my Scottie.” Done!

But then there are the old-fashioned people. “I’ll plow your driveway because you are a member of our church, even though you never show up. How about I dig you out — and you come to church this Sunday?” A bargain is a bargain. He didn’t require we come every Sunday, right?

steeple light 3

“Sweetie, I’ll buy your prom dress and all the trimmings. All I want from you are a couple of hours to take a some nice pictures of you all dressed up and ready to go.” Done and done! Until she decides to not go to the prom at all (long story).

“God? Hello up there? If you make my cancer go away, I’ll attend church every week. Forever!” Unfortunately, God didn’t say anything. Fortunately, the cancer went away.

When you negotiate with The Big Guy Up There, you’ve got to hope he’s listening. Faith is the coin of exchange. You believe, he delivers. Or not.

Yellow Rays

Personally, I think one, loud, direct, incontrovertible Word from The Big Guy would go a long way to turning this nasty old world of ours into a better place, especially if accompanied by a major smiting.

The “blind faith” thing has gotten old. Just saying.

KISS OF FIRE

Is “ring of fire” any relationship to “kiss of fire?”

75-FirepitPosterART-1

It was a Georgia Gibbs song I had on a 45 RPM record when I was a kid. It was so hyper-dramatic, I learned to sing it. I can still sing it, usually driving everyone from the room.

It’s a pretty good way to get everyone to go home. A fine party ender, even if it isn’t your party.