365 Day Song Challenge: Day 49 – “The Rockford Files”

Day 49. Your favorite TV show theme song.

“The Rockford Files” – Mike Post

The Rockford Files Opening Back before “Magnum P.I.,” “Monk” and the current batch of Sherlock Holmes shows (“Elementary” in the U.S. and “Sherlock” in the UK—both good), there was Jim Rockford (and his files). And back before digital synthesizers, sampling and the ultimate demise of the long-form TV show theme in favor of an additional commercial, there was “The Rockford Files” theme song.

Mike Post was a prolific TV theme song writer. Trust me when I tell you that you know way more of his songs than you think you do. And he (along with Pete Carpenter) was responsible for this one. The thing that always grabbed me about it was the main synth line with its portamento note slides (although at the time I had no idea what a synth line or portamento were.) It was this that put “The Rockford Files” ahead of its chief competitor, “Welcome Back.” (No, that theme is not called “Welcome Back Kotter.”) The original version of “The Rockford Files” sounds like nothing else out there.

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There have been a million re-recordings of the Rockford theme. (I’m not exaggerating. Much.) If you don’t believe me go here.There are a lot of listings for “The Rockford Files” and for every one there are at least three “This is not the original!” reviews. (Because apparently one person pointing out the obvious is not enough.) And it’s true. None of those are the original version released on LP and 45 (which, incidentally, was not an exact match for the version used in the show, either).

It is that MGM single with the blue and tan label that I remember (another one courtesy of my brother, as was “Welcome Back”). And, apparently, you simply can’t get it any more. Lucky for me, I was able to find an MP3 of that actual release somewhere along the line. (I think it was on Have A Nice Decade, now seemingly out of print.) I actually remember the theme song much better than the show, even though it was one my parents watched regularly.

There have been a lot of good TV theme songs over the years. “Barney Miller,” “Night Court” and “Cheers” to name just a few. And I actually have a lot of them. Rockford wins hands down, and again, I think it all goes back to the sound of the synth. Funny how something so simple can put such a stamp on something. (It’s also how I can tell that the versions available are not the original. It has a certain identifiable sound and timbre.)

Yeah, “Barney Miller” had that great bass line, (so did “Night Court,” albeit in a different way) and “Welcome Back” had that kid riding away on his unicycle (hmm… maybe I’m mixing my mediums now), but I still say Rockford wins.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

The show intro…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 48 – “Solsbury Hill”

Day 48. A song that you wish you could’ve written.

“Solsbury Hill” – Peter Gabriel

Solsbury HillFor those that don’t know, long before “Sledgehammer” and “Steam,” there was “I Know What I Like,” “The Knife” and “The Battle Of Epping Forest.” No, you won’t find those last three on any Peter Gabriel solo album. You see, before his solo career, Gabriel was the original lead singer of Genesis.

He left the band in 1975. (Many thought that the departure could spell the end of Genesis. Thankfully, it didn’t.) In 1977 he released his first solo album, called, surprisingly enough, Peter Gabriel.  (This album was followed by a new one in 1978 called Peter Gabriel, another in 1980 called Peter Gabriel, and one in 1982 called… you guessed it… Peter Gabriel. He’s quite a creative songwriter, but he sucks at album titles.) The first single from Peter Gabriel—uh, the first Peter Gabriel—was “Solsbury Hill.”

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“Solsbury Hill” wasn’t a patently obvious choice. I knew I wanted to pick something that was a bit unconventional, and often for me that means long and at least somewhat complex. Since I’m still holding Genesis off-limits for a little longer, I had to look beyond things like “Firth Of Fifth” and “Duke’s Travels.” I then thought of “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel, but since I’d already done one of his songs, I didn’t want to do that either.

