HEARTACHE AND DANCING, WITH COCKTAILS

Heartache and a cocktail …

Well, now this was fun! So much fun, I might do it again (and again). The Daily Post has published two original, brand new never seen in this world prompts for two days in a row. Try not to faint, but it’s true.

This one asks “what was the top song on the charts when you were born” with a link to look it up by date. It’s called “BirthdayJams.com” and it’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

On March 11, 1947 — a great year for post war baby booming, the top song in the U.S. was …

Ted Weems OrchESTRA – Heartaches, Decca 1938

My mother used to make fun of this song. She called it a “weeper” but there have been times when I might have taken it as a warning. This is an orchestral version, so there’s no weeping, just dancing. As there should be!

I couldn’t resist finding out Garry’s song. For April 7, 1942, with long years of World War II ahead, the song was …

I think I like his better! And it could hardly be more appropriate.

You can also look up the top song in the U.K. and a couple of other choices, just for fun. Give it a try and see what your birth song was.

PAGING PONCE DE LEON

Carly Simon is in my head a lot these days singing, “You’re So Vain”. After decades of seeming perpetual youth in my career as a reporter, the portrait in my attic has become an illusion. It’s something with which most people who work in the public eye must come to grips as time goes by.

First, it was my hair turning salt and pepper, then predominantly gray. And, then, oh horror! A bald patch atop my head which has crept ever forward. Mother of mercy!!

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As a TV news guy, I was on the air several times a day, five or six days a week. For 31 years. I remember walking into an electronics store and seeing myself on dozens of TV sets, surrounded by a throng of appreciative people. From an ego point of view, it just doesn’t get much better.

The hair crisis was paralleled by my body telling me I could no longer work such long hours, nor party with little sleep and questionable dietary habits.

Understand that I’ve been retired going on 15 years now but I’ve been very slow to accept that the guy I see in the pictures on our wall no longer exists. Last week, I visited my two younger brothers at our family home. Our mission? Prepare the 60-year-old house for sale. Huge cleanup. My body cried for relief the first day. My brothers were sympathetic. I was grateful but my ego took a hit.

Three brothers and a cousin

Three brothers and a cousin

The drive home from West Hempstead to Uxbridge was out of “The Twilight Zone”. Bumper to bumper from start to finish. More than five hours! I used to relish such trips, regardless of traffic. It was fun in those convertible days, top down, letting memories blur the idiotic, incompetent motorists around me.

My convertible days are history along, with my tolerance for long hours on the road.

Credence Clearwater Revival rode shotgun the final hour of the drive, keeping me alert as I finger tapped the steering wheel. “Midnight Special” played a half-dozen times, right into our driveway as I arrived home and allowed myself a long sigh. I slowly — very slowly — extracted myself from the car. I tried to stretch.

Oh, the dismay. The fear and trembling. Where the hell was Ponce De Leon when I needed him? Probably still in his eternal search for that elusive fountain of youth …

TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS II

Comedy Division, by Rich Paschall

This was a tough category to narrow down.  Even just considering comedies over the years you can compile a massive list.  There really have been quite a few good ones.  When tossing songs from consideration, I found I had to let go of some of those jingles that are more of a novelty than a good song. That would include things like Car 54 Where Are You? and The Beverly Hillbillies. For this same reason I eliminated a few of my favorites like Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Ed and The Addams Family.

Cartoon themes could easily have been a component here, but I liked too many of those and think I may have to produce a Top 10 list some day.  I will hand out an honorable mention to The Simpsons for this category, however.  The long running prime time series, soon to enter its 27th season, is known by just about everyone with a pulse.  So you certainly know the opening theme.

We can also give an honorable mention to a closing theme.  While the opening tune for All in the Family may be well-remembered, the closing had a completely different song, Remembering You.  The tune was written by Roger Kellaway with lyrics by the show’s star, Carroll O’Connor.  If you search You Tube, you can find a performance by O’Connor singing the song, and not as Archie Bunker.

10. WKRP theme.  The fictional radio station was quite a hit in the 1970’s, along with the theme by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson.

9.  Making Our Dreams Come True, from Laverne and Shirley.  The Happy Days spin-off had a theme by the same pair that gave us the Happy Days theme, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.

8.  I Love Lucy. The tune was not written by Desi Arnaz, although his orchestra played the famous theme. Eliot Daniel wrote the music but was not given credit at the time, since he was under exclusive contract to another studio. The lyric by Harold Adamson was only sung by Arnaz on the show one time.

7.  Movin’ On Up, from The Jeffersons. The All In The Family spin-off produced a great opening theme by Ja’net Du Boise.

6.  Where Everybody Knows Your Name, from Cheers. Yes, this popular tune makes the top of some lists. The song was performed by the composer, Gary Portnoy, and was so popular he recorded a longer version for release after the show began. It also earned him an Emmy nomination.

