BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!

My Top 10 Cold Weather Songs, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

With much of the nation having already been visited by cold and snow, it seems like a good time to bring on the winter tunes. Songs by any band with “Cold” in their name is not what we mean here.  Nor shall we include song about loves who are as “Cold As Ice” or running “Against The Wind.”  Our tunes are really songs about winter, cold, and snow.  Some are a bit more symbolic than others, but they will do nicely for my purposes.

Let’s be clear, they are not holiday songs, although some of them only get played in the holiday season.  Since the Christmas holiday season seems to start around Halloween and go until New Year’s Day, I guess there is already ample opportunity to hear some of them.  You will discover that there is no holiday greeting included in the cold and snowy lyrics.  In fact, we will give you some instrumentals just because you can already place them in your winter memory.

Let me start you off with an honorable mention from the movie White Christmas.  No I am not sneaking in a Christmas song.  This is strictly two minutes of wishing for snow by four big name performers:

There are a number of other songs about snow that may not be classics, but are good nonetheless.  Track down “Snow” by Harry Nilsson, for example.  Type in “Snow” in a You Tube search and you will certainly see “Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.  On second thought, you better type in “snow songs” so you can avoid all those home-made videos of people stuck in a snow drift.

Here’s our bottom 5 with everything from a Classical sound to traditional, rock to rolling “down the streets of town” by a snow man.  There are winter birds of all kinds if you just let it snow:
10. Wizards of Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
9. Winter – Rolling Stones
8. Frosty the Snowman – by just about everyone with a Christmas Album or two
7. Snowbird – Anne Murray
6. Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra, but there are probably a thousand versions of this by now

The next one earns a place here as much for the back story as anything.  This symbolic “A Winter’s Tale” was written by Freddie Mercury from his hospital room overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland.  The visions he describes are what he could see from his room.  He laid down the keyboard tracks and vocals in a Swiss studio two weeks before his death.  Queen later finished the song with their parts.  It was released as the second song on a posthumous album four years later.
5. A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Winter imagery can be found in a lot of songs by Paul Simon, especially from the Simon and Garfunkel years. A Hazy Shade of Winter was certainly one of their biggest hits and earns a spot on my songs of the Polar Vortex. You will find an intriguing version by the Bangles from years later, but let’s stick with the original.
4. Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel

One of the most popular songs of the Christmas season is Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Although often played only as an instrumental, the lyrics say nothing of the holidays. There is, however, “a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray.” They are rather seasonal as they “pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie,” but the song really is about a sleigh ride through the snow. Find a version with someone singing, if you must. Nothing says “Sleigh Ride” like the Boston Pops Orchestra:
3. Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson – John Williams & The Boston Pops

If you are not sleigh riding through the snow, perhaps you are walking in a winter wonderland. There are many versions of this seasonal classic, but I could not pass by Tony Bennett singing outside in Rockefeller Center. Tony’s nose is so red he could be Rudolph. Despite the frozen crowd, the musicians somehow manage to play as Mr. Bennett looks appropriately cold:
2. Winter Wonderland – Tony Bennett

When I think of cold and snow outside, this is my song. There is nothing that inspires me to go out in a storm. While I enjoyed seeing Joseph Gordon-Leavitt do this with Lady Gaga, of all people, and nothing compares to Ricardo Montalban crooning at Esther Williams or Red Skelton at Betty Garrett in the movies, the best version is Dean Martin and anyone. He recorded the song with a number of people, here with Martina McBride
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Marin with Martina McBride

This Frank Loesser penned tune won the Academy Award for the 1949 romantic comedy musical Neptune’s Daughter.

SO LONG, IT’S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW’YA

Cue the Violins - If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?


Is it possible to be hung over without drinking or drugs? If so, I am. Too much talking and laughing. So this is going to be very short.

96-Pops2012HP_49

Backtrack of the Weavers singing “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know’Ya.”  Add some more folk tunes. “Lonesome Traveler” comes to mind. At least one performance of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.

The Beatles “When You’re 64.”

And another cup of coffee. Maybe two.

A LITTLE TRAVELIN’ MUSIC AND PICTURES

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #20

I thought I’d start with a little traveling’ music. Because there’s something about the open road and music playing. You want to tap your feet, but you can’t, because you’ve got those pedals.

