HELLO, WE’RE HERE! – Rich Paschall

Now What? by Rich Paschall

What do you do when friends come to visit?  Do you plan a nice dinner?  Do you stay in and cook or do you go out?  Do you plan some activities or do you go for spontaneity? Do you bring out old photo albums or run pictures on a computer or even on your television?  There are a lot of things you can do if it is just for a day.

What if friends and family are coming for more than a day?  A few days of guests may take a little more planning.  Maybe you want to both eat at home and go out.  Maybe you want to take your visitors around to meet other family and friends.  Maybe this is the opportunity for a lot of conversation that has been missing in your friendship in recent years.  But what if they come for a few weeks?  Yes, weeks!

When I was small, perhaps 6 years old, I recall visiting Tennessee with my grandparents or other family members.  My grandparents were from Tennessee but they spent the late 1940’s to mid 1960s in Chicago.  There were plenty of relatives in the small town and rural areas for us to visit, so we made the rounds whenever we arrived, staying here and there.  Since I was the little kid from the north, these friends and relatives of my grandparents enjoyed entertaining me when I first arrived.  That probably wore off quickly.

Down on the farm

Down on the farm

We stayed with people I do not recall and, since I was little, the details are a bit sketchy.  I had no idea that decades later I would be interested in these vague memories.  I do recall that sitting around the living room, or front porch if the weather was nice, and telling old stories was a popular pastime.

“Well, how ya’ll doin?  I guess it’s downright cold from where you come from.”

“No, it is hot there too.  It’s July!”

“I swear you are the spittin’ image of Robert Lee at that age.”

My father’s middle name was Lee.  I guess I heard plenty of stories of my father when he was my age, although “my age” seemed to take in his entire childhood.

Most of these visits included my grandfather or some other relative telling how my father got that scar on his chin.  It seems that he was not much more than a toddler when he ran into a barbed wire fence chasing after my grandfather.

“He was told to stay put there at the house but he wanted to help out in the field like everyone else.”  I could not see my father as a farmer, at any age.

Sitting around telling stories is a trait of a lot of families.  It is a happy thing to do when family and friends get together.  In a rural area, it might just pass as the most exciting thing you could do anyway.

I do recall that I must have been the entertainment sometimes as the southern folks took the city boy around the house or farm.  One time some adults had finally convinced me that I should walk across a field to pet a cow.  Never mind the fact that I was just a tot and the cow was, well…, a cow.

I headed out  across the field, a bit scared I am sure, but determined to pet the cow.  When I got near the cow, he took off in another direction.  I guess he was just as afraid of the little city boy as I was of him.  Anyway, he wanted nothing to do with me.  There are some more amusing farm animal stories but, fortunately, I can not think of anyone still alive to tell them.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

After my grandparents retired I was old enough to get put on the train in Chicago and collected from the train in Fulton, Kentucky.  It was the nearest stop to my grandparents in Tennessee.  Yes, we went around and visited relatives and friends.  I could now participate in some story telling.  I was still told I looked like Robert Lee, which I was always to take as a complement.  In my grandparents’ retirement years, there was not much more to do.

“You can walk right down there to the Dairy Queen and get yourself an ice cream cone.  If you go down there after dark, you can hear that bug zapper getting something every minute or two.”  Now that’s entertainment!

Robert Lee’s boy

When my grandmother passed away at some point in her 90s, we returned to Tennessee for another round of family visits.  My father and I attended some family reunions in other years.  One time it was at a Baptist church, the next time it was at the John Deere dealer.  It seems the John Deere dealer had the largest room in the area, bigger than the church.  We didn’t need any farm equipment, but it was interesting to see.

Even decades later, our visiting routine was to travel around and see relatives, mostly without advance warning.  We were always welcome, however.  Once my father and his brother, my uncle, tried to remember how to get to someone’s house using landmarks from when they were kids.  The amazing thing is there was little movement of families and we always found our way around.

On one trip my father wondered if old Aunt Ella was still alive.  She would have to be in her 90s and we were not confident we would find the small town well off any highway, much less Aunt Ella.  When we spotted a mailbox with our last name, we went up to the house where an old woman sat on the porch.  My aging father had not seen her in decades.

“Well, I guess you don’t know who I am,” my father started out.

