STOP THE WORLD – RICH PASCHALL

I Want To Get Off, Rich Paschall

Stop The World – I Want To Get Off

Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley scored big with their 1961 musical Stop the World – I Want to Get Off . They opened “out of town” in Manchester but quickly moved to London’s West End where the show was a hit. Newley directed and starred in the show. In October of 1962 the production moved to Broadway for a long run. Again Newley starred as Littlechap, with the play moving through the years of the main character’s life. When things were not going his way, Littlechap would shout “Stop the world.” He was a selfish being, who sought success for himself and cared little for others. Does Littlechap ever learn learn his lessons of life and love as you follow him from birth on to the end? (Spoiler alert: If you watch the Davis video to the end you will see the conclusion of the play.)

Anna Quayle starred as the women in Littlechap’s life and won a Tony award for her work. Newley was nominated but lost out to Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Bricusse and Newley picked up three other Tony Award nominations.

There was a film adaptation in 1966. A short Broadway revival starring Sammy Davis, Jr. ran in 1978. The revival begat a television special starring Davis and Marian Mercer. In 1996 there was a television movie starring Peter Scolari. The Newley and Davis productions, as well as the 1966 movie version have cast albums available on Amazon.

What kind of fool am I
Who never fell in love
It seems that I’m the only one
That I have been thinking of

“What Kind of Fool Am I?” closes the second act of the play as Littlechap reflects back on his life. The Newley recording of the song received a Grammy for Song of the Year at the 5th Annual Grammy Awards for the song writers, Bricusse and Newley. Sammy Davis also had a hit with his version of the song released in 1962. Davis’ love of the show and its songs brought him to star in it years later.

What kind of man is this
An empty shell
A lonely cell in which
An empty heart must dwell

So who sang it better? The composer and stage performer Anthony Newley or the dynamic consumate performer Sammy Davis, Jr? You be the judge. Feel free to file your review below.

What kind of lips are these
That lied with every kiss
That whispered empty words of love
That left me alone like this

What kind of lips are these
That lied with every kiss
That whispered empty words of love
That left me alone like this

You Tube will also treat you to night club performances of the song by both artists. Just for fun, we offer this little vintage piece starring our favorite frog on the Ed Sullivan Show. That’s right, I said frog. You may recognize the other performer in this piece as well.

Sources include various Wikipedia articles including:
Stop The World – I Want To Get Off,” Wikipedia, the Free Encycopedia. en.wikipedia.org.

OVERCOMING MY NEWS ADDICTION – By ELLIN CURLEY

I confess. I became a news addict. A true junkie.

The first thing I did every morning is to reach for the phone and check out the Washington Post to see what Trump has done while I was sleeping. The headlines tell me whether I’m going to have a peaceful day focused on my own life, or a stressful day glued to the 24-hour news shows on TV.

My husband, Tom, is worse than I am. He has MSNBC on the TV or his computer playing in the background, if not the foreground, pretty much all day. He only takes a breather when he’s playing video games or Beat Saver (an exercise game). On a big news day, we often drop everything and watch one pundit heavy show after another. I’m not proud of this but it seems to make me feel more in control – like I actually have a handle on what’s going on. I am clearly suffering from Trump Trauma and Anxiety, which is a form of PTSD that psychiatrists are calling a real syndrome that they see regularly in their practices.

I didn’t think I’d be able to break my news habit. On some days I wondered how I had survived before 24-hour cable news came into being. When I had to run errands or have lunch with a friend, I’d listen to MSNBC on the radio and grill Tom when I got home to catch up on anything I might have missed while trying to have a life. I’m exaggerating a little, but unfortunately, not that much.

Weekends were not looked forward to but dreaded. We’re retired so the only difference for us between weekdays and weekends is that we can see our friends who work on the weekends and the cable news shows are mostly repeats. So we don’t get our weekday news fixes. We manage to get through most weekends without any ill effects, though we do long for our regular news anchor friends to return on Monday. Did I mention that I can tell what time it is by which anchor is hosting the MSNBC show of the moment? And I can do this from just the voices – I don’t even have to look at the TV! Again, not something I’m proud of, but there it is.

Then my daughter came to visit from LA for three glorious weeks in December. I didn’t realize that she would be my own personal twelve-step program. I wanted to spend every minute I could with her and she is well informed but not a news junky. So I had to go cold turkey. During the days we hung out, went visiting, shopping, and did projects around the house.

I played lots of gin and double solitaire. In the car, the radio was set to a music channel, not the news. In the evenings, we binge-watched Amazon and Netflix series and watched movies – no news. Not even my favorite, Rachel Maddow. I was having such a good time with Sarah, I didn’t miss the news at all. I noticed that when Tom mentioned some new development and I had no clue what he was talking about, I didn’t care!

“So this is how normal people live,” I thought.

Many of my Facebook friends are also Progressive/Liberal. They religiously keep abreast of what’s happening in the world and we regularly share articles of interest. We also share our outrage about Trump and what he is doing to our country. So I found myself skipping Facebook for days at a time. I got my daily quota of cute animal videos on YouTube.

My news blackout was complete, except for my morning survey of the newspaper headlines. I limited my reading to the headlines and didn’t read any articles.

Sarah and me, December 2019

I wish I could say my three-week detox program had a lasting positive effect on my behavior and my outlook. Or on my habits and my psyche. But it’s too early to tell. I do feel a bit calmer and more positive. Without the daily dose of man’s venality, mendacity, and hypocrisy, my general outlook may have a chance to revert to normal, which is sunnier and less pessimistic.

This is all good.

Sarah has only been gone for a short time and I haven’t watched cable news yet or obsessively read article after article in the papers. My radio in my car is still set to the ‘Broadway’ channel and I’ve decided to get back into baking when I see friends, instead of buying desserts as I have been doing for several years. Baking used to be something I loved, but since I was on Prednisone for over a year and a half and gained ten pounds, I have been on a constant diet and stayed away from cooking and baking as much as possible.

Now though, I wanted the fun of baking again. Of sharing my desserts with friends. I’ve also started working on updating my photo albums – a humongous task involving close to a thousand photos spanning sixteen years.

I see my new interest in these projects and activities as a way to enhance my life apart from the news. It’s good to focus on everyday things that I enjoy doing and bring my daily life back to ‘my’ world and not the national and international world represented by the news. I’m going to work on doing my own thing more and worrying less about our society and the planet plunging into darkness.

I hope my new perspective lasts past the next Trump crisis!