Boston road signs

So you drive faster — if you can and traffic allows — until the sound of the road under your wheels matches the music. Then you just hope the cops don’t nail you for speeding.

road to skowhegan Rt 201

72-On-The-Road_019

The music and the trees and the road and all the little towns through which you travel become one, part of a single experience. Traveling. Rolling on and it feels like it’ll last forever.

road to skowhegan Rt-201

Maine autumn roads

A POPPY IN REMEMBRANCE

World War I (WWI) officially began on July 28, 1914, though its real beginnings were rooted in events beginning decades, even centuries earlier. An ugly, devastating war consisting of 4 years of slaughter ending on November 11, 1918, they day we celebrate today.

The official number of military casualties is 22,477,500 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The combined number of military and civilian casualties is more than 37 million. If, as I do, you consider World War II as chapter two of the same conflict, the number of dead becomes even more incomprehensible.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has celebrates Veteran’s Day each year, usually by inviting historians and military people to do introductions and closing comments on war films. General Wesley Clark has been doing TCM’s commentaries, most recently for Oh! What a Lovely War.

He referred to the movie as a musical comedy. While it has amusing moments, calling it a musical comedy doesn’t cut it. If comedy can be dark, this is totally black. It’s also surprisingly informative. I can date my interest in World War I and modern American history to having seen this movie when it was released in 1969.

In his closing comments following the movie, General Clark said he hoped we had learned our lesson from this and all the other wars of the past century. I turned to Garry and said, “And what lesson, exactly, might that be?”

“Obviously,” said my husband, making a sour face, “We have learned nothing.”

I agree. Well, we did learn a few things, though nothing good. We learned to build more lethal weapons. We can kill more people faster than we did 100 years ago. Much of our military technology emerged during and post-WWI.

I don’t see this as progress. If you want to know why I’m so cynical, why I have trouble believing in a benign deity, look at the casualty figures from the collective wars of the past century.

I love this movie. Not only because of its historical veracity — it’s accurate — but because the music is wonderful. The cast includes everyone who was anyone in British cinema at the time – Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde, Ralph Richardson and more, all having a great time.

I’ve seen this many times and I guess so has Garry since we can both know the words to all the songs. Very catchy.


OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR

Directed by Richard Attenborough (his directorial début)

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR

Until I saw this movie, I didn’t get the connection between poppies and World War I.

All I knew was that veterans organizations gave red poppies to people when they donated money, but I had no idea why. After you see this movie, you will never forget why.

I originally saw “Oh! What a Lovely War” when it was released in 1969. It’s World War I – in song, dance and irony. Its catchy score sticks in your brain.

The songs were sung by the troops and the cast includes everyone who was anyone in British stage or screen in the 1960s. The credits are a who’s-who of English actors.

World War I is hard to understand. 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. Europe was a giant bomb waiting for someone to light a match.”

Hers may be as good an answer as any other. When the war began, it was the old world. The crowned heads of Europe ruled. When it finally ground to a halt in 1918, the world had changed beyond recognition. The European monarchies were gone. A generation of men had been slaughtered. The death toll was 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 or starvation. It paved the way for major political upheaval throughout the world.

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 be called an orchestrated, organized international effort to murder a generation of men. They did a good job.

The statements of the historical characters – all lodged a safe distance from the fighting — are ludicrous. General Haig, looking at the staggering loss of life on both sides, really said: “in the end, the Germans will have 5,000 men and we will have 10,000, so we will have won.”? He said it. And meant it.

The arrival of the Americans and their takeover of the endless war — bringing it to a conclusion while there was still something left to save – is a great cinematic moment. I wonder how long it would have gone on without American involvement? Would Europe exist or would it all be a wasteland?

The war is told with music and dancing. Songs mixed with pithy comments from generals, kings, Kaisers and 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 what 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, 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 love great movies, grab one.

Great directing, biting sarcastic humor, terrific music and informative, this movie is in a category all by itself. It was unavailable for more than 20 years. You won’t be disappointed and you won’t forget it. In the 45 years since I first saw it, I haven’t forgotten it.

If you are willing to pay an exorbitant price, Amazon has a few copies here.

THIS WORLD SHOULD END

The Path to a New Beginning, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Ask anyone what is wrong with the world, and you will certainly get an opinion, or many of them.  We can all point to things that are wrong with politics, education, religion or whatever it is that crosses your mind, but we don’t all agree on what those things are.  We are polarized to the max, whatever that means, and we can not reach consensus.  Worse, influential people will try to make sure the majority does not rule.

With an eye toward the concept that this world should end, the one that is full of prejudices and deceit, is a video that presents our problems in detail.  That You Tube video has gone viral.  A rap artist and rights activist who calls himself Prince EA has put out a video that quickly hit a million views and is reposted and shared everywhere.  It needs reposting again.

