SUMMER SONGS – RICHARD PASCHALL

The Top 10 of a Musical Genius

From the time the Beach Boys hit the surf and the top of the charts in the 1960s, Brian Wilson has been considered a musical genius. His prolific songwriting propelled the careers of the original “Boys.” Their music remains popular to this day.

Wilson was not just trying to crank out rock and rolls songs for public consumption. He was trying to create a new sound, the “California” sound of blended harmonies and instruments. His obsessive work in the studio while seeking a certain type of perfection was both his strength and ultimately his weakness.

Brian Wilson

Today Brian is again touring, writing and producing. His opinions on music are held in high esteem by songwriters everywhere.  Many, including Paul McCartney, Bono, James Webb (American songwriter), and Rolling Stone Magazine, consider Wilson’s “God Only Knows” among the best songs of all time.

So when Brian offers an opinion regarding rock and roll music, it usually garners some attention.  A few years ago he gave us a top ten list of his favorite songs of summer.  To no one’s surprise, a couple of Beach Boys’ songs made the list, but there are also a few interesting choices:

1. Hot Fun In The Summertime: Sly and the Family Stone.
2. In The Summer Time: Mungo Jerry.
3. I Get Around: The Beach Boys.
4. Be My Baby: The Ronettes.
5. California Girls: The Beach Boys.
6. Give Me Some Lovin’: Spencer Davis Group.
7. Hey Jude: The Beatles.
8. Honky Tonk Women: The Rolling Stones.
9. My Obsession: The Rolling Stones.
10. Mony Mony: Tommy James and the Shondells.

I don’t know how some of these songs were chosen for a summertime list, but it is Brian’s list so he can do as he pleases.  I am happy to modify it a bit. You can follow with your own list in the comments if you are so inclined. First of all, any song I have to look up because I never heard of it needs to go.

“My Obsession” by the Rolling Stones is an early hit that really offers little in the way of music and lyrics.  It is certainly forgettable in every way and a surprise on any list provided by Wilson.  Of course, we all have early rock favorites that will probably sound weird to anyone else.  So, I am kicking that one off the list and replacing it with one of the Beach Boys’ top hits of all time, Little Surfer Girl.

Next, I have to replace the overdone Hey Jude. While McCartney still uses this epic to kill 10 minutes of every concert, I think it is time to retire it. Seriously, have you seen any performance of McCartney, live or on television, that did not contain an overblown version of this hit?  I can not associate it with summer anyway, so I am replacing it with “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.  Every oldies station will indeed play the heck out of this song from now until Labor Day, but I never tire of it. That’s my standard.

I like “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Mony, Mony” but let’s replace them with Summer hits.  Add Jan and Dean’s number one hit from 1963, “Surf City.”  With a similar sound to the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean successfully rode the airwaves on their musical surfboards for many years, cashing in on the California style rock.  Another song I’m adding is “Saturday in the Park.” by Chicago — if for no other reason than to include a song from one of my all-time favorite bands, but will it make my Top Ten?

When I discovered Billboard’s list of the Top 30 Summer Songs I see there are a few more that could go on my list by the masters of their style, the Beach Boys.  Go forth and create your own list and enjoy the sounds of summer.

Yes, next week you will get my top ten summer songs that are really about summer. I know you can’t wait. Just sing Hot Fun In The Summertime until then.

THE BEST MAINSTREAM LGBT MOVIES

The Top Ten Movies For Pride Month, Rich Paschall

Our first outing, “In The Mainstream,” featured some of the best movies ever made, brought to you by the numbers 11 through 20. You will find the sequel today is equally exciting. Every one of these features to hit the screen is a gem and worthy of our Pride playlist.

Pride Parade, Chicago

We know you have been eagerly awaiting my countdown of the best LGBT movies ever made. It is important to point out that we should just say, some of the best movies ever made. They rank with the most entertaining and important features in cinema.

In fact, my number one pick was the best movie of 2005, but the Academy was not ready to bestow that honor on a film of this genre. If you see nothing else from the list below, be sure to see that powerful movie.

Now if you have refilled your bowl of popcorn, picked out a super gulpy size of your favorite drink, put a box of your favorite movie candy (Dots?) in your pocket you are ready to sit down to our 11 feature program. Number 8 is a multi-language, double-feature.

10. Kill Your Darlings. (2013) This time it is Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsburg during the college days of some members of the Beat Generation. The title does not pertain to a murder that takes place involving one of the writers, but to those pieces of writing that you can’t quite improve. Dane DeHaan received critical acclaim as Lucien Carr.

09. Maurice. (1987) James Wilby stars as the title character in the Marchant-Ivory film based on the E.M. Forster novel. Set in early 20th century England, Maurice falls for Clive, played by a young Hugh Grant. The film picked up some film festival awards and an Oscar.

08. The Birdcage. (1996) This is a remake of the classic French-Italian film “La Cage Aux Folles.” (1978) In the American version, the setting is changed to Miami, and the movie stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Do yourself a favor and see both versions.