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE?

Who Sang It Best? by Rich Paschall

Maybe it’s much too early in the game
Oh, but I thought I’d ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year’s?
New Year’s eve?

Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year
New Year’s eve

Maybe I’m crazy to suppose
I’d ever be the one you chose
Out of a thousand invitations
You received

Oh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance
What are you doing New Year’s?
New Year’s Eve?

Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) wrote the song in 1947 and it was first recorded by Margaret Whiting that same year. You can hear it above, but we could find no actual video of her singing it.

The doo-wop group The Orieoles had a hit with it in 1949 which stayed on the charts into 1950. That is the second You Tube video above.

The perpetually cute Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt posted a rather amateur video of this in 2011 which has gone viral. It has well over 20 million views.  It is the third video above.

A few years ago we posted a New Year’s article that included Seth MacFarlane singing the song with an added intro that many have used. MacFarlane is the creator of some of your animated favorites and voices multiple characters on his show, Family Guy. The multi talented performer is quite a singer as well and you can check that out here.

Frank Loesser did not intend for the song to be a holiday tune. He was looking well off into the future, “Maybe it’s much too early in the game.” According to his daughter, Susan, “It always annoyed my father when the song was sung during the holidays.”

Who do you think sang it best?

Sources: Song facts, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?song-facts.com
What are you doing New Year’s Eve?” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org

 

VIOLENCE, VIOLENCE! – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My husband is a sweet and gentle man. He is not aggressive and doesn’t have a violent bone in his body. Yet he spends hours a day watching violence on TV, in movies and actively participating in it with video games. What is going on? His appetite for onscreen blood and gore is unfathomable and unsettling to me.

He says that it’s all make believe, that none of it is real. But my problem is that to me, it’s all way too realistic. I have no tolerance whatsoever for any kind of on screen blood and guts. I can’t even watch realistic operating room scenes on my TV medical shows. The sight of someone getting an injection makes me cringe, let alone someone being sliced and diced, even by a pretend doctor. I am a total wuss.

I may have become more sensitive as I get older. Or maybe it’s just that the entertainment industry has taken onscreen violence to another level. It’s more extreme and more gruesome these days. It’s also more graphic and much more realistic looking.

Onscreen violence used to be more suggested and less in your face. When someone got shot or hit on the head, they just fell down and maybe bled a little. Now, wounds are gaping, flesh is torn, internal organs are everywhere and blood is all over everything.

I can’t handle it. I could deal with pretending that someone’s hand was cut off. But in a recent episode of my favorite show, “Outlander”, the cutting off of the hand looked so real I almost lost my dinner. This is true everywhere in the mainstream now, not just on the military, underworld, superhero or shoot ‘em up shows.

There is so much fighting and brutality on TV and in movies. People seem to be more inhuman to each other, and also more creative in their violence. Torture is portrayed, again realistically, all the time. People don’t just shoot each other or stab each other, they use more inventive and sicker ways to inflict pain and suffering.

The world is portrayed these days as a much more brutal place. Man’s inhumanity to man is front and center and perverse sadists are everywhere you look. Many shows are very dark. They are dark in theme as well as lighting. I can tolerate some, like “The Blacklist” and “Blindspot.” But some — like “Gotham” — are over the top for me.

They portray the underside of life, the worst of the worst, the ugliest of the ugly. The public’s appetite for darkness, crime, and plain meanness seem boundless.

Close to half the shows my husband watches on TV, he watches without me. I can’t stomach them. If I did try to watch them, I think I’d be depressed and anxious all the time. I know there is horrible stuff going on out there. But I can’t focus on it or wallow in it. I can’t even bear to read stories about cruelty to animals or children. If I think about it, I become obsessed with awful images and I literally feel sick.

I need to spend most of my time dealing with the normal and the positive. I get enough angst from reading and watching the news. I don’t need to add to that by watching sadism and butchery as entertainment. There is enough crazy and destructive going on in the government, I don’t need to watch pretend craziness and destruction on television in my downtime.

Please let me keep some of my illusions about people having common sense and caring about each other. If I can’t keep some of these fantasies alive, I don’t think I’ll ever make it out of bed.

WINTER IN THE AIR – Rich Paschall

Christmas Every Day, a review, Rich Paschall

Every year a heavenly host of stars puts out a Christmas album. Each hopes they will find some success with their versions of well known Christmas tunes. A few will give you some original music. We’ve already mentioned the “Chicago Christmas” album with seven new Christmas songs. There are other albums out there that might be of interest for their new songs.

David at City Winery

Late last year, American Idol alum, David Archuleta, put out a Christmas album, Winter In The Air.  Of the twelve songs included on the album were three written by David. In addition to the title tune, David has the lively Christmas Every Day. It is an uptempo way to lead off the set.

The video is high energy and fun to watch. It is one of those holiday tunes that deserves more play that it will ever receive. The old standbys continue to rule the waves. Of the secular tunes, I find it to be the best entry. Winter In The Air is also a fine addition to winter songs. It is thoughtful and reflective, more like his later work than his immediate post-Idol years.

While I think this is a fine album, I found the bounce back and forth between holiday tunes and religious tunes to be a bit odd. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the entire set. When David started into White Christmas, I thought he was going to go for The Drifters classic interpretation. Instead, he went to a version I had never heard. It was a pleasant surprise.

This year the “Deluxe Edition” was released. The first twelve songs were the same, but three more were added.  David has an a capella version of the folk tune Still, Still, Still. It finishes off the new release.

Added is a pleasant version of The Christmas Song. The Mel Torme, Bob Wells classic may have been done better, but you will find this video to be an enjoyable effort.  Released a little over a week ago, the video was put together with home movies contributed by fans, “Archies.”

Then there is this little story. David covered the ‘NSync hit, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. In the video, he welcomes friends for a party, but a couple of surprise guests show up. Two of the original ‘NSync members, Lance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick, try to make their way into the party. In addition to the video story below, you can find a “Making of” video on YouTube that will show you how it was done.

Happy Holidays. We hope you were singing along.

See also: “Chicago Christmas,” SERENDIPITY, November 24, 2019.
Something That Has Nothing To Do With Me,” SERENDIPITY, March 4, 2018.
Postcards In The Sky,” SERENDIPITY, May 5, 2019.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OLE BLUE EYES – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It’s Frank Sinatra’s 104th birthday. Somewhere, Sinatra and his pals are smiling and ordering another round of the good stuff.