Richard Williams, a 26-year-old advocate for change, has taken a stage name, Prince EA.  It is not unusual for a rap artist to take a stage name, but this one has significant meaning.  For Williams it means Prince of the Earth, for it is the earth he is most concerned with.  The earth, and all of its problems, needs a mighty voice and that is what Williams aims to provide in a well produced video.  He wastes no time in coming to the point.  The video opens strongly:

The world is coming to an end
The air is polluted, the oceans contaminated
The animals are going extinct, the economy’s collapsed
Education is shot, police are corrupt
Intelligence is shunned and ignorance rewarded

The people are depressed and angry
We can’t live with each other and…

He will tell you we can’t live with ourselves. We can’t really communicate with others.  Do we not live in a world of “robotic communication?”  I see it all the time.  There are people too busy with facebook, twitter, tumbler, You Tube or whatever to have real communication.  So perhaps it is somewhat ironic that Williams’ message has gone viral on You Tube.

Presidents lie, politicians trick us
Race is still an issue and so is religion
Your God doesn’t exist, my God does and he is All-Loving
If you disagree with me I’ll kill you
Or even worse argue you to death

When we argue people to death, how often do we do it anonymously, via facebook or Twitter.  How willing are we to really face these problems and seek solutions?  The world we see is one Williams thinks should end.  Do you agree?

Our role models today
60 years ago would have been examples of what not to be
There are states where people can legally be discriminated against
Because they were born a certain way

There are indeed role models today who in past generations would not have been allowed to be seen by youth as a standard to achieve, if they were allowed to be seen at all.  And while we permit this type of role model, we see others that certain parts of society would like to suppress, because of skin color, sexual orientation or religion.  How can we popularize sex and violence while discriminating against love and religion?

So what can we do in the face of all of this madness and chaos?
What is the solution?

Prince EA asks the question and he is not afraid to follow with the answer.  It is a simple answer of course.  It is the answer we have known all throughout time, but rarely seem to apply.  “We can love
Not the love you hear in your favorite song on the radio
I mean real love, true love, boundless love
You can love, love each other”

This is why the world should end.  It needs a fresh start with love.  It is the love we must all provide.  Where do we start to write a new history? Where is that new beginning?  Where is that message that we need to go viral?

“Why I think the World Should End,” by Prince EA, Cinematography and Editing by Brandon Sloan

THEY’RE CREEPY AND THEY’RE KOOKY

My top 10 Halloween Songs, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

With Halloween just a short time away, it seems only right that I give you my top ten favorite Halloween songs.  When I thought of this list I soon had 20 titles, so I stopped looking and started trimming it down.  Some of the titles sounded good, but the music was a disappointment.  For example, I hunted down the theme song to the old television series, Thriller, but the music was more of a 50′s jazz sound and not scary at all.

A few were fun songs and while they were popular, they didn’t make the cut.  Ghostbusters immediately came to mind.  It is a slick melody, but not necessarily fitting of a fright night.  Little Shop of Horrors was a fun play and the title tune is catchy, but also not scary or fun in a traditional Halloween way.  Rocky Horror Picture Show gave us Time Warp.  That may make a lot of lists, but not mine.  Sweeny Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, has some gruesome moments, but which song would make the grade here?  A Little Priest?

Counting down from number 10, I offer the first 5 as musical themes to frighten the little trick or treaters.  Perhaps you would like to have these playing through a speaker on your front porch to encourage little ones to make the frightful climb to your front door.  Who knows what might be lurking just inside?
10. Halloween movie theme
9. Jaws movie theme
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street movie theme
7. Exorcist movie theme
6. Psycho movie theme

These five should provide plenty of creepy music for you.  If that doesn’t do it, add in one of my all-time favorite television themes.

5. The Twilight Zone theme song

We can lighten the theme up for a moment “with a spooky little girl like you.”

4. Spooky, Classics IV

The classic theme song from The Addams Family goes on my list.  It is not “mysterious and spooky,” but it is a lot of fun.  Go ahead, sing along.

3. The Addams Family theme song

If it is Halloween, then we need some Werewolves.  This famous pop song was recorded in 1978 and the studio recording featured Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac on drums and bass.

2. Werewolves of London, Warren Zevon

There is no doubt what will be number one.  It is the all-time classic that everyone knows.  Despite the fact that radio stations overplay it every year at this time, its appeal never wears out.  It was released in 1962 with Bobby Pickett performing the song with his Boris Karloff imitation.  The week before Halloween it went to number 1 on the charts.  Fittingly, it has been dragged out every year since.

1. Monster Mash, Bobby Pickett

Monster Mash, Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi, Garpax (US); Decca (UK) labels, 1962