“Why, you’re Yancy’s boy, Robert Lee,” she declared without missing a beat. “And you must be Robert Lee’s boy,” she said to me.  I must have been in my 40s by then.  We sat around and talked, as was the custom.

What do you do when relatives come calling?  Do you ever go to visit old family and friends?  Go to restaurants? Visit museums, famous landmarks, local hot spots?  Have actual conversations?

FRANKFURT AM MAIN

Our Latest Adventure, by Rich Paschall

Frankfurt, Germany, or Frankfurt am Main (Frank ford at the Main), is the fifth-largest city, but home to the busiest airport in the country.  This is not only because it is home to Lufthansa airline, but also because many other airlines have a major presence there.  Almost 65 million passengers pass through the airport each year, making it the busiest airport in Germany and the fourth busiest in Europe.

There are many direct flights to Frankfurt from major US cities, so finding a flight at a good price and transit time is possible through most of the year.  If you are visiting Germany or a neighboring country, you will want to consider this airport.  Bus and train travel around the region are quick and economical.

Frankfurt

In the past when we have headed to Strasbourg, France, we have used the Frankfurt airport for its proximity to our destination.  Only once did we stay overnight near the airport with a brief stop in the city.  We had considered the city to be just a financial center, which it is, and an industrial center.  This time we stayed longer to explore the city.

I chose an airport hotel because we could easily take the shuttle back to the airport where you can catch the train into the city.  Looking back on this choice, however, you can pick a spot in the city for the very same reason.  Transportation by train to the airport is simple because of the major train station right across from the airline terminals.   If we would do it again, I would try to stay near Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof station.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

The main station in the city is a mix of old-world charm and modern efficiency.  Upgrades to the rail system in recent years have upset the reputation of the German railroads always being on time, or “you can set your watch by them,” but they are still reliable and we encountered no delays.

You can stop at McDonald’s in the train station if you like, but we did not come all the way to Germany to eat in an American fast-food restaurant.  Our motto for travel has been “eat local, drink local” so of course, that is what we did.

Eat local, drink local

My travel companion on this trip, who is always hungry, needed a food stop when we arrived in the city. We chose a restaurant right alongside the station for convenience.  We ordered the Wiener Schnitzel.  My friend is from Colombia so he has never eaten food like this.  He found it goes well with the local beverage.

Fortunately, the old-world train station survives and is a good spot for pictures before you head off on your exploration of the city.  Plenty of tourists were busy taking pictures of the station and surrounding areas.  I took a picture of my friend getting a picture of himself.  “Selfies” are popular at all the tourist stops.

Selfie

Frankfurt is a unique blend of old and new.  I suppose that World War II is partly a reason for that.  Some areas of the city were heavily damaged. Some things were restored, other areas were rebuilt. This allowed for modernization and planning that would improve the quality of life for residents and eventually tourists.

There are many good shopping districts and we made our way to one of them to see what bargains we could find. The outdoor malls our popular and we picked up some items I probably did not need.

Shopping (or selfie-taking)

We also stopped by the Alte Oper (Old opera) to see the lovely old building.  It was heavily damaged in the war and carefully rebuilt through the 1970s.  It opened again in 1981 as a concert hall.  The opera was already in a new building nearby.

The large plaza in front and alongside is a nice stop for locals and tourists.  We took the necessary pictures before stopping inside.

I joined a few “friends” for an opera house picture.

Following our walk around the Opernplatz, my hungry friend needed food so we made our way to the cafe inside the opera house.  It was ornate as expected.  Aside from the modern elevator in the building, it was hard to determine which parts were damaged and restored and which parts of the building were original.

Opera cafe

Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne are all larger and may hold more appeal for various reasons, but Frankfurt has a charm all its own.  With the Main River running through it and a large city forest, it is a beautiful tourist stop.  If your flight takes you to Frankfurt, it would be wise to spend a night or two to see the culture and entertainment offered here.

A blend of old and new

For more pictures from our Frankfurt Adventure, jump over to Sunday Night Blog, here.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? – Rich Paschall

Would You Change Your Name? by Rich Paschall

When I finally come around to writing a short story for SERENDIPITY, I usually get stalled at the beginning when I need to decide on character names. It seems to me that the name is important and certain names will convey certain feelings to the reader.  So, I try to choose carefully.