I recall another Sinatra birthday celebration. 1962. It was a very good year. ’62 was the year JFK met with a group of young reporters and told us we were making history. I’m not sure we understood.

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: SINATRA, FRANK, 1953

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: FRANK SINATRA, 1953

It was the year a bumbling team, the New York Mets, made their début as National League baseball returned to Gotham led by ringmaster, Casey Stengel.

It was the same year in which my Mom received a phone call from someone named Jilly. She was perplexed. That didn’t happen often.

“Garry”, Mom yelled, “Some strange man named Jilly is on the phone for you. Is he one of those drinking people I told you to stay away from”? I gave Mom an insolent look and curtly told her Jilly Rizzo was a confidante of Frank Sinatra. Mom gave me a look that indicated disbelief and anger. Payback later, I quietly concluded.

“Kid, is that you?”, Jilly croaked as I picked up the phone. “Geez, Your mom’s a pistol! No disrespect, Kid.” Jilly Rizzo, a nightclub confidante to Frank Sinatra and an “A” roster of celebrities, was apologizing to me about my Mom. I beamed inwardly.

Rizzo went on to explain “Frank” wanted me to join him and a few friends for a small party. I blurted out a thank you and got details.

For those who didn’t read an earlier story, I had met Frank Sinatra a few weeks earlier. It was a chance encounter during an interview I had done with Jilly Rizzo for our college radio station. For some reason, Sinatra liked what he heard and saw and we had a long conversation over drinks after the Rizzo interview. Sinatra even asked pals Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Hank Henry to give us the table.

Go figure!

FrankSinatra9

We had chatted about personal stuff. I shared the difficulties of my hearing loss and ensuing diction problems. That apparently opened the door for Sinatra to talk about his own diction problems and his concentration on crisp phrasing of lyrics.

After the conversation was interrupted, Sinatra promised we’d get together again. I thought he was just being polite to an aspiring reporter. I was wrong!

Back at Jilly’s Nightclub again, I was greeted by Sinatra pal, Hank Henry who, without hesitation, handed me a double scotch neat and led me into a backroom. There were about a dozen people gathered around a large table. I blinked twice because I recognized almost everyone.

Dino, Sammy, Joey, Richard Conte, Joey Heatherton and radio icons like William B. Williams among others. There was a big birthday cake in the middle of food and booze on the table. The cake frosting was topped by a Sinatra figurine. The classic Frank Sinatra with raincoat slung over his shoulder. I just stared.

sinatra at mic

“Something wrong with the booze, kid?”, Sinatra asked, grinning as we shook hands. I nodded no and took a long slug of the scotch. Good stuff!! Sinatra beamed and led me over to the table introducing me as a friend. There were nods and smiles all around.

Across the room, the music began. Big band stuff. Instrumentals no vocals. It sounded like Tommy Dorsey. There were lots of jokes about Sinatra, his hair (it was very thin and receding), his affection for “renegade” talent and taunts that Eli Wallach was looking for him. By then, it was well-known that Sinatra had gotten his legendary “Maggio” role in “From Here To Eternity” with a little “help” even though Columbia Pictures had originally wanted Wallach for the role that earned Sinatra an Oscar and kick-started his comeback.

At some point, Sinatra pulled me aside and said he wanted me at his party because he liked my style. I was confused. Sinatra smiled and explained he wanted a young person around to remind him of his own youth and personal struggles. He said he’d appreciated that I didn’t try to get a scoop in our first meeting.

There was more chat about dealing with adversity, about how media was changing and the challenges he faced to stay relevant. I just nodded. He asked how things were going for me. I told him about my meeting with JFK and he grinned.

Pictured: Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra in a scene from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, 1953.

Pictured: Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra in a scene from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, 1953.

We talked about movies a bit. I mentioned I hadn’t seen “The Kissing Bandit”, a well-known Sinatra clunker. We shared our love of westerns. I started doing lines from “The Magnificent Seven” and he laughed. He told me about working with Steve McQueen in “Never So Few”. I did little bits of scene-stealing shtick as he discussed McQueen. Laughter all around as others listened in.

dean-martin-say-daiv-jr-frank-sinatra-456-021411

Sinatra finally was serenaded by Dino, Sammy, and the others with a raucous version of “Happy Birthday” laced with profanities.

I just sat smiling, sipping my scotch and not believing I was in the middle of all this. Later, as I got ready to leave, Sinatra approached with two more drinks and smiled, “Cheers, Kid!”.

They were still laughing and singing as I walked out.

FROM RUSSIA WITH MUSIC – Rich Paschall

Leonid and Friends, by Rich Paschall

There are lot of “cover bands.” You know, bands that “cover” (play) the music of famous bands. Some are good or very good. Some are bad or very bad. A few are amazing. Here in the midwest we can see bands all around the area who play as if they are the original band. We have a few who dress like the Beatles and are pretty good at it. I’ve seen cover bands play Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath that are also very accurate. These are different from nostalgia bands who play a variety of “oldies.” Cover bands desire to be exactly like the band whose music they are playing.

Leonid (right) and Friends

About a year ago a friend posted a video on facebook of a band “covering” Chicago (the band). “You’ve got to see these guys, they are amazing.” Of course, I was skeptical. I have many Chicago albums and have seen them a least a dozen times in concert. I have seen their television specials and guest appearances. I recently reviewed their latest “Chicago Christmas” album. I figure you have to be pretty darn good to try to pass yourselves off as Chicago. They are better than darn good, they are amazing.

The surprising thing about this collection of players is they are not local. They are not even from the USA. The group is mostly from Moscow, but are collected across a vast region to come together for their love of a different kind of music. They had posted a few videos previously, but their rendition of 25 or 6 to 4 (“Без 25 или без 26 минут 4”) on You Tube went viral and now has over 2.6 million views. In case you think they have not nailed it, listen to the original Chicago audio here.

Leonid Vorobyev, a musical director from Moscow, had reached the age of retirement (60) five years ago, but wanted to put together a studio project for a Chicago song. Chicago had never been to Russia. The sheet music was not available there. So Leonid listened to the song carefully and set out to write down the music and vocal harmonies, transcribing what he heard. “We have only audio records and videos (to help us learn Chicago songs),” Leonid told a reporter.

The plan was to create a studio recording that sounded exactly like the studio recording of Chicago. One project led to another. If you watch the early videos, you will see that he uses different musicians along the way. They had no thoughts of live performances and tours.