5.  The Muppet Show theme by Muppets creator Jim Henson and Sam Pottle.  The prime time puppet show was way beyond Sesame Street.  The little ones may not have gotten all the jokes, but the show was always fun to watch.  The openings varied each season, but the music was the same.

4.  The Andy Griffith Show theme by Earle Hagen, Herbert Spencer and Everett Sloane.  It’s Hagen that is doing the famous whistling.  Sloane wrote words and Griffith later recorded that version, with him singing instead of the whistling.

3.  Welcome Back, Kotter by John Sebastian.  The former Lovin’ Spoonful singer did not have much of a solo career until this number 1 hit song in 1976.  The television series was a hit as well.

2.  Happy Days by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.  The song perfectly fit the nostalgic TV series set in an earlier time.  The original opening was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley but was soon replaced by this original theme song.

1. Those Were The Days from All in the Family.  The tune by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse was so popular that Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, the stars of the show, performed it for each studio audience.

TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS

Drama Division, by Rich Paschall

You have clearly been waiting patiently for the coming of my next top 10 list.  Well, wait no more.  I have diligently gone through the memory banks to produce a list for you.  After compiling a hefty list of TV theme songs, I find that I had to limit the category.  Out went the novelty songs like The Addams Family and Gilligan’s Island.  Out too were the comedy themes of note like Welcome Back, Kotter and the theme from Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

We could not include your cartoon favorites or even the great pieces written for news broadcasts or special events.  The Olympics theme that NBC gets to overuse with each Olympics is a stand out piece introduced in 1984 and easily recognizable now.  I could make a case for a hundred songs if I did not find a theme for this list, so drama shows is the category.

Now I admit I do not watch a lot of television shows anymore, aside from sports, so most of these will not be of recent vintage.  But it is uniquely my list and may include few of your favorites.  Please add to the list in the comments below.

Getting an honorable mention is the theme from MASH.  You may say that it is a comedy, but many considered it a serious show with some dark humor tossed in.  Also, the theme song, Suicide Is Painless, was actually written for the movie and wisely used without the words for the television show.  Along with the series, the theme reached iconic status.

Another honorable mention goes to the Star Trek themes.  Many will tell you that the second series, The Next Generation, improved upon the original song, scripts, and special effects.  I still like the original series with William Shatner chewing up the scenery at every chance.

10.  Believe It Or Not, The Greatest American Hero. The unlikely hero of this show (William Katt) gets a super hero suit, but no instructions. The recording by singer Joey Scarbury stayed 18 weeks on the Top 40 and made it to number 2 in August of 1981.

9. Hill Street Blues theme, by Mike Post who also co-authored Believe It Or Not. The 1980’s cops drama was a critical success and ran 7 seasons.

8. Rockford Files theme, Mike Post teamed up with yet another person to pen this tune. The 1970’s detective drama starred James Garner and ran 6 seasons.

7. Bonanza. This instantly recognizable theme was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the long running television western. The insanely talented songwriting duo also gave us the theme to Mr. Ed and the Christmas classic, Silver Bells, among many others.

6. Hawaii Five-0. The iconic tune was updated and reused for the current series. There’s not much difference to my ears.

5. A few notes in and you will immediately know the music for the spy thriller Mission Impossible. The show is pretty dated now, but still fun to watch. Here Lalo Schifrin plays his famous composition:

4. Rawhide launched the career of Clint Eastwood. The theme song was not written for the Blues Brothers movie, as some might think, but instead for this much earlier classic western series. The vocal by Frankie Laine was a big hit.

3. Doctor Who theme. The current theme is an updated version of the original but is still pretty good. Can you imagine the Doctor travelling in the tardis to any other music? Here are all the versions, just in case you need them.

2. Perry Mason theme For some unknown reason, this did not even make some lists I reviewed. I think it fits the show perfectly. It was reused in a series of Perry Mason movies long after the television series. The movies also starred Raymond Burr as the lawyer who never loses.

1. The best television theme was the classic tune by Henry Mancini for Peter Gunn. The private detective series featured jazz music like any good film noir detective movie of the 1950’s. The music was also recycled in the Blues Brothers movie. Mancini won an Emmy Award for the music and a Grammy for the album.

Sources:

Believe It or Not, Wikipedia
Livingston and Evans
Peter Gunn, Wikipedia

Next week: Top Television Theme Songs II, Comedy Division

WHAT’S A HERO?

It was a rerun of an NCIS episode from a couple of years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”


My cousin is my oldest friend, though we don’t see each other much any more. We communicate via the Internet, not in person.

“You’ve always been braver than me,” she said.

The context was a picture of me and Garry riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. There’s a camera at the first drop. Hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and others screaming as you go down the nearly vertical first drop on an 84-year old wooden coaster.