I liked Harold for an older character because I don’t know any younger people named Harold.  Although the most famous literary character of this century so far is named Harry, I never thought of Harry Potter as a “Harold.” But he probably is.

I inadvertently used Harold twice. I wrote a story titled Alone and actually filmed it a year later, calling the only character Harold.  This did not stop me from forgetting about it and naming another older character Harold in a series of stories that started with Soup and Sandwich. Some names just seem to lend themselves to young and old, rich or poor. A lot of that is surely based on personal experience and naming trends over the years. Names go in and out of favor for newborns.

The characters of the stories are newborns to me. Most of my characters arrive full-grown, I look for age appropriate names.  For example, Richie might be alright for a boy, but a grownup would probably prefer Rich or Richard. A few folks who know me from childhood still call me Richie. I get all three versions of my name these days. I can’t escape the variations.

what's in a name

If a story has a local flavor, I try to use names that could not be mistaken for anyone I know.  Trying to think of names that don’t belong to friends or relatives can be challenging … and leave me looking up names on the Internet.

If you named a child, did you use a book of baby names?  Did you look up names on the Internet? Did you make lists of names,  then negotiate the final choice with others? Fortunately, I only have to debate with myself about my characters’ names. Right or wrong, I’ve no one to blame or congratulate but myself.

Aside from Harold, I don’t think I’ve duplicated a name, but I’ve got so many stories out there, I can’t say for sure. I know I’ll always have favorites tucked in the back of my mind.


In my neighborhood, there’s a family in which the father is Edgar. His son is also Edgar. Another son is Eduardo.

In this household, no one is called Ed. The younger Edgar is Eddy. The others are called by their full names. Parents get to set rules on that — at least in the home — but there’s no telling how kids will change your name once you start school. You could get a nickname that sticks. That might be good. Or not.

If there are several kids named John in your class, classmates —  even a teacher — may decide you’re Jack, Johnnie, Jay … or something else. A room with multiple Johns, Michaels, or Susans will likely trigger a round of renaming.

Did you get stuck with a nickname? Do you like it? Hate it? Don’t much care either way?

I had a cousin named George whose father was also George, so they called him Ricky. For years, I thought that was his name. No idea how they chose this name, but it stuck with him his entire life. When relatives on that side of the family called me Ricky, it drove my mother crazy. She’d point out Ricky is not my name.

Aunt Mary is called Joan. It’s her middle name. Some said they did not want to call her by her mother’s name, but no one I know called my grandmother Mary.  Her sister called her Mae. There are Roberts who became Bob or Bobby, including my father.

I know a few people who hate their name.  Some are downright upset at their parents about it. If you were named Moon Unit or Dweezil, disliking your name might not seem unreasonable. Yet, Frank Zappa’s kids stuck with those names.

The Zappa family got away with giving their kids what could optimistically be considered “unique” names. Celebrities get a pass on lots of stuff. I doubt an ordinary kid would survive such names. Most parents want to make their children feel their names are special, but sensible parents don’t want their kid’s name to make them a target.

Destiny Hope Cyrus decided she liked Miley better. She changed her name — which was already her nickname.

Just don’t call me late for dinner.

As for my own, I’m neutral about it. I neither love nor hate my name. It’s okay. All of its variations are fine with me, including Rick or Ricky, despite my mother’s objections. I am also okay with RJ (Richard John).

But I hated Dick. Few dare call me that, but one friend does. He’s the only one who gets away with it. I remember all too well the years of President “Tricky Dick” Nixon. I wanted no association with that name.

Do you like your name? Would you prefer a nickname?  Did you always like your name or did you accept it over time?

If you could change your name now, to what would you change it?  Feel free to share your new name in the comments?  I might choose Ming the Merciless, Emperor of the Universe.  That had a certain ring to it when I was small, though it would be hard to fit on a business card.

OUR PASSING HEROES – Rich Paschall

Deaths Of Our Sports Icons, 2019, by Rich Paschall

For many of us, we grow up idolizing our sports heroes. It is an important part of our youth. These people are more significant to us than the movie or television heroes because they are real icons. They are athletes we can watch on television, or, if we are lucky, go to see in person. They mean a lot to us in our youth and when they pass away, it is a reminder of the passage of time. We mourn for them and for ourselves, because we have lost a part of our youth. They have passed into our aging  memories.