Then they became famous. Even members of Chicago liked the tribute. Leonid’s son joined on as manager and got some live performances for the intergenerational group. In early 2019 they brought the group to the US for a handful of shows. They were a hit. More invitations were received. That led to a Fall 2019 “Fancy Colours” tour.

Saint Charles

Arcada Theater, St. Charles, Illinois

Just west of Chicago, a little more than an hour from where I live (two in rush hour), is the town of St. Charles. It is home to the 897 seat Arcada Theater. Built in 1926, the theater building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 2005 it is operated by the Onesti Entertainment Corporation. This group has been able to line up big name acts for the theater. They saw the Leonid videos and booked the group. The band was coming to Chicago…well, almost.

Leonid and Friends played some of Chicago’s biggest hits as well as some album tracks that Chicago does not play in concert. It is Leonid’s labor of love, and the group plays his choices. You can see the band is a diverse group, and they blend together well.

Leonid explained that finding someone to sing the parts originally performed by Peter Cetera  was a challenge. They ran an online competition to find the right person. Their choice was not in Russia but in Kiev, Ukraine. Serge Tiagniryadno (vocals, guitar) does a commendable job on the early Chicago tunes.

Just as in Chicago, Leonid and Friends uses a number of singers. Sergey Kashirin (vocals, guitar) covers some of the songs performed by Robert Lamm. He may not sound exactly like Lamm, but he has the delivery down perfectly. The inflections in each performance would make you believe he listened to some of the songs over and over.

In addition to playing guitar like Lamm does on Beginnings, he covers the Terry Kath guitar parts with an accuracy you can hardly believe. Kath was arguably one of the best rock guitar players ever, and his live performances can not be duplicated. The studio work must have taken many hours of practice, even for the well educated musician. At the St. Charles performance, Sergey was wearing a t-shirt that said “Kath” and contained the famed Chicago guitar player’s picture.

Leonid and Friends

Serge Tiagniryadno (left) and Sergey Kashirin

Roman Vorobyev acted like an emcee and introduced a few of the songs and gave some background of the band. Leonid, who also speaks good English, introduced the band members to the sold out theater audience.

Roman Vorobyev

At the intermission, a Russian gentlemen in my row said he had seen the group in Moscow. “You know how many groups are playing music like this in Russia?” he asked. I guess a few of us in the row just had blank faces for a response. “None!” he said. “No one else is doing this.” Actually, only one other group continues to play music like this here… Chicago, the band.

Sources: “How a group of guys from Moscow became an internationally renowned Chicago tribute band,” Los Angeles Daily News, January 11, 2019.
Leonid and Friends,” Official website.
Arcada Theater Building,” wikipedia.

See also: “Chicago Christmas“, SERENDIPITY, November 24, 2019.
Chicago NOW,” SERENDIPITY, November 13, 2016.
It Never Gets Old,” SERENDIPITY,  September 1, 2019.

TEN YEARS ONE NIGHT – Rich Paschall

An Idol on Tour, by Rich Paschall

It has been ten years since Kris Allen won American Idol. Despite a strong showing throughout, the win was considered quite an upset. Adam Lambert was expected to be the winner. Lambert had impressed the judges and received a lot of publicity for his flamboyant style. Nevertheless, Allen walked away with the award.

Just as previous contestants were contracted to do, Kris went out on an American Idol tour with other contestants. He made numerous personal appearances and recorded an album. His single “Live Like We’re Dying” climbed the charts and has been his biggest hit. His first album was self-titled. It included 9 songs that were written or co-written by Allen.

Kris Allen

In the years since Allen has recorded several albums, one of which (of course) is a Christmas album. This Christmas effort included five original tunes. including “Mommy, Is There More Than Just One Santa Claus?”

He has also engaged in any number of philanthropic and charitable ventures. He never achieved the overwhelming success that some of the Idol winners and runners-up have achieved, but he remains active and is a strong live performer.

This fall he has been out on his “10 Years 1 Night” Tour. His Chicago stop was at City Winery. I had mentioned this venue before when I saw another former American Idol star, runner up on season seven, David Archuleta. It was the Postcards In The Sky Tour that brought David to Chicago earlier in the year.

City Winery, a performance venue.

City Winery is a unique stop with a restaurant, wine bar, and concert venue. The entertainment room is more of a cabaret-style. It seats 300. Most of the tables are small, but large enough for your wine, or whatever, and a plate of food. Some arrive early for food and drink, while others show up just for the show. Some of the partons seem to sample quite a bit of whatever the winery is serving. This makes them feel like the performance is an interactive experience. Fortunately, Allen knew how to deal with this in good humor.

The two-hour show included a number of Idol reminiscences. One included the week when the performers were asked to do a disco hit. Allen was born after the disco era. He did not grow up hearing this type of music and was unsure what to do. Of course, the show provides suggestions and often steers contestants toward songs. Allen picked the hit from the disco queen, Donna Summer, “She Works Hard For The Money.” Since he really did not know that style of music, the song ended up with a more soulful treatment than it was given before.

In addition to performing this one for us, he reached back for other songs as well. The purpose of the night was to give us Idol memories along with others. The stories were entertaining and the songs were presented with a good dose of energy. It was just Kris and his guitar, plus an occasional assist from an electronic gadget that can provide percussion or repeat measures of music. Allen deftly worked the gadget with one foot as he performed. This added a fuller sound to a handful of songs. The diversity made for a better experience.

Not all performers have entertaining stories or even try to tell any. Kris sprinkled in some personal memories. The 34-year-old gushed about his wife, his high school sweetheart he has known half his life. He talked about winning over her parents after he was the winner of American Idol. That’s when they thought he could actually make a living at music.

Kris Allen in Chicago

He also got the crowd involved in singing along on a couple of songs. At one point he taught different parts to three different sections of the room. While this trick doesn’t always work for performers, the blend actually came out quite nicely in the end. Perhaps my opinion of that was shaded by the French wine.

Near the end of the show, Allen delivered his big hit. As you might expect the song was well received. He mentioned that he is aware there is a Tim McGraw song with the same title, but this one is his own.  You could hear many in the crowd singing along with the chorus:

We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell them that we love them
While we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we’re dying

At the end of the show, Allen went around the front of the stage, shaking hands, and having pictures taken. At least one person got a selfie with Kris. Since I was close to the stage anyway, I moved up to the edge and shook his hand. He said something like, “Thanks for coming,” which he said to many. I guess I should have said, “Thanks for the good show.”

Then, it was time to use the Uber app on my phone.