Then I thought of “Solsbury Hill” and that pretty much decided that. There were a number of reasons:

  1. It’s a great song. A pretty song with pretty lyrics. But they’re also lyrics of empowerment, of taking a chance and doing what it is you really want (or need) to do, regardless of the risk involved. Too often people go through life afraid to make a change. And then there are always the people who are going to tell you, “no, you can’t do that” or “that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.” Gabriel decided he wasn’t going to listen to them. (And you shouldn’t either.)
  2. It’s reported to be about Gabriel deciding to leave Genesis. (A decision made while having a “spiritual experience” at the song’s namesake location. He likes those “spiritual experiences,” but more on that later.) So, in order to have written the song, you’d have had to have been in Genesis, which would have been pretty cool in the first place (says the die-hard fan).
  3. Third, there’s more going on in this song than meets the… uh… ear. That is, not only is the song structure and melody well done, but it uses a 7/4 time signature for most of the song (except the last two measures of each chorus, which are in 4/4). This is an unconventional time signature, but Gabriel makes it sound effortless and natural, which is rarely the case for songs in “7”. (So it fits my previously stated “unconventional” and “somewhat complex” criteria.)

Even after I subsequently realized that I’d already penciled in a Gabriel song for Day 58 (which totally negated my logic for not picking a Billy Joel song), I decided I didn’t want to reconsider or go back to “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.” (So I’ll have to find another topic to use that one for.)

“Solsbury Hill” is an achievement and something I would have liked to have written. I have written a number of songs; not a huge number, but a number. It’s not easy to write even a bad song much less one you can be proud of. My songs have never strayed out of the 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, and my lyrics are not really strong. (I’m a good prose writer (if I say so myself), but not a great poet.) 

Now album titles? Yeah, I got it all over Pete on that front…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 47 – “Let The Good Times Roll”

Day 47. The oldest song you own.

“Let The Good Times Roll” – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five

LouisJordanHow many of you thought, based on the title, it was going to be The Cars? Be honest… But that’s actually called “Good Times Roll.”

As I’ve stated before, The Blues Brothers is among my favorite movies, if not the favorite.

What I may not have explicitly stated is that I have a tendency to make up stupid (but fun!) projects for myself. And some of those projects can end up being a little time-consuming. (Like writing a blog post a day based on a song challenge. Who would do that?)

Now, I’ve owned a copy of The Blues Brothers soundtrack for a long time. And while the music that’s there ranges from good to great, many of the renditions presented are not the versions that are actually in the movie. Take, for example, “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” On the album, the song starts with a cheering crowd and has female backing singers, while in the movie the crowd was dead silent at the start and the stage was a sausage-fest.

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Beyond that, there are a lot of things that get played in the movie that aren’t on the soundtrack at all. (John Lee Hooker’s street performance of “Boom Boom”; Sam & Dave’s “Soothe Me” & “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” which were playing on the 8-Track deck just before the mall chase; and “I Can’t Turn You Lose” during the mall chase just to name a few.

“So what does this have to do with your crazy projects?” I hear you say.

Well, I decided to make my own soundtrack. A better soundtrack. A complete soundtrack. A soundtrack we can all be proud of. Or something.

Modern technology makes this much easier than it used to be. You can find obscure songs on Amazon or iTunes without much trouble. For one-of-a-kind in-movie performances, there are audio extraction tools. So yes, I’m insane, but as a result I have really cool things like Jake & Elwood singing “Stand By Your Man” and “Quando Quando Quando” by Murph & The Magictones. (Wait? What? Those aren’t cool? Who says?)

One of the songs I had the most trouble identifying was the song on the 78(!) that Elwood plays just after they return to his apartment and just before Jake chastises him for running from the cops, saying they now had his address. After some research, I learned that the song was “Let The Good Times Roll” by Louis Jordan. So, in order to complete my soundtrack, I had to buy it. At that point, this song from 1946 became the oldest song I own.

See how that all came together?

(All right, I’m lying. I have a version of Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” from 1944 that is actually the oldest song I own. But I tend to segregate Christmas songs and I’m trying to keep them out of the song challenge mix, at least until the season rolls around, at which time I might relax the rule. Maybe.)

So there you have it. The insanity… er… project that resulted in my oldest song. And the ability to hear Jake & Elwood singing “Stand By Your Man at any time on my iPod. Which is cool. No matter what you say.

Elwood: “No they don’t got my address! I falsified my renewal. I put down 1060 West Addison.”
Jake: “1060 West Addision? That’s Wrigley Field.”

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 46 – “Imagination Infatuation”

Day 46. Your favorite song of this year.

“Imagination Infatuation” – MisterWives

MisterWivesIf yesterday was easy, today was ridiculously easy.

Because, you see, it’s only February. So picking a favorite song of the year is much simpler when there really hasn’t been that much music released so far.