07. Dallas Buyer’s Club. (2013). Matthew McConaughey picked up an Oscar for the true story of Ron Woodruff, an AIDS patient in the 1980s who smuggled in experimental drugs from Mexico to treat himself and members of the “Buyer’s Club.” Jared Leto picked an Oscar as well in a supporting role. Both actors lost a lot of weight to play their characters. The film picked up four other Oscar nominations and one more Oscar.

06. God’s Own Country. (2017) Never has a tough miserable life been so beautiful. A Yorkshire sheep farmer hires a migrant Romanian farmhand for the season. Gritty is the best description for this one. If the scenes between the two farmhands don’t put you on edge, the rough farm work will.  The movie picked up a long list of festival awards.

05. Philadelphia (1993). Bring a box of kleenex along with your box of popcorn for this groundbreaking film inspired by a true story. Tom Hanks is gay lawyer Andrew Beckett who dismissed from his firm for being suspected of having AIDS. Denzel Washington is the homophobic lawyer who finally agrees to take his case and sue the law firm that fired Beckett. The A list cast includes Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, and Antonio Banderas as Hanks’ partner. Hanks won an Oscar, so did Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song. Neil Young was also nominated for Best Original Song for the movie.

04. Love, Simon. (2018) Nick Robinson gives an excellent performance as a closeted high school senior searching for someone like himself while trying to keep a blackmailer at bay. The romantic comedy also stars Jennifer Garner and John Duhamel as the parents.

03. Call Me By Your Name. (2017). The scene is set in northern Italy in 1983. Elio’s father, a university professor, has a 24-year-old graduate assistant come for the summer to help him out. Timothée Chalamet plays 17-year-old Elio who at first disliked the grad student but slowly changes his feeling.  Chalamet was nominated as best actor for his outstanding job as the conflicted teen.

02. Milk (2008). Sean Penn is perfect in the role of Harvey Milk, the gay activist who was eventually elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. James Franco is a longtime boyfriend, Scott Smith. Emile Hirsch plays an energetic Cleve Jones. The film is historically important using archival film footage when necessary. Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor and Dustin Lance Black picked up one for Best Original Screenplay.  Highly recommended.

01. Brokeback Mountain. (2005) Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, as Jack Twist and Enis Del Mar, spend a summer as sheepherders on the mountain, and a lifetime longing for a relationship they could not have. The film is set between 1963 and 1983 in the American West when they must balance love and fear. Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams are their wives. The brilliantly crafted film picked up Oscars for Director Ang Lee, and Best Adapted Screenplay as well as Best Original Score. Gyllenhaal, Ledger, and Williams were all nominated. It was the best picture of the year but apparently, the Academy was not ready to vote for such a film. Highly recommended.

For number 11 through 20 on our list, head back to “In The Mainstream.” For a look at the trailer of any of the above movies, just click on the title. If you want to play all twenty-one and some bonus clips, click here.

IN THE MAINSTREAM – RICH PASCHALL

LGBTQ in cinema, by Rich Paschall

We don’t need a declaration from an orange politician to know that June is the national Pride month. There may not be Pride parades this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed, but we have a Pride list of movies for your viewing enjoyment. Stay home, save lives, watch movies.

Pride parade

For this list, we have chosen films that have made it into the mainstream of cinema. Most enjoyed wide distribution and many found commercial success. There are many award winners including some that received Oscars at the annual Academy Awards. You should be able to find all of these screen gems on DVD or online.

In some of these movies, gay issues are the main topic. In others, it is just a part of the storyline and not necessarily the main theme or focus of the film. I have seen all of the films on the following list, or I would not have included them. There may be many other commendable films that could easily be included. Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review site, has a list of 200 best LGBTQ movies of all time, although many are foreign films that would not be considered mainstream here.

I will start with an honorable mention from the foreign film category, however, and offer you the critically acclaimed Brazilian film, Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho, entitled “The Way He Looks” for American audiences. The feature is based on the hugely successful 2010 short film that instantly went viral on YouTube. It now has over 8 million views and you can find it here, although I recommend finding the feature-length film.  The language is Portuguese. Both the short film and the feature have English subtitles.

Now grab your popcorn and be prepared to be entertained by some of the best movies ever made. A few are of historical interest, so you may learn a little history along the way. When I compiled the list there were 20, so I decided to rank them all.

20. Weekend. (2011) The British feature concerns two men who meet and spend the weekend together. After that…well, there will be no spoilers today.
19. The Children’s Hour. (1961). Based on the 1934 Lillian Hellman play, the film downplayed the whispered lie about a gay love affair between the two female teachers. Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Maclaine star. The film was nominated for five Oscars.
18. I Am Michael. (2015) The biographical drama concerns a gay activist turned Christian preacher. James Franco stars as the conflicted main character.
17. Dog Day Afternoon. (1975). Based on the true story of a bank robbery gone wrong, Al Pacino stars as real-life Sonny Wortzik trying to steal money for his transgender mate’s surgery. It was nominated for five Oscars, winning one.
16. I Love You Phillip Morris. (2009) Based on the true-life story of the con artist Steven Jay Russell and the man with whom he falls in love in prison. Jim Carrey gives a strong performance in the comedy-drama.