Sources:

Kris Allen, en.wikipedia.org

City Winery enters a crowded music and restaurant market, by Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2012.

Kris Allen Somethin’ About Christmas, discogs.com

Kris Allen Lyrics, Live Like We’re Dying, azlyrics.com

THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET – Rich Paschall

ATTEND THE TALE, by Rich Paschall

Broadway shows have always been a favorite of mine. I love to see a good live production. With a few notable exceptions (The Sound of Music, West Side Story, etc) I usually hate the movie treatment. This show has a good theater and movie version available on DVD. They are both tasty morsels.

Benjamin Barker is wrongly accused of a crime and sent away from England to a prison in Australia. His beautiful wife is taken by the judge to be his own, and his daughter is adopted by the same judge. Mrs. Lovett makes meat pies, and her shop has fallen on hard times.  Anthony, a sailor, picks up Sweeney Todd, who is adrift at sea. All of this is just for openers.

Todd returns to Fleet Street and his former home, where he encounters Mrs. Lovett.  The sailor comes across the beautiful Joanna, daughter of Todd (Barker), locked in her house by the evil judge.  Of course, Anthony falls in love with her beauty as seen from the window and with her voice.  The Beadle does the judge’s dirty work, which includes keeping people away from his ward.

Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd

One DVD version is the Tony and Emmy award-winning stage production with  original lead performers. The 1979 Broadway smash of the gruesome tale was recorded for television in 1982, starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett and George Hearn as Sweeney Todd. Hearn had replaced Len Cariou (now on Blue Bloods) in the original stage production. Lansbury won a Tony award for her portrayal while Hearn picked up an Emmy.

As experienced theater performers, these two knew how to fill the house with their dynamic interpretations of Lovett and Todd.  They had to be both evil and somewhat sympathetic.  Todd is out for revenge and Lovett is doing her own conniving as well.  Some of the nature of her evil is immediately apparent.  She not only has designs for Mr. Todd, she also sees a way to improve the sale of her meat pies by getting some fresh meat.  If that needs further explanation, I will let you see one of these productions.

Sweeney-original cast

The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim.  The composer of many Broadway shows has mixed a variety of styles here to score big, not just with awards, but with a long running show.  It is proof that a gruesome tale can mix drama and comedy, love and evil, revenge and murder with music and come out a winner.  It is this show that intrigued a young Tim Burton, who would bring us the movie version 25 years later.

sweeney-todd-broadway

In 2007 the silver screen version was released. Featuring most of the Sondheim score and original script, Burton was able to use film to bring more variety to the settings and more blood to the tale.  The gruesome revenge tale was certainly now more…uh, gruesome.

The surprise casting included Johnny Depp as the Demon Barber. Helena Bonham Carter played Mrs. Lovett. It certainly was easier to have some sympathy for the situations of these characters when they were portrayed by the well-known and well liked stars. The immediate question, however, was could they sing.

Alan Rickman (Severus Snape in Harry Potter) is the evil judge. Timothy Spall, who also appeared in many of the Harry Potter films, is the Beadle.  Sacha Baron Cohen is Adolfo Pirelli, the rival barber and con artist from early in the story. His young assistant, Tobias Ragg, is played by a small man with a tenor voice in the theater production, but is covered by 14-year-old Ed Sanders in the film. This is an important change as it more accurately fits the character.

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Gone from the movie is the Greek chorus offering warnings to the audience and an admonition to:

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard of again.

The Burton film saw no need for The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.  The song works well as a theater device and is used throughout the play.  With the movie being able to give you a stronger visual, you should not need the warnings of the chorus.

Also gone is the song “Kiss Me.” You never see in the movie version that the lovers Anthony and Johanna have actually met, while they spend enough time together in the play to do a musical number. Gone too is the “Wigmaker Sequence.” The explanation from Todd to Anthony on how he will rescue Johanna is almost completely missing.

These omissions along with shortened versions of songs leaves the movie at 116 minutes while the television production of the play did not cut anything and runs 139 minutes. The play does add in an “Intermission” so you can go to the refrigerator or wherever.

While it is no surprise to say that the crew of Broadway veterans delivered on their songs, you may wonder about the movie cast. Sondheim himself retained a right of refusal on casting choices for the main parts.

Sweeney-todd-twisted-characters

Though he feared a rock interpretation by Depp, he was pleased with the audition singing of the megastar. Helena Bonham Carter sent a dozen audition tapes to Sondheim.  As she was Tim Burton’s partner at the time, they wanted no hint of nepotism.

Cohen also auditioned extensively and is said to have sung just about everything from Fiddler on the Roof. Alan Rickman, a stage and screen veteran, delivers on the singing of the judge. The duet of “Pretty Women” with Depp rivals anything you may have seen on stage. Having teenager Ed Sanders sing the Toby part adds the poignancy the stage version may miss.

Depp claims never to have sung publicly before, yet he delivers as a brooding, vengeful Todd. Although Bonham Carter picked up awards for Mrs. Lovett, I find her song performance without life. I guess it would naturally suffer against a comparison with Lansbury.

Both productions have features to recommend. Purists of theater productions will opt for the Lansbury/Hearn portrayals. Those in favor of better effects and star power will enjoy the movie. In either case, be sure to “attend the tale.”

ROCK AND ROLL HEAVEN – Rich Paschall

Let The Music Play, by Rich Paschall

You may have forgotten some of your favorite songs, but Rock And Roll Never Forgets. So, roll yourself over here and we will rock you with our latest Top Ten list. Some may not have heard these old classics so let us assure you of one thing. Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.

Perhaps you wanted to be a Rock And Roll Star, or just a singer in a rock and roll band. No matter what your Rock And Roll Fantasy, you can show us everything you’ve got and Rock And Roll All Nite.

We are not just bringing you Rock And Roll, Part 2, but my entire list of Top Ten songs with Rock and Roll in the title. You must think I am a Daft Punk if I did not realize there are a lot of songs with Rock And Roll in the title. We went to the Velvet Underground to find an Oasis of rock where a Motorhead can be Spiritualized by the roll of thunder.

Here we chose the best ones for you.

So strike the match because it is time for some Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo:

Lawdy mama light my fuse
Rock and roll, Hoochie Koo
Truck on out and spread the news

10. Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy, Bad Company. The enduring British group had a hit with this one in 1979. The song was written by lead singer, Paul Rodgers and is a good way to rock the start of our list. Are you up and dancing yet?

9. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. The original version was recorded by the British group Arrows, and it is an upbeat rock and roll anthem. Joan Jett covered it to great success in 1982. Others have done well with it since.

8. Rock & Roll Band, Boston. They were not just another band out of Boston. They had an impressive string of hits in the 1970s. This song appeared on the debut album and was released in 1976, having been recorded almost a year earlier. By the way, the lyrics do not reflect the band’s story.

7. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, Billy Joel. The Hall of Fame rocker scored big with this one. It hit number one in the US and Canada in 1980. The song was written by Joel. The recording was produced by the legendary Phil Ramone.

6. The Heart of Rock & Roll, Huey Lewis and the News. Written by Lewis and saxophone player Johnny Colla, the song climbed the charts in 1984. The official music video seen here features clips of 1950’s rockers. It was shot in part on the Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square in winter.

5. Rock and Roll, Led Zeppelin. It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled. Neverthless, the hard-rocking British group will long be remembered for their dynamic recordings and electrifying live performances. In 2018 the group released a remix of the single Rock and Roll (Sunset Sound Mix).

4. It’s Only Rock and Roll, The Rolling Stones. I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it. The band continues to roll on, even if they look like father time has run them over in his Aston Martin. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote the tune with an assist by Ronnie Wood. It was released in 1974 and the group has been playing it ever since.

3. I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band), The Moody Blues.
If you want this world of yours to turn about you
You can see exactly what to do, don’t tell me
I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band

The song was written by Hall of Fame songwriter John Lodge, bass guitar player for The Moody Blues. It was released in 1973.

2. Old Time Rock and Roll, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.
Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock n’ roll

Seger did not receive credit for his work writing lyrics. According to him, his manager said: “You should ask for a third of the credit.” And I said: “Nah. Nobody’s gonna like it.” It was listed in 2001 in Top Songs of the Century, and American Film Institute named it in 100 years …100 songs in 2004. You may recall Tom Cruise sliding across the floor in Risky Business.

1. Rock and Roll Music, Chuck Berry.
Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music
Any old way you choose it

Chuck Berry wrote the song and recorded it in Chicago in May 1957. It was released later in the year. Many have recorded it since. The Beatles played it to great sucess in their early years. The Beach Boys scored big with it. It is Berry who will forever be remembered for one of rock’s greatest hits.

What are your favorites? To listen to any one, click on the title above. For the entire playlist, including bonus tracks, click here.

Just for fun, we have a commercial this week. You might remember the battle of the two Davids on Season 7 of American Idol. If so, you might also remember this take on Risky Business:

HERE’S YOUR HAT. WHAT’S YOUR HURRY? Marilyn Armstrong

I used to be the Entertainment Queen of my crowd. It was close to 40-years ago, but I was the hostess with the mostest.

I fed the hungry, housed the homeless, cheered up the downhearted. I rescued cats, dogs, and lost people. No living creature was ever turned away. It got crowded and if feeding the birds is expensive, imagine feeding 20 extra people every week. I think I was in the kitchen whenever I wasn’t at work.

Motley crowd on Coney Island boardwalk.

One day, I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted some privacy. I didn’t want to clean up the mess or cook gigantic meals. I was tired of spending all my money on other people. The crowd that assembled nightly in my living room weren’t really friends. I had become a facility. A place to crash. Where there was always music, food, something to smoke and probably a good conversation and a sofa.

So I started locking my front door and asked people to call before showing up. About half the crowd never came back … and I never missed them. Others drifted off in the course of time. A few are still my friends today.

Where friends … and guests … are concerned, quality is not necessarily quantity. Actually, these days? Less is definitely more.


AND NOW, TIME FOR A CLASSIC JEWISH JOKE:

A very poor man goes to his Rabbi complaining his house is too small and he can’t stand it anymore. “What should I do?” he asks.

“Get a big dog,” advises the Rabbi.

Puzzled, the man buys a sheepdog and brings him home. The house is even more crowded, and the man returns to the Rabbi. “It’s worse,” he moans.

The Rabbi nods his understanding. “Get a goat. He can be friends with the dog. Oh, and get a cat too.”

Even more confused, the man does as instructed. The house is unbearable. He returns to the Rabbi. “Please, Rebbe, it’s horrible at home. The dog, the cat, the goat … and it smells really bad.”

“I think you need a lamb,” says the Rabbi. “And a calf.”

DogsSlayThe BeastieDutiful to the end, the man gets a lamb and brings it home. The noise alone is deafening. There’s hair everywhere and the place stinks. Finally, he goes back to the Rabbi, now desperate for relief.

“Rabbi, OY VAY, IT’S TERRIBLE. The animals go all over the house and they chase each other. We have no peace, no privacy.”

“Get rid of all those animals,” orders the Rabbi. The man heaves a sigh of relief and the next week returns to see the Rabbi.

“Rebbe, it’s wonderful! We have so much room. The house is clean. Life is wonderful!”


Today, as promised I began the process of crating dolls. As boxes come in, anything big enough becomes storage for dolls. Many of these are more than 50 years old. Some are older than me, but they are effectively like new. Most will end up at the Salvation Army. I hope little girls get to play with them and love them as I did.

But the process of letting go is not merely getting rid of things, but recognizing you no longer have control over what happens to those items. That may be the most painful part of the process.

CATSKILL COMEDIANS IN THOSE GOOD OLD DAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

Maybe you remember the old Jewish Catskill comics. Some of them went back to the old days of Vaudeville. Others are more recent. A fair number are alive and well, and a surprisingly large number are still working. Except, the center of the action today is Las Vegas.

Maybe the Catskills will rise again. Probably not. It has gotten too built up. Meanwhile, ghost hotels are still there. Empty, but packed with memories.

Red Buttons, Totie Fields, Joey Bishop,  Milton Berle, Jan Murray, Danny Kaye, Henny Youngman,  Buddy Hackett, Sid Caesar, Groucho Marx, Jackie Mason, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, George Burns, Allan Sherman, Jerry Lewis (mostly at Brown’s Hotel),  Carl Reiner, Shelley Berman, Gene Wilder, George Jessel, Alan King, Mel Brooks, Phil Silvers, Jack Carter, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Mel Brooks, Mansel Rubenstein and so many others … they were all there.

Grossinger’s in the early 1970s, the end of the good old days

There was not a single swear word in the ” family” routines, but on the road, these guys were (are) as blue as any other comics. Also, when the punchline was in Yiddish, you knew it was too blue for English.