But brave? It wasn’t as if I’d volunteered to rescue someone from danger. I paid my money and got the best adrenaline rush money can buy. Not brave. Not heroic.

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Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all that and lead a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s the Cyclone. I could have lived with that.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship alive but I don’t deserve a medal. You don’t get medals for surviving or shouldn’t. Saving ones own life (and occasionally as collateral anti-damage, other people’s too) is instinct, not valor.

Staying alive is hard-wired into our DNA. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You have to make a willing choice. There has to be a choice! Taking risks for the fun of it, to make a killing in the stock market, or because your only other option is death isn’t courage.

If it’s fun, it’s entertainment. I love roller coasters. I probably would have liked sky diving had my back not been so bad. A personal passion or hobby involving doing dangerous stuff is not brave. Maybe it’s not even intelligent.

Taking a risk for profit? Shrewd, not brave.

Saving your own life? Finding a way by hook or crook to keep a roof over your head and food on your table? That’s instinct.

I’ve never done anything I define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining and fascinating stuff. Some of these adventures proved disastrous. Others worked out okay. I’ve occasionally been selfless in helping others when I could. But I never voluntarily put myself in harm’s way to save someone else.

The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t easy. I don’t think you get medals for that, either.

Anyway, that’s what I think.

SOUNDS OF SILENCE

Break the Silence

From May 25, 2014

When was the last time you really wanted (or needed) to say something, but kept quiet? Write a post about what you should have said.


The last time I really wanted — or needed — to say something, but kept quiet? I’m pretty sure it was when I had not yet learned to speak. Since then, I’m reasonably certain I’ve communicated whatever it was … one way or the other.

Just ask anyone who knows me. Really.

GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGIOUS MUSIC

For a woman who is essentially religiously neutral, firmly clinging to my position of “no opinion” like a limpet on a wet rock with the tide coming in — I really love church music. I cannot help myself. Play me some Christmas carols and I am singing (croaking?) along with heartfelt enthusiasm.

Blame my elementary school teachers, not to mention all those little Christian girls with whom I grew up.

rhyming HallelujahMy parents neglected to mention I was Jewish. They failed to mention religion at all for the first 8 years of my life. I knew we didn’t have a Christmas tree. I knew my mother didn’t eat ham or bacon, but the rest of us ate it and my father cooked it.

I wanted Christmas and felt deprived every year when my friends had millions of presents and a big tree and we had Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, two electrified plastic statues in our front window — the family’s nod to the holidays.

No menorah. No synagogue. No indication of any kind of holiday in progress except for our two plastic friends.

I didn’t know what a Jew was. I knew what a Catholic was because several friends went to St. Gerard’s, the nearby Catholic school. I knew what nuns and priests were. I could say the rosary, because Mary taught me.

I knew what Lutheran was, because Carol got time off every Wednesday afternoon to go for religious instruction. I had heard about Sunday School. And Mass. And services.

One day, at school, they showed a series of films designed to teach us to not be anti-Semites or racists.

It was a strip film with sound. Joe was on a trapeze trying to do a flying somersault. The catcher, clearly Jewish because he had a big star of David on his chest, was the catcher. But Joe, a blatant anti-Semite, wouldn’t take Joe’s hands and fell to the floor. Splat.

“Don’t be a shmo, Joe.

Be in the know, Joe.

Be in the know, and you won’t fall on your face.”

Then we got a lecture on being nice to Jews. I went home and asked my parents, “What’s a Jew?”

Mom turned to Dad and said these immortal words, “Albert, we have to do something about this.”

Shortly thereafter, my peaceful Sunday mornings were interrupted by boring classes at the nearby synagogue. I would come home pumped up on bible stories which my mother, the atheist, would promptly debunk. It wasn’t long before I was allowed to stop attending. It was clearly not “my thing.” If they’d let me out on Wednesday afternoon at 1 pm like the Christian kids, I’d have gone with more enthusiasm, just to get off from school early.

That being said, my enthusiasm for church music remains unabated. I love hymns, the organ, choirs. The blending of voices tugs at my heartstrings. I sang my heart out in the glee clubs of childhood and the All-City Chorus (Mozart’s Requiem — I was an alto) in High School. And of course, in college I was a music major.

It made my mother more than a little nervous as I wandered around the house singing the Mass in Latin. I did explain to her that the history of Western music is church music. From plainsong, to Hayden, Bach, Mozart and all the others who have followed.

Organized religion is the primary consumer of choral music. I am by no means the only person who can be lured into church by a choir.

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If Sunday morning services were all music without the rest of the yada, yada, I’d be there. From gospel to the local children’s choir, it’s all beautiful to me.

I suppose finally discovering I was of Jewish origin should have grounded me somehow, but it didn’t. Not really. It set me on a much longer path that I am still walking. Forever the seeker, I have learned it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.