15. The Crying Game. (1992) The tense drama is set during the conflict in Northern Ireland. A member of the IRA promises to protect Dil, the mate of a rival fighter. The film picked up six Oscar nominations, winning one for Best Screenplay. The story included an element most audience members did not see coming.
14. Mysterious Skin. (2004)  Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early film role as a male prostitute. Set in the 1980s, the storyline follows the life of two friends and their separate paths following a childhood incident. It’s not for the squeamish.
13. My Own Private Idaho(1991) The cult classic stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as street hustlers and friends.  It picked up a variety of Film Critics and Film Festival awards.
12. Another Country. (1984) The British historical drama stars Ruppert Everett and is set in the public schools in the 1930s. The story concerns the openly gay student, Guy Bennett, who is based on the real-life spy Guy Burgess.

11. Howl. (2010) James Franco stars as Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg. The experimental film style concentrates on Ginsberg’s poem of the same name and the 1957 obscenity trial that followed. The reenactment of the Six Gallery Reading in 1955, spread throughout the film, is often illustrated through animation. Franco also relives a Ginsberg interview where his comments about the poem and the trial are being recorded. Franco carries the movie as Ginsberg with his top-notch performance.

Like many good movies, we are ending with a cliff hanger. The top ten movies will be up tomorrow, but you can start on this list today. The above includes comedy, drama, and comedy-drama. There is romance and there is history. There is mysterious skin and there are mysterious people.

For a look at the trailer of any of the above movies, just click on the title. If you want to play them all and get a sneak peek at tomorrow’s list, click here.

I’LL BE WHAT I AM – RICH PASCHALL

A Solitary Man, Rich Paschall

When the “stay at home” orders dragged on from March to April and then to May, it seemed like we needed some music to fit the situation. Some were creating playlists and posting them online. Others were writing and recording new songs. With all this creativity at hand, I decided to jump into the fray with our own Pandemic Playlist.

A lonely seagull

First up was a post entitled Splendid Isolation, named after the song by the late Warren Zevon. I sat down to compile a song list that would seem to fit our unique situations. This led to a variety of topics and a very long “shortlist” for my Top Ten.  It was hard work watching all those YouTube videos but I knew, “I Will Survive.”

With the SERENDIPITY Sequester Songlist finished, I knew we were off to a good start, but I still had a lot of tunes tempting me to go again. Many titles contained a variation of the word “Lone.” You know, Lonely, Alone, Lonesome and things like that. There were Lonely People in a Lonely Town who were all Alone or possibly Alone Together. From a Lonely Boy to Mr. Lonely they knew how Only The Lonely could feel. This Quarantine list was Just A Lonely Boy, from the opening line of the Paul Anka song.

As I looked over what was intended to be a shortlist for a Top Ten Quarantine songs, I realized there were at least twenty more. No, I will not give you another Top Ten, just the best of the rest. It was hard to rank these as they are all good songs. The order could change at any moment, so remember, this is just One Moment In Time.

Solitary man?

8. Solitaire, Neil Sedaka.  The song was written by Sedaka and frequent collaborator Phil Cody. The Carpenters had a hit with it, so did Andy Williams. Sedaka recently stated on his YouTube channel that at least 60 artists have recorded it.  Despite the hits by others, it seemed best to let Sedaka do the honors. If you liked the old Sedaka songs then you are in luck. The prolific singer, songwriter octogenarian gives mini-concerts every weekday on YouTube during the pandemic stay at home orders.

7. All By Myself, Eric Carmen. Another singer, songwriter, Eric Carmen started with the group The Raspberries in the early 1970s and went on a career all by himself.  Carmen is a classically trained pianist and based this hit tune on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The song made it to No. 2 on the US Billboard charts.

6. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Green Day. Some might consider this NSFW due to one of the words in the lyrics. The official video here has sort of garbled the word but you’ll get it. Radio play just took it out. Well, everything is screwed up. What else can I say? I am pretty sure that lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong is not related to Garry and Marilyn, but I never really asked. Any way Armstrong declares, “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me, My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating.” He walks the boulevard alone.

5. Isolation, John Lennon. This one certainly has gotten popular since the stay at home orders. It appeared on Lennon’s first album following the breakup of The Beatles.  Recorded at Abbey Road studio, the album was released on the Apple label in 1970 to critical acclaim. Interestingly, Ringo Starr played drums on this track. Lennon is on the piano.

