THE SUMMER WIND

SONGS THAT COME BLOWING IN, by Rich Paschall


If you visited this space last Sunday, you saw the top Songs of Summer as given by the musical genius, Brian Wilson.  Those may have been songs that evoked thoughts of summer for Brian, but some were a real stretch of the imagination to me.  I promised you songs that are really about summer.

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Summertime by George Gershwin is arguably the most beloved summertime song ever. Great singers from Billie Holiday through Janis Joplin recorded magical versions of the song. Originally written by Gershwin for the 1935 modern opera, Porgy and Bess, rock and opera stars alike have recorded it. I’m sure you’ve heard it and probably have a favorite version.

When the Beach Boys put out a new album for their 50th anniversary, they served up a perfect piece of nostalgia with Summer’s Gone, written by Brian Wilson. He took lead on the record and in performance.  Unfortunately, they did not do it throughout the anniversary tour and there’s only one fan video from the last stop I can find.  Therefore, this tribute through old and new pictures will have to serve:

Now, the countdown:

10. Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, Nat King Cole, 1963.  If I heard it once, I heard it a million times (as the saying goes) while growing up.  I guess we must really have liked it. Cole was alive then and would turn up on variety shows to perform this.  Unfortunately, variety shows have disappeared.
9.  A Summer Song, Chad and Jeremy, 1964
8.  Summer Nights, from the play and movie, Grease.  It was “the word” for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  If you can look past all the people who killed this song in karaoke, it might still be a favorite.
7.  In the Summertime, Mungo Jerry, 1970  The song filled with odd sounds and rhythms was a mega-hit for the British group.
6.  Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly and the Family Stone  This one was at the top of the Brian Wilson list.

5.  Surfer Girl, the Beach Boys  This early Beach Boys hit remained a fan favorite through the years.  Almost 50 years after first recording it, they could still perform the harmonies with ease.  Well, if not with ease, then at least with a lot of coaching by Brian:

4.  Summer Rain, Johnny Rivers, 1968  It didn’t make it to the top of the charts, but it is one of those songs that keeps getting played.  Now in his 70s, Rivers is still performing his many hits.

3.  Summer Wind, Frank Sinatra, 1966  Wayne Newton first recorded the song in 1965, but it is Sinatra who had a hit the following year.

2.  Summer Breeze, Seals & Crofts, 1972  Written and performed by Jim Seals and Dash Crofts.

1.  Summer in the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966  Released in July 1966, by August it was number 1.  The overplayed summer anthem included a car horn and jack hammer sounds to let you know you were in the city.

What are your summer favorites?

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 1960’s, Brian Wilson has been considered a musical genius. His prolific song-writing propelled the careers of the original “Boys.” Their music remains wildly 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.

Today Brian is again touring, writing and producing. His opinions on music are held in high esteem by song writers 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.  Recently 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 and you can follow with your own list in the comments if you are so inclined. First of all, any song I have to go find 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 over done 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.  It is true that every oldies station will 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 a number of 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.

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.  That would also include more by the masters of their style, the Beach Boys.  Go forth and create your own list and enjoy the sounds of summer.

A GREAT AMERICAN BIRTHDAY PARTY – 2016

Yankee Doodle Dandy

It’s the 4th of July again! We are planning to watch the most spectacular fireworks display anywhere,  the 1812 Overture accompanied by howitzers and fireworks over the Charles River in Boston … where arguably, it all began.

There more than a hint of bitter-sweetness to this years celebration.

David Mugar, who has supported and made possible this fantastic show seen round the world, is retiring after this show. He has been the grand master and primary support for this show for 43 years … and no one has stepped up to the plate to take over the festivities. Boston’s long-running Independence Day event may be at its end.

Which would be very sad because there’s nothing like it. The music, the orchestra, the river …. the hundreds of thousands of people who literally wait all year and for hours in line before the event because it really IS that good.

When we lived in Boston, we actually got to see the fireworks live and hear the concert from our balcony in the apartment where we lived.

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If we wanted to get even closer, we could stroll a few hundred yards, see and hear the entire event from the Arthur Fiedler footbridge over the Charles.

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It was the best view in town and though watching it on television is okay, now that we live way out here in the country, there is nothing that beats being there.

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Boston has been doing better since the horrors of the terrible marathon year and David Mugar has been a big part of the recovery. He deserves his very own parade and celebration for the good he has done for this city.

1997 fireworks on the charles

Now it’s time to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy, assuming someone is showing it. If not, we have a DVD. Yes, I know we saw it just a couple of weeks ago, but I need my music and dance fix.

When Garry and I were growing up in New York, “Million Dollar Movie” showed the movie frequently. Albeit with bizarre edits and often, using a grainy, tired copy of the film … but for us kids, it was enough. We learned the words, songs, the dances, the spirit.

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Tonight, we’ watch again as James Cagney dances down the steps in the White House. We always replay it half a dozen times. Can’t get enough of it. In case you feel the same way, I’ve included it so you can replay it as many times as you want. What a great movie! Happy Birthday to US!

This is the beginning of American autonomy, when we stepped off the sidelines and entered the mainstream of the world’s history and politics. Let’s hope we remember that what we do matters, not only to us, but to the entire world. We aren’t a little colony anymore. We’ve moved up to “the Bigs.”