For this “In Memoriam” I will mention ten that hold substantial memories to me for the sports I watched and listened to when I was young. They passed away in 2019. This is not a ranking and the order is totally random. There is no way I could place a number on the life of these accomplished figures.

First, there are a few that deserve to be mentioned for their notable lives. You may not know the name Pete Frates, 34. The Boston College baseball star never made it to “the bigs.” He was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehring’s’s Disease) in 2012. Frates along with his friend Pat Quinn are credited with creating the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It raised apprpoximately 200 million dollars for ALS research. In 2015 the Boston Red Sox gave Frates a lifetime contract.

Jack Whitaker, 95, was a longtime sports broadcaster. The Emmy award winner called the first Super Bowl in 1966. He was at countless sporting events for many decades for CBS, then ABC.

You may never have heard of Julia Ruth Stevens, 102. I had not heard of her either until now. She was the last living daughter of baseball great, Babe Ruth. Later in life, she was a Boston Red Sox fan.

Cliff Branch, 71. The wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders (1972-1986) won three Super Bowls.

Jim Bouton, 80. The longtime major league baseball pitcher spent the first seven years in the “Bigs” with the New York Yankees. He became well know after baseball as a broadcaster, and for writing the babseball book, ‘Ball Four.”

Bill Buckner, 69. One of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history became best known for just one error with the Bost Red Sox. He played 22 years in “the show,” including 8 with our Chicago Cubs.

Wrigley Field

Center Field scoreboard from Sheffield Avenue

Bart Starr, 85. Even though he played for the rival Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears fans could still appreciate the accomplishments of this HOF quarterback. He won the first two Super Bowls.

John “Hondo” Havlicek, 79. The basketball Hall of Famer played 16 seasons for the Boston Celtics. For some reason we hated to see the ball in his hands. He was an outstanding ball handler.

Forrest Gregg, 85. The NFL Hall of Fame lineman played with Bart Starr on the Green Bay packers. Like Starr, he later went on to coach the Packers.

Scott Sanderson, 62. The long time MLB pitcher played on both the Chicago Cubs (1984-89) and Chicago White Sox (1994). His career spanned 18 seasons.

Frank Robinson, 83.  The longtime baseball player, then manager is in the MLB Hall of Fame.

Mel Stottlemyre, 77. He pitched 11 seasons for the NY Yankees, winning 5 World Series. He later went into coaching including 10 more years with the Yankees.

Zeke Bratkowski, 88. He played for the Chicago Bears and LA rams before becoming the “Super-sub” and backup to HOF QB Bart Starr. Legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi picked up Bratkowski off waivers at the beginning of the Green Bay dynasty.

These athletes may not be known by some, and may be forgotten by others, but they remain there through the foggy mist of my memories. They cling to those precious spots of youth from which we are reluctant to let go. “Requiescat in pace.”

Sources include: “Pete Frates,” Alchetron.com
Too much loss: A look back at the notable sports deaths in 2019,”  The Detroit News, detroitnews.com  December 31, 2019.
Julia Ruth Stevens, Babe Ruth’s Daughter, Dies at 102,” The New York Times, nytimes.com March 9, ,2019.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! – Rich Paschall

The Rest of Your Life

Windmill of your mind

The new year is about to begin and it is time to ask the important question:

What are you doing the rest of your life
North and South and 
East and West of your life
I have only one request of your life

All the seasons and the times of your days
Are the nickels and the dimes of your days
Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days

Through all of my life
Summer, winter, spring and fall of my life
All I ever will recall of my life
Is all my life with you

The song was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1969 film The Happy Ending.  Michael Dees sang the song and it is featured above.  It lost out to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.

The lyrics were by the prolific team of Marilyn and Alan Bergman.  Music was by Michel Legrand.  In 1973 Legrand won a Grammy for the Musical Arrangement of the song for the vocal by Sarah Vaughan, second above.

Remember Playboy After Dark?  Legrand performed his composition with Hugh Hefner and other stars looking on.  Of the three above, who performed it best?