To make it even easier, of the things that have been released, I’ve only bought one album (actually only an EP—six songs).

As chance would have it I went to the iTunes store a couple of weeks ago and somehow stumbled upon this. It must have been a featured-something-or-other on the main page.

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I clicked. I liked. I bought.

(My friend Mike once said he admired my ability to listen to a song and almost immediately decide if I liked it or not. And while that doesn’t always hold true (see “All Mixed Up“) it is fairly accurate. Whether it’s a trait (talent?) worthy of admiration is another thing entirely. Personally, I’m doubtful.)

The songs are catchy, even if they are all cut from a similar cloth. I wouldn’t call them masterpieces, or great art, but they’re fun. Just for grins, I’ve provided samples for all the songs on the EP. (While there are certain things I miss as a result of modern technology, like going to the record store and flipping through the rows of records/CDs, there is definitely something to be said for being able to immediately hear samples of something before you buy.)

So…

Um… yeah. That’s all I’ve got for you today.

Tune in next time when we find out how to clear a nasty clog, an organic cure for athlete’s foot, and what’s Joe’s oldest song is. (The clog and cure things might get pre-empted, just so you know.)

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 45 – “What About Everything?”

Day 45. Your favorite song from the 00s.

“What About Everything?” – Carbon Leaf

Carbon Leaf - Indian SummerAs we continue the “Your favorite song of the XXs” series, you should know I’m technically breaking the rules with my dates. For an explanation, go here.

I’m going to assume for today’s post that they mean the 2000s and not the 1900s, because otherwise… yeah, I got nothin’.

For the 2000s, the choice is actually pretty easy for me. Many of my favorite artists stopped putting out albums entirely, and those that didn’t… well, let’s just say their output in the 2000s (and beyond) hasn’t exactly overwhelmed me. This includes favorites like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Peter Gabriel. (Oh sure, I bought them, but that doesn’t mean that they were good. One notable exception was The Cars, whose 2011 album Move Like This was actually very good. But unfortunately it doesn’t fit the time period.)

So ’round about 2000, I had to start looking for other bands.


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The good news is that there were actually bands out there to like. The bad news is that the music industry had changed so that if a band didn’t sell 9 gazillion units their first time out, they got dropped by their label. A mentality that makes it very hard to build a career and a following. We now live in a world where bands like R.E.M. and Rush would never have gotten the chance to mature.

Anyway, one day in 2005, I’m listening to WBOS (when it was still WBOS and not whatever travesty it is now) and they played this song “Life Less Ordinary” by a band called Carbon Leaf. I really liked it. A few weeks later, they played another song by the band called “What About Everything?” and I was hooked.

I promptly broke my “I need to like three songs from an album before I buy it” rule and… well… bought it. (Truth be told, it’s pretty hard to follow that rule these days, anyway.) On some songs I found them to have a Celtic sound. On some songs I found them to have a Celtic Green Day sound. (I’m not kidding. Check out “This Is My Song.”) On the whole, a really good album that I suggest you check out. But back to the narrative.

Around the time the song was released, I was going through some pretty life-changing stuff and the song spoke to how I was feeling at the time. I could relate to its mood, I could relate to its lyrics; it just hit home. And isn’t that how favorite songs are often forged?

Even after that period passed, the song continued to please me. And it still does. (Obviously. Or I wouldn’t have picked it as my favorite.) More stats: Of songs from the 00s in my iTunes, it has the most plays. Barely. “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson is close on its heels. But plays isn’t always the indication of favorites in my weird world. (For example, see the 80s.) Because, even though I love “Since U Been Gone,” I just don’t have any emotional connection with it. Again, it’s not very quantitative, but it doesn’t “feel” right. (If I was to pick a song that came in second as a favorite—irrespective of plays—it would likely be “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon—the other band from the decade that I really got into).

And now, your favorite part (no, I don’t mean the end)… Some honorable mentions:

And, since I need something to be embarrassed by:

Yeah, on that last one, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought I’d lost it completely. But I did say I was going to try to expose you to some music you might not have heard before. At least listen to it before you berate me.

So, we’re finished with the decades. It was an interesting exercise, for sure, and it did give me some other songs to think about for later posts. It also gave me a pain in my side and strong urge for Pepto-Bismol. And my left arm is numb… but that’s probably nothing.