4. Dancing With Myself, Billy Idol. After that last one, I thought we should pick up the pace. If there is no one there to dance with, it is OK to dance with yourself. The song was originally released in the UK in 1980 by the band Gen-X with Billy Idol as the lead singer. The following year it was remixed and re-released in the US as a solo by Idol, who also co-wrote the song. Just remember:
“Well, there’s nothing to lose
And there’s nothing to prove, well,
Dancing a-with myself”

3. Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles. I don’t think there is anyone lonelier than Eleanor Rigby unless it is Father McKenzie of the same song. This 1966 release was quite a departure for the pop band. The song features eight string players, arranged by famed Beatles producer, George Martin. The song is about the elderly and the lonely. Only the Beatles could have had a hit with this one. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”

2. One, Three Dog Night. Harry Nilsson wrote the song and released his version in 1968, but it was the Three Dog Night version the following year that became a hit. The repetition of the same note at the outset is meant to symbolize a busy single. If you make a call and get no one, then you are the only one. And as we all know, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”

1. Solitary Man, Neil Diamond. One of the best selling singer-songwriters in the world, Diamond had a big hit with this one, his first solo release in 1966. You are likely familiar with a radio version with background singers and big production. It was a powerful interpretation. There was also a version recorded alone without the background singers. It sounded more personal as he changed “then Sue came along” to “then you came along.”  The ultimate message is the same. Until he finds the right person, “I’ll be what I am, A solitary man.”

These were the best ones that did not make my other Playlists. To hear any one of the above just click the title. If you want to hear all nine on the Solitaire Playlist, click here.  I added both versions of the Neil Diamond song, one performance from 1971 (above), one from 2012.

See also: SPLENDID ISOLATION, Your Quarantine Playlist, April 26, 2020.
JUST A LONELY BOY, Lonely and Blue, May 6, 2020. (Lonesome Playlist)

THE BIGGEST GLITCH – Marilyn Armstrong

Little things defeat me. An electrical blip — so brief as to go otherwise unnoticed — knocked out the time and date on the clocks and telephones in my house. It was so brief I didn’t realize it had happened until I went to bed and everything was blinking. Don’t you hate when that happens?

75-ModemAndRouter-37

All our computers are laptops, so we didn’t notice. They all just switched to batteries, so when the glitch ended, everything seemed fine.

Until I got to the bedroom and everything was blinking, each in its own color. Resetting the clock radio was easy, but then there was a telephone. They are all linked, so I only have to set one and all three should automatically reset. It should have been no big deal. But it was.

I was defeated by an AT&T multi-handset system I installed in our home a few years ago. Never had it lost its time, even during a much longer outage. This time, it lost everything including all its settings and sub-settings. All blown away.

75-GearNIK-CR-72

Every time something minuscule defeats me, I am reminded how helpless I am — we all are — in the face of our technology. Even those of us who are technologically savvy have limits. All of us have technical Waterloos. If anything goes awry with any major system in my house, not only am I helpless, so is everyone else who lives here. Three generations of people who use technology constantly and depend on it. If we were without power for 24 hours our world would collapse.

It’s the huge, soft, pink, underbelly of our modern world. The aliens will not have to defeat us in battle. They just have to knock out our communication satellites and blow up a few power plants. Human civilization goes down like a row of dominoes.

The only survivors will be those who don’t depend on technology. Or maybe the survivalists in their compounds. Their lives will go on as before. Not me, though. Probably not you either.

Given what’s been going on these past few months, I think a long power outage might finish me off. I’m already derailed, but one more hit and I’m over the cliff.

JUST A LONELY BOY – Rich Paschall

Lonely And Blue, by Rich Paschall

Are you lonesome tonight? Alone again, unnaturally? Feeling like Mr. Lonely? Lonely Is The Night these days so we thought it was time for our Lonesome List top ten. You can make a Journey to Ask the Lonely, but you will just be a Lonesome Loser. Those Lonely People will not have the music to sequester by.

Lonely town, lonely street

I Think We’re Alone Now, so I will give a shout out to a Bill Withers tune. The Grammy-winning artist passed away recently at the age of 81.

We don’t want you to feel like a Solitary Man or that you are the only “One.” We can be Alone Together with these top hits.

10. Alone Together, Dan + Shay. The young Country stars scored well with this song and entertaining video, a 2018 release. I was going to put Alone Again, Naturally in this spot, but if you recall the 1972 hit, you know it was one of the most depressing songs ever written. I put it on the YouTube playlist if you must have it.

9. Lonesome Loser, Little River Band. Count this 1979 release as one among a string of hits by the Australian supergroup. It made it to number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

8. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hank Williams.  This 1949 song by the Country Hall of Fame artist was one of his biggest hits. It is from an era before Country music started sounding more like rock or pop music. Plenty of “twang” here.

7. Lonely Is The Night, Billy Squier. Now let’s go 180 degrees in the other direction with this classic rock hit from 1981. Squier puts out some guitar solos for your all alone moments.

6. I’ve Been Lonely Too Long, The Young Rascals. This 1967 hit is an oldie, but a goodie. The Young Rascals were later known just as The Rascals. Yes, we all get older, if we stay away from deadly viruses.

5. Lonely People, America. “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup, And ride that highway in the sky.” This was written as sort of a response to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Interestingly, it was produced by long time Beatles’ producer, George Martin.

4. Alone, Heart. This 1987 “power balled” is Heart’s biggest hit. Co-author of the work, Tom Kelly, sang high harmony on the studio recording. Lead singers are sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.

3. Only The Lonely, Roy Orbison.  The 1960 recording was the first big hit for Orbison, who also co-wrote the song with Joe Melson. They had shopped the song around, offering it to Elvis and the Everley Brothers before deciding to record it themselves.

2. Mr. Lonely, Bobby Vinton. Recorded in 1962, the song did not become a hit until 1964. Vinton began writing while in the army. It is about a soldier waiting for letters from home.

1. Lonely Boy, Paul Anka. The prolific singer-songwriter recorded this when he was just 17 in 1958. He went on to write other big hits for himself and other stars. We knew you needed some early rock right about now. You Boomers should sing along. The rest of you can just enjoy this oldie.

Click on any song title to hear the song. For the entire Lonesome sequester playlist, click here.

See also: SPLENDID ISOLATION, Your Quarantine Playlist, SERENDIPITY, April 26, 2020.

SPLENDID ISOLATION – RICH PASCHALL

Your Quarantine Playlist, by Rich Paschall

Since you have to Hunker In The Bunker you probably have been eagerly awaiting my list of top Sequester Songs. Never fear, I have compiled my playlist of hot hibernation harmonies, filled with lonely lyrics and secluded sounds. These top ten tunes will be just the thing you need to “Shake the Disease” and make it through these “Hard Times.” Not even “Eleanor Rigby” would walk down the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” right now. Just stay home and “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.” A few of the 10,000 Maniacs may have decided to do “La Danse Macabre” outside, but we will stay inside even if it means “Dancing With Myself.”

La danse macabre

Not surprisingly, a number of new songs have been released about the current condition in the world. A young artist known as Powfu (Isaiah Faber) has a new song and YouTube video for “Death bed (coffee for your head).” Since the April 1st release, it has over 22 million views. It has a snappy melody sung by another while he lays down a somber rap throughout. Follow the young masses and view it here.

Randy Newman has a new song for you. The Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy-winning composer has written a “love song for quarantine” which he says is dedicated to his wife. The title is “Stay Away,” and if you know anything about his songs, you know he ladled on a heavy helping of humor. Chuckle along with him here.

Now for those quiet quarantine moments, we are pleased to bring you a colorful COVID concert. We have culled the caves and burrowed through the bunkers to find the perfect pandemic playlist for you. You may think “Only The Lonely” will be looking for this, but “As The World Falls Down”, “Imagine” that we are in the “Seasons of Love.” Even if you are a bit “Hot Blooded”, you will be feeling better after a sheltered session of songs for the occasion.

10. Splendid Isolation, Warren Zevon. For this 1989 release, Zevon gets a helping hand from Neil Young despite declaring “Splendid Isolation, I don’t need no one.”
09. That’s The Way That The World Goes Round, John Prine. This 2016 performance with Stephen Colbert was not broadcast until April 1, 2020, when Prine was sick with COVID-19.

John Prine (Photo Credit: Ron Baker)

08. I Think We’re Alone Now, Tommy James & the Shondells. You are certainly ready for a little old-time rock and roll with this classic 1967 song.
07. Don’t Stand So Close To Me, The Police. Of course, you are going to want to follow this advice. After all, it comes from the Police. For a little added fun here is a stay at the home version with Sting, Jimmy Fallon, and the crew playing things from around the house. Good thing Sting has a guitar.
06. Stayin Alive, The Bee Gees. Rather than watching John Travolta walking down the streets of New York, we thought it would be more timely to watch the Brothers Gibb walk down empty streets. No disco night clubs this month.

05. The More I See You, Chet Baker. It’s time for a Jazz break. More people covered this 1945 song than we can count. Baker did well with his 1958 version and you don’t want to miss his epic trumpet playing. Chris Montez had the most successful version of “The More I See You” in 1966. You can hear Montez here.

04. Living On A Prayer, Bon Jovi. You might feel that you are living on a prayer that the coronavirus goes away soon. Until then we can rock out with these classic rockers. You have to like the 1980’s hair cuts.

03. Lean On Me, Bill Withers. The Grammy-winning artist passed away this month at the age of 81. This anthem for those who need a helping hand will live on. The song was released in 1972 and went to number one. Club Nouveau had a number one hit with the song in 1987.

02. Are You Lonesome Tonight? Elvis Presley. “Are you lonesome tonight
Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?”
It’s OK because Elvis is going to soothe your worried soul with this 1960 classic.

01. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor. If I did not include this 1978 disco hit I would have some of the local boys very upset with me. This is played early and often in the clubs and it seems like this song will never go away.  Sing along, you know you want to!

If you want to hear any of the above, just click on the title. If you want to hear the 12 that I put on the Quarantine Playlist, click here.

AT THIS MOMENT – RICH PASCHALL

Karaoke Night, by Rich Paschall

From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, we spent a lot of time in adult drinking establishments singing various tunes to varying degrees of success. You did not have to be any good at it. You just had to have enough nerve to get up and sing out loud. The truth is, of course, that most people are not listening to you anyway.  They are having conversations with their friends and ordering another round of whatever is making them loud and somewhat obnoxious at their tables or at the bar. It is a lot easier when you realize that few if any are listening or even care what you are singing.

The first song I attempted was Born To Be Wild if my memory serves me at all after all these years of belting out songs I thought I knew. I had heard others do the song. I knew it was rather easy and within my limited vocal range. So I did it a number of times before I had the courage to move on to song number two.

We were friends with a guy who did Karaoke at a local bar. There were nights when I took over for him, either because he was busy that night or because he would rather sing and drink. Since I sometimes had to fill the gaps early in the evening when there were no singers, I learned to do a few other songs.  And remember, no one was listening anyway.

One of the girls who frequented the place wanted to do a duet. We settled on “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease. Nope, I can not sing it that high. Do I look like John Travolta? We did learn, however, that you can adjust the key on those old karaoke machines, so we drop it down 3 steps, and we both sounded a lot better.

After I had been helping out the karaoke host for a few months, a woman who tended bar on occasion asked me to sing “At This Moment.” I told her I didn’t know it. In fact, I thought I had never heard it before. She told me I should learn it. She was quite serious. Since she was bigger and tougher than I, it seemed like learning the song would be a prudent thing to do. The next time I saw her at the bar she handed me a cassette tape. She had recorded the song back to back so I would listen to it two times in a rows each time I put the tape on. It was the only thing on the tape. I learned the song.

As time went on I learned a variety of other songs. There were a few I had in mind for those that wanted to do karaoke with me. It was a strange experience to have people I didn’t know ask me to sing with them, and some could not carry a tune if we put it in a bucket for them with a large handle attached. But I was always a good host and tried to team up a couple of mediocre singers so I would not have to join the fray. Besides, I thought I was creating friendships. If you want to practice, I have the karaoke version of the next song hereYou supply the vocal. If that’s too much, here it is with vocal:

We had our “go to” duets and we also had our group songs for those who wanted to drag up their friends but didn’t know what to sing. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not one of my choices, although many chose to kill it anyway. Instead of that, I would suggest certain Beatles tunes and this one was always popular:

There was a Frank Sinatra song or two I would like to sing if I got the chance, and someone else did not beat me to it.  “Something Stupid” was a good duet if someone actually knew the Nancy Sinatra part. I liked “Strangers In The Night” but I could never do it well. This one was better (and easier) for me to sing:

Some nights we were busy and I did not get to sing much, if at all. Sometimes I got the chance to entertain myself a lot. When the opportunity presented itself, I would close the show with “For The Good Times,” and they were good times.

Enjoy the music above and don’t forget to sing along, nice and loud.

FILMS ALL GUYS SHOULD SEE – RICH PASCHALL

My personal top 20, by Rich Paschall

Since you are likely hiding out at home and looking for something to do, I offer again my top films for you to watch. Yes, I said at the beginning “films all guys should see”, but a lot of gals will enjoy these as well. They are examples of solid film making with strong casts. If you don’t own a copy, you can likely order them online.

These movies are the opposite of “chick flicks.”  You know what I mean, the romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock or Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, or Zac Efron.  You may have to see those as a consequence of the long tradition of “date nights,” but let us move onto something with a little more substance. If your “date” does not want to watch any of the movies listed below, go to another room.

There could be hundreds of good films for this list.  The heroes are strong, the action is intense, the dialogue is smart and every guy in the theater (or living room) would like to be the leading man of the story.  They speak not only of good versus evil or right versus wrong, but they also include noble intentions… most of the time anyway.

Since I had to stick with movies I have seen, the list will probably date me to a time when I went to the movie theater more often.  A few of these I have only seen at home, but on a much larger television than when I was young.  Whether you are a Citizen Kane or a Raging Bull, it will be a Bad Day At Black Rock if you do not see all of these.  I normally do a top ten but I could not fit The Great Escape on the list and M.A.S.H. them down to 10.  It may not yet be High Noon, but it is time for the list.

The Magnificent Seven
The Magnificent Seven

20.  The Magnificent Seven. An outstanding remake of the Japanese classic The Seven Samurai, but set in the old West
19.  Dirty Harry. “I know what you’re thinking.”  This movie contains some of the greatest film quotes of all time.
18.  On The Waterfront. Marlon Brando could have been a contender. In fact, he won an Oscar.
17.  Patton.  George C. Scott will scare the heck out of you as the American General and war hero.
16.  Von Ryan’s Express.  A mesmerizing performance by Frank Sinatra trying to lead his troops to safety.
15.  Rocky.  Admit it, you love it.  It is a triumph of the spirit.  The sequels … not so much.
14.  Run Silent, Run Deep.  Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable face intrigue and insurrection on a submarine.
13.  The Bridge on the River Kwai.  Alec Guinness as the noble British officer forced to build a bridge with his fellow prisoners.  And the Oscar goes to…
12. The French Connection.  New York, France, drugs, car chases, cops, and the perfect cast.  An Academy Award winner.
11. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo. The ultimate “Spaghetti Western.”