Autonomy | The Daily Post

ROAD TRIP

Music For The Highway, by Rich Paschall

When I first became friends with my favorite French guy, who was here on a business internship, we took some road trips to see America.  We would gathered up our favorite CDs for the highway and head off in musical style.  In subsequent years he has returned for even more adventure.  You probably plug your phone into a USB port and listen to a playlist.  I guess we are just old-fashioned.

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Among my friend’s favorite American songs was a tune by America (the band), A Horse With No Name.  He knew it well before he arrived here and I happened to own America’s Greatest Hits.  I thought it interesting a young French guy knew this 1970s song.  We had an odd collection between the two of us each time we headed out, but America was always included.  Certain songs now go with those great highway memories.

You may have your favorites.  Perhaps you and your friends have all taken parts for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Maybe you have other sing-along tunes.  There are so many individual tastes for what might make good road music, that you would think I could not come up with a top ten.

Indeed it was difficult to settle on a list but I finally had to narrow down this favorite grouping to songs that mention roads, streets, highways or cars.  We’ll save the other up tempo tunes for another time.

It’s the Summertime and The Heat Is On.  Hop in your Little Red Corvette, 409 or Little Deuce Coup and Shut Up and Drive.  Whether you are cruising down Electric Avenue or travelling the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, just stay On The Sunny Side Of The Street and you will soon be able to say I’ve Been Everywhere and I Get Around.  No need to sing the Basin Street Blues, we have your road tunes.

10.  Route 66.  There was a popular song, recorded by many, named (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, but the television series did not want to pay for it and commissioned another.  I picked the Nelson Riddle instrumental.

09.  Penny Lane.  Yes, the Beatles hit is in my ears and in my eyes.

08.  Takin’ It To The Streets.  The Doobies Brothers, 1976

07.  Drive My Car.  Yes, it is another one by the Beatles.  They’ve got the Beat, you’ve got the car.

06.  Rockin’ Down The Highway.  The Doobie Brothers hit the list again with another high energy tune.

05.  Lake Shore Drive.  “There ain’t no road just like it, anywhere I’ve found.”  “Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound.”

04.  On The Road Again.  You can’t hit the road without Willie.

03.  Radar Love.  OK, it does not have a road or car in the title, but it is unmistakably a road tune.

02  Ventura Highway.  This America tune is among the ones I always heard on the road with my best friend.

01.  Take Me Home, Country Roads.  This John Denver composition is one of the great sing along songs.  I think I sang it once or twice or…

Listen to all of them on my playlist here: Road Music.

Last year’s list of summer tunes might work well for you:  The Summer Wind.

IN PRAISE OF THE OLD-FASHIONED MUSICAL by ELLIN CURLEY

I normally wouldn’t write a blog about a Broadway show since most blog readers would not have the opportunity to ever see the show themselves. However, I just saw “She Loves Me”, a delightful and thoroughly enjoyable musical that most of you will be able to see because the show is being filmed, live. It will be streamed starting on June 30. So you too can revel in this charming piece, with the added benefits of close-ups, which I didn’t get in my viewing from the nose bleed seats high in the Mezzanine.

“She Loves Me” was nominated for a Tony Award for best revival of a musical. It also got glowing reviews, all well deserved. It was often referred to as “old-fashioned” and “a jewel of a musical”. Those phrases aptly describe it’s character and ambiance.

It is definitely an old style romance set in a Parfumerie in 1934 Budapest. The story is based on the book that also provided the plots for two movies, “The Shop Around The Corner” and “You’ve Got Mail”. The latter is the more modern, computer age version. In all three, the main characters work together and don’t get along. However, unbeknownst to them, they are falling in love as anonymous “pen pals” through a lonely hearts club (an online dating service in “You’ve Got Mail”).

Ice Cream Scene

In the show, there are seven main characters who work in the Parfumerie. Each has his own plot line and solo number. The delivery boy who dreams of being a sales clerk; the brown-nosing employee who will do anything to keep his job; the young woman who is “used” by the womanizing co-worker she is having an affair with. You get to know and like all these people as well as the verbally sparring leads.

split dance

The dialogue is well written and quite funny. The sets are sophisticated and beautiful, as are the costumes. The lead actors are perfect. The music is melodic and the lyrics artfully develop character and move the plot along. The staging and choreography are brilliant, intricate and fast-paced. The full cast, including eleven subsidiary characters, work together like a well oiled machine.

The show creates a sense of intimacy that you don’t get often any more in the musical theater. I prefer like this kind of “small,” character driven show. It’s the thing theater can do better than movies or TV. Seeing this kind of show gives you an experience you wan’t readily get from other entertainment medium.

final kiss

You can see a video montage from the show at http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/She-Loves-Me.aspx. Scroll down to Videos / Montage

But I urge you to sit back and enjoy 2 ¼ hours of pure entertainment and simple joy. You’ll be smiling and tapping your foot through most of it.

Here’s how you can watch it:

“She Loves Me” will be streamed by a new company called Broadway HD. Their goal is to stream as many theater performances as possible so theater will reach a wider audience. The show will be filmed using nine or ten cameras, so I expect the watching experience will be somewhere between live theater, and movies or TV. It will cost $9.99 to watch it on the Broadway HD website. It will also be available via Roku and Apple TV ( I don’t know about costs on those).

ENJOY!