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

 

COMRADE LEADER AND THE BLOGSTERS – Rich Paschall

A SERENDIPITY Fractured Spy Tale, by Rich Paschall

It was a long hall with high, vaulted ceilings, elegantly appointed with gold-leaf trim. The walls were appropriately red on the upper two thirds, with an elegant dark cherry wood wainscoting below. Down the middle of the hall ran a long table made of the finest dark wood. It could seat 20 comrades along each side. The room was empty now, except for the big man seated at the head of the table.

He was patiently waiting in the Great Hall of the Central Committee. The room was quiet and serene, just like the meetings presided over by the big man. As he sat admiring a portrait of himself, Comrade Number Eight entered the room and walked to the front of the hall. Number Eight stood at attention and waited to be acknowledged.

“Report!” ordered the man at the head of the table.

“Comrade Leader,” Number Eight began. “I am pleased to report the success of our blog writers in foreign lands. Already today, six more articles have been posted. They are all well received, especially the ones we have designated as coming from ‘news’ sites.”

“What is the most popular story you have planted recently?” the Leader inquired.

“Comrade Leader, we have reported that the main opponent of our appointed foreign leader is running a scandalous sex ring from the back of a Taco truck.”

The Leader of the Federation looks a bit confused at this.  “Taco Truck? What do you mean?”

“Comrade Leader…” said Number Eight hesitantly. All reports began by addressing “Comrade Leader” but from there he was not sure how to proceed on this one.

“This is a truck that travels around the streets selling food. Tacos, Tortas, Burritos.”

“And the political opponent runs a ‘sex ring’ from such a truck?”

“Yes, Comrade Leader.”

“And the people of that nation believe this story?”

“Oh yes, Comrade Leader. We placed the story on several blogs and it was picked up and distributed by other blog sites. It has even been run by some news stations.  It has many ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ on social media. It is being spread all around the country.”

At that. the Big Man, Head Mister of all the Misters on the Central Committee, stared at Number Eight with the most incredulous look Comrade Leader had ever given anyone. After a brief moment, he roared with laughter.  He was laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his high backed leather chair. Number Eight felt he could finally relax and laughed a little bit too.

“Have you designated a particular truck?” the important man wanted to know.

“No sir, Comrade Leader, sir. There are many of these trucks in the big cities and we wish to throw suspicion on all of them. With a little more prodding, we think the people will start attacking some of them.”

The leader laughed some more.

“Next week, Comrade Leader, we are going to have our asset speculate that these trucks are all run by illegal aliens and should be shut down. He will try to make a link between the illegals, his opponent and the sex ring. They are all selling prostitutes to fund the political campaign against our appointed one.”

“Stop, you’re killing me,” the boss man said as he was laughing so hard his sides began to hurt. “This is the funniest thing I have heard in years. Your team has done excellent work and brought me great joy. You will receive the People’s Medal for your achievement.”

“Thank You, Comrade Leader. I am very… (pause) pleased… that you are… (pause) pleased… sir” Number Eight puffed out his chest and stood in the Great Hall with a large smile on his face. It would not last long.

“Now, Number Eight, tell me how our special agents, Boris and Natasha, are doing on their secret mission.”

Number Eight looked down at the carpet that covered the floor beneath his feet. He did not know how to explain what was happening.

“I am sorry to say, Comrade Leader, that our operatives in the foreign land have not yet completed their assignment. We still have high hopes that they will succeed soon.”

“What has been the problem for them so far?” the leader of Covert Operations wanted to know.

“Sir, at every turn in the road they have been thwarted by two other agents who seem to be of superior intelligence.”

“I see, have you identified these other agents? We must deal with them severely.”

“No, Comrade Leader, but we have learned their code names, ‘Moose’ and ‘Squirrel.'”

The big man nodded his head knowingly as if he had encountered these crafty beasts before.

True patriots — American Heroes!

WINTER YET TO COME – Rich Paschall

Winter In The Air, Rich Paschall

It’s not in the air now. It was, but not now. Back in late October winter arrived before we could even rake up all the leaves. In fact, many of the trees still had their leaves. There was no chance to clean up. And snow appeared in time for Halloween.

The problem with early snow is that the Streets and Sanitation Department takes that as the sign to put away the street sweepers and bring out the snowplows. November remained cold, but little additional snow was ever sighted. The leaves came down throughout the month.

Then December brought warmer temperatures. We actually had several days in the ’60s and expect at least one more warm day. I raked leaves December 22 and 23rd in the pleasant fall weather.