10.  Dr. NoBond, James Bond  If it is not exactly what Ian Fleming had in mind for his spy hero, it is nonetheless a great start to the ongoing series of action-adventure movies.  If it were not for Sean Connery, would this series have gone very far?

The Maltese Falcon

09.  The Maltese Falcon.  Humphrey Bogart plays the detective who hunts down those responsible for the death of his partner.  It’s an odd speech he gives to Mary Astor at the end, but the final scene remains a classic.

08.  North by Northwest.  Cary Grant is forced to find the killer of an official at the United Nations.  The cross-country thriller is one of the finest works of director Alfred Hitchcock.

07.  Cool Hand Luke.  Paul Newman is a hero of another kind in the 1967 prison movie which earned an academy award for George Kennedy.

06.  Glory.  I loved Matthew Broderick in a number of lightweight movies, but here he rises to the dramatic occasion as the young officer who leads a troop of black soldiers into battle during the Civil War.  Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman also head the stellar cast.

05.  12 Angry Men.  One room, 12 men, one case, all dialogue.  Henry Fonda leads the powerful cast as the hold-out jury member who is not convinced of one boy’s guilt.  The confined setting adds to the unfolding tension.

04.  Jaws.  This movie made a lot of people afraid to go into the water.  Three unlikely people (Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss) go shark hunting in this 1975 thriller, directed by Steven Spielberg.

03.  In The Heat Of The Night.  Sydney Poitier commands the screen as the Philadelphia detective in the wrong place in the South. Rod Steiger is the ultimate racist southern sheriff.  The movie should make you squirm just a bit (or a lot) no matter what side of the color line you are on.  This is way beyond the sanitized television series and an important movie in 1967.

02.  The Godfather.  While some will not agree, I find this the best of the trilogy.  Marlon Brando is the Godfather, the Italian don, head of the crime family.  The 1972 film is a movie you can not refuse.

01.  Casablanca.  If you did not know this was coming, you have not been following me for very long.  It may be Casablanca, but we’ll always have Paris.  Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and a supporting cast that looks like they belong in the French Moroccan city.

Find trailers for the top 10 here on my YouTube channel.

JOHNNY CASH AND NINE INCH NAILS – RICH PASCHALL

Covering Hurt, by Rich Paschall

You probably know what it means to “cover” a song. That’s when one artist records, or “covers,” the work of another artist. Sometimes the later version becomes a bigger hit than the original.  Such was the case when white artists were “Covering R&B Music” and getting all of the radio airplay. If you have been following this space, you probably have noticed we have covered this topic often. (Pun intended.)

You may have been “Disturbed” to learn that a heavy metal group covered the classic “Sound of Silence.” You may have wondered “Who Covered Who” when we talked about the folk-pop hit “Both Sides Now.” You knew Rick Astley was “Never Gonna Give You Up,” but could you imagine another singer offering the same thing? If you are up “After Midnight,” you may be singing the Eric Clapton song, but did you know he was actually covering another artist’s work? We have presented many cover songs with the question, “Who Sang It Best?”

Johnny Cash

When you think of country-rock legend Johnny Cash, you probably do not think of him as a cover artist. He was a prolific singer-songwriter and penned some classic hits like “I Walk The Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Man in Black” and “Flesh and Blood.” He also wrote songs with his wife, June Carter Cash. She wrote “Ring of Fire” with Merle Kilgore which became one of Johnny’s biggest hits. Of course, he also performed a number of songs written by others.  He recorded an astounding 97 albums, several were posthumous releases.

Late in life Cash had a resurgence in his career when he teamed up with legendary record producer Rick Rubin. As co-founder of Def Jam Records, Rubin was not exactly known for working with country stars. In fact, he produced some of the early hip hop artists, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run DMC, and others. He also worked with heavy metal acts like Slayer, Metallica, AC/DC and a list of famous hard rock bands

For his American Recordings label, Rubin produced an album for Johnny Cash, released in 1994, that included six cover songs as well as some new material Rubin solicited. How did Rubin team up with Cash?

In 1992, Rubin saw Cash at a Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary concert and felt that Cash was still a great artist who had been pushed aside by the industry. Cash was understandably skeptical of someone who had worked in very different musical genres, but Rubin promised Cash creative control. “I would like you to do whatever feels right for you.” So Cash went back to the way he performed in the early years, just Johnny and a guitar. The record was simply called “American Recordings.”

The album was a critical success and revitalized the career of one of Country Western’s greatest stars. This lead to another album with Rubin producing in 1996, then another and another. In 2002, American IV: The Man Comes Around was a double LP consisting of mostly cover songs, and a surprising selection at that. It included country, traditional (Danny Boy, Streets of Laredo), pop, and the “industrial rock” hit by Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt.”

Cash did not know what to make of the Nine Inch Nails recording so Rubin sent him the lyrics. “Just read the lyrics. If you like the lyrics, then we’ll find a way to do it that will suit you.” Cash read it. He got it.

Nine Inch Nails songwriter and lead singer Trent Reznor was not exactly enthusiastic about the idea of Cash doing his song but thought it probably would not happen anyway. When he received the recording, he was not impressed. “It didn’t sound bad, it just sounded something wrong, it sounded alien,” Reznor said.

Enter movie director Mark Romanek. He had previously produced a number of famous artists’ videos and was looking for a chance to make a Cash video. “I begged Rick Rubin to let me shoot something to that track,” Romanek told Dave Urbanski, author of a January 2003 biography of Cash. Johnny Cash was not really interested. He was old and sick did not want to stay in Tennessee where it was wintertime and cold. Romanek knew it was a race against time. He was given a small amount of time in which to work.

They used the long-shuttered House Of Cash museum, a former home, to film the video. The place was in a stay of decay. While Romanek did not have any intention of splicing in other footage, they found a complete library of Johnny Cash films at the home and added some cuts of a younger Cash.

When Reznor received the video, his mind was changed. “Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow.” He had written the song at a dark and desperate time in his life, and it carried a very personal meaning for him. “[Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning – different, but every bit as pure.”

For comparison, we offer the Nine Inch Nails version. We won’t ask who sang it best.

Rubin and Romanek talked about the making of the video in the following cut. Some music heavyweights offer up their comments as well.

Sources: “Why Did Johnny Cash Cover Hurt?”  radioX, radio.co.uk, 26 February 2020.
Hurt (Nine Inch Nails Song)” en.wikipedia.org
The story behind Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’, still the saddest music video of all time,” by Christopher Hooton, Independent, independent.co.uk, 6 October 2015.
Johnny Cash: “Hurt”, The Story Behind The Video,” by Paul Goodman, spinditty.com, 17 February 2020.

IS LISTENING TO AUDIOBOOKS THE SAME AS READING? – Marilyn Armstrong

Responding to:

Open Book Blog Hop – Are audiobooks considered reading?


I got addicted to audiobooks while I was commuting to work. There were periods when I was driving as much as 5 hours a day — just to get back and forth to work. Living in Massachusetts, even when the distances aren’t huge, the traffic is heavy in every direction. I think if I hadn’t discovered Books On Tape and after that Audiobooks.com, I’d have lost my mind. I was in the car for many hours a day. I was at work another eight to ten hours.

A Kindle and a Bluetooth speaker for listening to audiobooks

By the time I got home, there was cooking, trying to spend a little quality time with Garry — which wasn’t easy because for many years, he wasn’t home on weekends. He was getting up for work when I was going to bed. There was also my son, shopping, cleaning, and just trying to keep the house from becoming a wreck.

I was younger then and managed to do a lot of things at a time. Running laundry while straightening up the rest of the house. Learning to cook meals that were quick to prepare and easy to clean up after.

There was no time to read. Since reading had always been my escape from the world, after a while, I felt like the walls were closing in.

Audiobooks saved my sanity. I would get to work and sit in the car just a few extra minutes to get to the end of a chapter. It absolutely saved my sanity. These days, as I’ve gotten older and find reading print more difficult — Garry thinks I have a terminal case of eye-strain — I listen far more often then I read. I have trouble focusing on a printed page. It’s easier to write than read which probably accounts for my appallingly bad proofreading.

I actually prefer listening to reading for other reasons. The speed of speaking is much slower than the speed at which I read. I’m a very fast reader which is great when you are trying to collect information for work but isn’t so great when reading for pleasure. The human speed and level of a voice especially when it’s a really good narrator helps me be absorbed by the book.

It’s like watching a really good movie, except I get to create the pictures and they are always perfect.


I wanted to add a short note:

A lot of how you respond to audiobooks versus words on a page depends on why you read and how you absorb the information. For many of us, we no longer find reading comfortable. Our eyes are old and close vision gets dodgy. Quite a few people lose their sight as the years pile up. Garry is part of a group now that produces audio for those who can’t read whether they are blind or otherwise unable to hold a book in place, or otherwise have problems that make focusing on a page difficult.

If you can read and like to hover over the text, going back and forward to read, then reread sections, you’ll probably be happier with pages. True it’s easy to drop off and lose parts of a story if you read at night, but rewind is pretty good for getting you back to where you were before you nodded off.

If you read during the day, you will probably drift off less easily.  If you are commuting, I have to assume you are awake. I found music in a car puts me out like a light and classical music is so absorbing I forget I’m driving.

I need to have something that makes my mind engage if I am going to stay awake at the wheel.

I do listen to poetry on audiobooks, though typically, I have read the poem before I listen to it and/or will read it after I hear it. To me, poetry is the most musical of all types of writing and deserves to be heard out loud.

CLASS OF ’69 – 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 anymore. 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. Whose 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!