I always tried to get my mother to translate for me, but she said the lines were “earthy” in Yiddish, but disgusting in English. So mostly, I never heard the punchline.


 For your enjoyment, a few oldies but goodies:

I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport.

I’ve been in love with the same woman for 49 years! If my wife ever finds out, she’ll kill me!

What are three words a woman never wants to hear when she’s making love? “Honey, I’m home!”

Someone stole all my credit cards but I won’t be reporting it. The thief spends less than my wife did.

We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.

My wife and I went back to the hotel where we spent our wedding night; only this time, I stayed in the bathroom and cried.

My wife and I went to a hotel where we got a water-bed. My wife called it the Dead Sea .

She was at the beauty shop for two hours. That was only for the estimate. She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

The Doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill so the doctor gave him another six months.

The Doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, “Mrs. Cohen, your check came back. ”  Mrs. Cohen answered, “So did my arthritis!”

Doctor: “You’ll live to be 60!” Patient: “I am 60!” Doctor: “See! What did I tell you?”

Patient: “I have a ringing in my ears.”
Doctor: “Don’t answer!”

A drunk was in front of a judge. The judge says, “You’ve been brought here for drinking.”
The drunk says “Okay, let’s get started.”

The Harvard School of Medicine did a study of why Jewish women like Chinese food so much. The study revealed that this is because Won Ton spelled backward is Not Now.

There is a big controversy on the Jewish view of when life begins. In Jewish tradition, the fetus is not considered viable until it graduates from medical school.

Q: Why don’t Jewish mothers drink? A: Alcohol interferes with their suffering.

A man called his mother in Florida, “Mom, how are you?”
“Not too good,” said the mother. “I’ve been very weak.”
The son said, “Why are you so weak?”
She said, “Because I haven’t eaten in 38 days.”
The son said, “That’s terrible. Why haven’t you eaten in 38 days?”
The mother answered, “Because I didn’t want my mouth to be filled with food if you should call.”

A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he has a part in the play. She asks, “What part is it?”
The boy says, “I play the part of the Jewish husband.”
The mother scowls and says, “Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part.”

Question: How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: (Sigh) “Don’t bother. I’ll sit in the dark. I don’t want to be a nuisance to anybody.”

A short summary of every Jewish holiday — They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.

Did you hear about the bum who walked up to a Jewish mother on the street and said, “Lady, I haven’t eaten in three days.”  “Force yourself,” she replied.

Q: What’s the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother?
A: Eventually, the Rottweiler lets go.

Grossinger’s – 2008

THE CLASS OF 1969 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Going to a 50th High School Reunion can be an exciting prospect – if it’s yours. I recently went to my husband, Tom’s 50th Reunion in Schenectady, New York, and, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I’m shy in big groups and pictured myself following Tom around and having nothing to say to a room full of strangers.

Tom’s ID badge with his senior photo

I was pleasantly surprised. We met three of Tom’s high school friends and their spouses at a local tavern before the official opening cocktail party. Everyone was delightful and friendly and we had a great time. Tom’s high school best friend, Stewie was there with his wife, Mar-C. In preparing for the reunion, Tom and Stewie discovered that they had been living an hour away from each other in Connecticut for over thirty years! We got together a few weeks before the reunion so I already knew two other people. And Mar-C and I had compared notes on what to wear to each of the reunion events so my comfort level was pretty good by the time we arrived in Schenectady.

Tom and me with Stewie and Mar-c

After our private dinner, we headed over to the party and mingled with the 130 members of the Linton High Class of 1969 who showed up. Everyone was easy going and so nice. I realized from attending 20th and 40th reunions of my own, that as we all get older, the whole high school dynamic changes. You don’t have the cliques anymore or the high school rivalries. People are no longer trying to impress everyone with their job or professional accomplishments, or, as time went on, the jobs and professional accomplishments of their children.

The main topic of conversation was – are you retired yet? If so, good for you and what are you doing to have fun? Most of us had reached the stage of life when we can wake up whenever we feel like it and spend the day doing whatever we feel like doing. Everyone I talked to seemed genuinely happy and fulfilled. No competition any more. Just stories of hobbies and grandchildren. Some people still did projects for work but on their own terms and schedules. Some people were traveling and having a ball exploring the world.

Class of 1969 yearbook and 50th reunion yearbook update

At the dinner the second night, there were fun games with prizes for the winners. Who’s been married the longest? 50 years! Who has the most kids? Six. Who’s kids are the oldest? 50! And the youngest? 23. I was thrilled that Tom tied for the coolest job – he was a CBS network news director and audio engineer and the other guy was a documentary filmmaker.

Tom was well known at his high school. He ran for student council every year against the guy who always won. So Tom’s campaign speeches were more of a stand-up comedy act, the comic relief. They were apparently greatly enjoyed and appreciated by the other students, so lots of people came up to Tom with big hugs and cheerful greetings. I was very proud of Tom, especially when he got up to introduce the three videos he created for the reunion. These were the centerpieces of the dinner presentations.

By the time we left, I knew lots of people by name and we had promised to get together again with the ones who live a reasonable car ride away. I really felt like I made new friends and Tom got to renew friendships from long ago.

Tom and Stewie

We left the reunion happy and wired – until our car died before we even got out of Schenectady. Luckily we broke down right at a service station on the NY State Thruway so it only took AAA a half hour to get a tow truck to us. We rode the 2 ½ hours home in the back of a truck with zero suspension. It felt like we were driving over cobblestones for the entire ride. We got home at 3 AM but even this unpleasant finale didn’t dampen our positive feelings about the weekend we spent in a time capsule. We captured time in a bottle and loved every minute of it!

Tom and me at the dinner

THERE ARE MANY QUESTIONS IN LIFE – Rich Paschall

Questions 67 & 68

Can this feeling that we have together
Ooh, suddenly exist between
Did this meeting of our minds together
Ooh, happen just today, somewhere?

Can you tell me, please don’t tell me
It really doesn’t matter anyhow

This song was the first single released from the 1969 debut album of Chicago the band, then known as The Chicago Transit Authority. Written by Robert Lamm, it was about a romantic relationship Lamm had from 1967 and 68, hence the title of the song.

The horn arrangement from James Pankow is different from their later efforts. Here they are playing throughout with no rests for the horn players.  It is a rock style like no other at that point in time.

After the band had some success with other singles, the tune was re-released in 1971 with I’m A Man on the “B-side.”

For more on the B-side, see “I’m A Man,” SERENPIPITY (teepee12.com) August 30, 2019.

IT NEVER GETS OLD – Rich Paschall

Chicago in Chicago, by Rich Paschall

The first big concert that I attended in my life was at DePaul University Alumni Hall on May 13, 1971. Three DePaul alumni and two other DePaul music students, along with a Roosevelt University music student and a local musician were making it in the big time and were coming home to play a benefit. The concert ticket prices were a rather high 3.50 and 6.50 US dollars. I am sure I went for the cheaper ticket. I had been to many Blue Demon basketball games in Alumni Hall so I knew there would not be a bad seat.

The Chicago Transit Authority

The band’s first album came out 50 years ago and was the self-titled The Chicago Transit Authority. While on tour the local transit authority actually threatened legal action if they kept the name. Thus the band name was shortened to just Chicago. The first album was doing OK, but did not garner any indivdual hits in the beginning. We didn’t care. We liked what we heard. Then something happened.

While the boys were on the road, their songs were finally making it from the FM album-oriented stations to AM radio. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Beginnings and Questions 67 & 68 climbed the charts. When Chicago the band made it back to Alumni Hall, they were rock stars, “rock with horns,” that is. The student newspaper noted at the time: “The memories are there, as are the photographs and copy, but no camera or pencil could have successfully captured the exchanges of expression between the members of the band and the proud, beaming faces in the front row of Alumni Hall – their parents.

Chicago at Park West 1982

CTA, as we liked to call the album in Chicago, stayed on the Billboard 200 for a record 171 consecutive weeks. It was helped along by the success of the next album just titled “Chicago.” The album that followed in 1971 was “Chicago III.” Singles were making it to the AM radio where we could all hear them without buying the album. There are now 36 albums, the most recent being “Chicago Now,” or Chicago XXXVI.

Chicago at Northerly Island, Chicago

I have seen Chicago in concert about a dozen times over the recent decades. Besides seeing them at the site of my high school and college gym, Alumni Hall (now gone), I also saw them at Poplar Creek (also gone), Soldier Field for a “Saturday in the Park,” Northerly Island, Chicago (more of a pennisula, methinks), Grant Park for “Taste of Chicago,” and several times in recent years at Ravinia Festival just north of Chicago.

Ravinia Festival is reported to be the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States. It began in Ravinia Park in 1905 and now runs from June to about mid September each year. The calendar of events typically contains 120 to 150 events. In addition to the 3400 seat outdoor pavillion, there is the 850 seat Martin Theater used largely for classical works, and the 450 seat Bennett Gordon Hall.

Ravinia Park train stop

The outdoor concerts encompass every type of music from classical to jazz, show tunes to opera, rock to blues. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra finds a summer home there and they perform many outdoor shows. The popular site can fill the Pavillion and put thousands more on the lawn.

The original purpose of Ravinia Park was in support of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad. This stop along the line was meant to provide a variety of amusements just a short distance from the city.   The railroad went bankrupt in 1911 putting the festival in jeopardy. A group of local residents, including prominent Chicago businessmen, purchased the park and secured its future as an entertainment spectacular.

Ravinia Park is spread across 36 acres. Theaters, restaurants, souvenir stops, refreshment stands, a food court and beverage store help to fill the space. The lawn frequently includes a giant screen for all those who can not see the stage. The sound is great everywhere.

Lawn viewing at Ravinia

Unique to this venue is the picnic aspect of the lawn. Not only can you bring in your own lawn chair, but also your own food and drink. People arrive with coolers and picnic baskets. Even low tables to hold your candles, and wine and cheese are allowed. If you forget anything or did not want to carry items in, just run to the store on site.

Picnic in front of the Pavillion

I like to take the Union Pacific North line from the Ravensood stop at Lawrence Avenue, just two stops from downtown Chicago, right to the gate at Ravinia. The entrance is literally steps from the train. On the return, they hold the train until the show is over, including encores, and people have a chance to get to the platform. Don’t be too late or you may have to call an Uber! Of course, you can drive out there. The park has adequate parking if you did not make it to the train on time, or have a lot of picnic gear to bring.

Chicago at Ravinia

Chicago the band is 10 now instead of just 7 they had at the start. There are two pecussionists, not a single drummer as in the beginnings. Replacing the multitalented Terry Kath following his death in 1978 added to their numbers as well. When Jason Scheff (Pete Cetera replacement in 1985) recently left the band, a bass player and singer were added to cover the parts. In fact, many lineup adjustments have been made through the years.

“Rock with horns”

The current line up still provides the same great sound. Remarkably, original trombone player James Pankow and trumpet player Lee Loughnane are as stong as ever. Robert Lamm (from Roosevelt University), the heart and soul of Chicago, still delivers on multiple instruments and lead vocals.

Chicago the band is a major component of the soundtack of my life. Even though it is 50 years on, the music never gets old.

Sources include: “Sweet Home, Chicago,” resources.depaul.edu/newsline, Patricia Chavez, November 16, 2017.

I’M A MAN – THE SONG – Rich Paschall

Who Sang It Better, by Rich Paschall

The British rock band The Spencer Davis Group was formed in 1963 and had various success in the mid 1960s. One of their biggest hits was “I’m A Man” written by singer-songwriter and keyboardist for the band, Steve Winwood, and their record producer, Jimmy Miller. The song was released in 1967 and made the top ten in both the U.K. and U.S.

Spencer Davis Group

Winwood is on lead vocals and drives the Hammond organ with a strong beat. It was the last big hit for the group. Winwood and his older brother Muff (Mervyn, actually) left the band shortly after to pursue other interests. Steve formed the band Traffic and Muff joined the record industry as a talent scout and artistic developer.

The band The Chicago Transit Authority, later just “Chicago,” covered the song 50 years ago on their first album we know as CTA. It was not released as a single and found little success in the early going. It was, however, a band favorite in concert.

The Chicago Transit Authority

When Chicago started to earn success and singles were hitting the charts, “I’m A Man” came out as the B-Side to “Questions 67 and 68.” Radio stations were playing both sides of the record. The song even did as well in the U.K. as the original.

Today, Chicago continues to play the song in concert. It is an extended version with a long break in the middle for the percussionists to show off their talents as the other band members literally take a break.

The version below is with the incomparable Terry Kath on guitar and lead vocals for the first verse. The entire Tanglewood 1970 concert from which this cut is taken is available on YouTube — for free.

You might be able to guess my vote for best if you have been following us here.