No worries about Winter, however.  He will be here soon. You will feel it in the air.

THE SURPRISING CHRISTMAS – Rich Paschall

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshman year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace.

As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entranceway on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.”

Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

last snow low contrast winter

Kyle only took a few short steps before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first-grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Uxb Common Christmas Poster

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally, Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that, the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

72-GAR-Night-Uxbridge-121015_005

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.”

At that instant, Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart, he was praying for acceptance.

That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

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.

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

I REGRET NOTHING – Rich Paschall

We all have regrets, that’s for sure.  You can not lead a life without them.  You may regret your first stumble and fall — if you remember it.  You may regret dropping that toy or that cell phone.  You may regret letting go of the balloon or a house that rose dramatically in value right after you sold it.  You may regret throwing away food, furniture, or clothing.  But why cry over that?

As you grow, I guess there are plenty of things to regret.  How about the day you did not do your homework?  How about the time you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar, literally or figuratively?  How about the time you were grounded for not doing _________ (fill in the blank).

School years can be filled with regrets.  Many of them will actually have to do with getting caught, rather than what you did.  Of course, if you fell off old man Jones’ garage and broke your arm, you will probably regret that.  If you picked on someone smaller and got your butt kicked, you probably regret that too.

When you could not work up the nerve to ask Sally or Janie or Billy to the prom, you may regret it years later.  This especially stings if you find out the person you wished to ask, liked you too and was hoping you would ask him or her out.  There are a lot of friendships, especially at the high school level, they may have developed into something, if only you had the courage to move forward.

This is especially tough for gay boys and girls who feel they may be the only gay ones in their class and are afraid to approach anyone on this topic.  Recently, I learned a high school classmate was gay so I went back to look at his yearbook picture.  I wanted to see if he was the person I remembered.  He was smart, handsome — someone I would not have thought I could approach.

Adult life may be filled with a series of sorrows over decisions made.  Should you have gone to college?  If you went, did you pick the right school?  The right major?  It is easy to spend time at the fraternity parties and local bars.  Will you later wonder if studying harder would have made a difference in later life?

There was a good friend of mine through elementary and high school who also went on to the same University as me.  We took many of the same classes.  We frequently studied together.  Many times, our studies started with a trip to a deep-dish pizza place where we would order pizza and pitchers of beer.  Since deep dish pizza took a long time to make, we might get 30 to 40 minutes of studying done before the pizza was delivered.  After that, it was just pizza and beer.  I guess I don’t regret this one too much.

After college, I cultivated many groups of friends.  A lot of these friendships revolved around hanging out local bars watching sports and drinking beer.  In later years, it might involve karaoke.  We enjoyed our nights.  As I look back on those years, I am not sure I remember who came along or what occasions were special.  They were just nights out. It was more about killing time than fulfillment.

Then, of course, it would be easy to regret all the money we spent in these various places.  Some nights, we poured money over the bar just as fast as they poured drinks into our glasses.  Buying drinks for others, especially if they did not have a lot of cash, seemed like a great idea.  They probably do not remember me, just as much as I do not remember them.

dead leaves

My mother spent a lot of time in the local lounges, one in particular in my lifetime.  The time spent took up more than 50-years of her life and all of her spare money.  At these places, I am convinced she felt she made a number of deep friendships.  It was important to get to these places on Friday or Saturday night to see her “friends.”

When she had a stroke at 73, a couple came to see her once or sent a card.  After the first few weeks, over the next 16 years, we never saw any of these people.  I wonder if she regretted the time spent at the lounge. I will never know.

If you married the wrong person, you may have deep regrets. If you joined with several incompatible partners, you could pile up many regrets. Falling out with family members always leaves plenty of regrets, even when there’s nothing to be done about it. Friendships and marriages are often chosen in haste. They need to be corrected and forgiven (at least forgiving yourself) rather than regretted.

Then, there’s Edith Piaf:

The thing about regrets? There’s nothing to be gained from them. You should learn from mistakes, but regrets aren’t worth anything. You can’t get back time lost. You can’t get back money spent.  You can’t undo a painful history. There’s nothing to be gained from dwelling on mistakes.

Take the lesson. Move forward. Dump the regrets and find a more positive approach to life.


Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course

Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Don’t look at yesterday when today encourages you to look ahead. You can never change what already happened. Maybe you don’t really want to. Everything you’ve done — good and bad — is part of you.

That’s true too, but not necessarily the healthiest way to go.

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.”

CHICAGO CHRISTMAS – Rich Paschall

aka Chicago XXXVII, Rich Paschall

By now you have probably heard a lot of familiar Christmas music. It might be adding to the background noise at the mall. You may be hearing it in your auto on your Christmas radio station. You could be streaming that station on your computer or mobile device. You may even have a few old albums to put on the turn table or CDs to drop into your “boom box.” Whatever the case, the tunes may have been recycled for many years, even decades as Nat, Bing, Dean, and Burl; Frank, Perry, Gene and Andy, even Judy and Elvis bring you their “classics.” If you know at least 8 last names of the ten just mentioned, you may have heard their tunes a little too often. We have listed our favorites of these in our top ten tunes of Christmas Past, Dead Artists Edition.

More Christmas shopping, same Christmas songs?

It seems like there are about 20 songs in heavy rotation on the Christmas stations with another 20 sprinkled in from time to time. A newer artist might break into the play list this year, but will he or she stay there for long? The pop hit by the millenial artist is likely to fade away as quickly as the current release of the iphone. We always seem to go back to the same handful of tunes. Don’t you wish we could get some new holiday music?

“Christmas Rock with horns”

Well, someone has brought along some new Christmas music. In fact they have seven new tunes, eight if you count the R&B and ballad versions of the same song. Chicago the band (not the city) has a new Christmas album. It is the third Christmas album released by the group. Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album was released in 1998 and had 14 tunes. It is one of my favorite holiday albums. Tha arrangements are unmistakably Chicago. It was re-edited and re-released by Rhino records in 2003 as What’s It Gonna Be, Santa, containing a total of 20 songs.

The next holiday album was Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three in 2011. Why O Christmas THREE? Perhaps because it is the 33rd album? Maybe because they considered the two previous releases of XXV as two Christmas albums? This time out they don’t just pass aroung the vocals to various band members, as usual. They also have some guest artists, Dolly  Parton, Bebe Winans, and America (the band) to join them. Steve Cropper makes a guest appearance on guitar on the only origianl song, Rockin and Rollin on Christmas Day.

When producer and original band member Lee Loughnane (trumpet, vocals) asked band members earlier in the year if they had any original Christmas songs, he expected a contribution or two. Instead, he received more than they could use this time out. If you thought picking the songs was going to be difficult, arranging and recording was going to be more of a challenge. The band was on tour most of the year.

The group decided to use the same method to record this “studio” album as they did for the previous album, Chicago Now.  They employed a mobile recording system they referered to as “The Rig.” This allowed them to rehearse and record on the go, utilizing hotel rooms, the tour bus and other stops along the way. Not all band members needed to be present at once, as various tracks could be sent by web portal and mixed later. It worked before and the band proved again that they can use the latest technology to achieve what older bands are reluctant to try; that is, record new albums.

Arranging and recording while continuing to perform means the guys are always working. If you think that “rock with horns” sounds just happens, then we will share a short “making of” video from the band’s You Tube channel. Notice at one point they are rehearsing and recording on the tour bus.

If you want to get the full dose of how it was done, you can watch Chicago Christmas (Making Of) here. This gives a much better insight into the collaborative effort. You see the guys together in a hotel room working out the harmonies and the parts for each. For a “band on the run,” it is the modern way to work.

Along with the seven new songs this time out, there is Sleigh Ride 2019, Here We Come A Caroling  and Robert Lamm on a non-Christmas but very timely song, “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” You can add this new one to your play list:

You can find the CD on Amazon, or the band website, or you can download the album.  Perhaps you do not want to pay for an album of songs you have not heard. It is not likely the Christmas stations will play them, so the band has a good idea for you. Just as they did for O Christmas Three, Chicago has posted all of the songs on their You Tube channel. You can listen to the entire album here.

The band is making some appearances to promote the new music. You can catch them in the Macy’s Thanksiving Day Parade playing tunes along the parade route.

Sources: “Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three,” Wikipedia.
Chicago,” chicagotheband.com
Chicago Band, You Tube Channel

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: