365 Day Song Challenge: Day 143 – “You Sexy Thing”

Day 143: A song beginning with the word “you”.

“You Sexy Thing” – Hot Chocolate

YouSexyThingThis song had a resurgence in the 90s when it was featured in The Full Monty, and then a short while later when it was featured in, of all things, a Burger King ad.

But I remember it from shortly after its initial release in 1975.

You see, this one was another one of my brother’s 45s. And I remember hearing it in the bedroom we shared on Campbell Rd. in Willoughby, Ohio. (And, of course, after that, as well.)

That house is long gone, but the song remains. (Which is probably how it should be.) Continue Reading

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 93 – “Low Rider”

Day 93: Your favorite song that features the use of a harmonica.

“Low Rider” – War

Low RiderI learned something today.

This is not ridiculously unusual, I typically do learn something every day, but today’s lesson was more surprising than normal. And it had to do with the blog, so it was an added bonus.

I had some songs in mind for favorite harmonica song. “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, “Workin’ For A Livin'” by Huey Lewis & the News, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” by Elton John. All pretty obvious stuff, and none of those would I call a “favorite.” So I referenced that big encyclopedia in the ether: the Internet.

I Googled “harmonica songs” and, as expected, got a bunch of lists. What was not expected was that more than one of them included “Low Rider.”

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I’ve been listening to (and loving) “Low Rider” for many years, and I have never heard anything I would have guessed to be harmonica. So, I played it yet another time, listening ultra-close (that is to say concentrating, I was not any closer to the speakers than normal), specifically searching for any hint of something that sounded like the mouth harp. Nada. The only place I could even imagine there being any was in “Low Rider”‘s classic riff. But it just didn’t sound… gritty enough to be harmonica. It just sounded like a horn to me (and always has). There was none of that humming, kazooey (I’ve just declared that a word) sound that you normally associate with harmonica.

Research was needed.

As it turns out, that classic riff is harmonica. (I have not found any documentation to support my supposition that it was a combination of harmonica and horn.) Who knew? Or was it blatantly obvious and I’m the only one who missed it because I was expecting the kazooey sound?

Incidentally, the harmonica comes courtesy of Lee Oskar, a Danish harmonica virtuoso, who, interestingly enough, was the first person recruited when Eric Burdon decided to make War (as in, start a new band, not attacking others with weapons). Apparently, Oskar is actually quite active in their songs, in ways not usually given to harmonica. So, again, I guess I have more back-catalog listening to do. (Burdon was long gone by the time of this song, by the way.)

It just goes to show that you can listen to something many times and not really “hear” it. You can’t always pick out everything that’s in the mix. And, as much as I love music and am usually pretty good at hearing individual instruments, there will always be things to surprise me, as shown here.

And that’s a good thing. I’ve always said that the hallmark of a great song is being able to pick out new things even after having listened to it dozens of times. With this hidden harmonica trick, “Low Rider” may be the greatest song of all time. (Okay, maybe not, but it’s still damn good.)

So what will I learn tomorrow?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 67 – “The Streak”

Day 67: A song you have requested to be played on the radio.

“The Streak” – Ray Stevens

The Streak

I haven’t requested a song on the radio in many years. Perhaps it’s because I simply don’t listen to the radio except on rare occasions. Perhaps it’s because they never seem to play what I ask for anyway. Or perhaps it’s because radio these days is completely corporate-owned pre-programmed schlock designed to fit exactly into a nice little box, never straying outside the boundaries of that selected, well-defined genre or giving disc jockeys any latitude whatsoever to be human and play something other than the 37 songs currently on the playlist which were selected by a computer (or worse, someone at the record company) to be sure-fire hits.

You’re right, it’s probably the first one.

One of the first things I ever remember requesting was “The Streak.” I was probably 10 years old, and I called WILQ based out of Williamsport, PA to request it. It was the country station my parents listened to. (At least I think it was WILQ. It’s been a long time. The call letters ring a bell, but honestly, this was over 30 years ago.) You could tell the disc jockey had no idea what to do with me. But I seem to recall he said he’d see what he could do.

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Apparently what he could do was… well… nothing. Because he never played it. The big jerk. Whatever happened to humoring the kid?

Regardless, I’ve always liked this novelty. It’s a good song (or at least a good chorus, as there really are no “verses”) in general, but the “eyewitness” character who happens to be everywhere the streaker, uh, “performs” is priceless. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much then: there were a lot of people in that part of Pennsylvania just like that guy. (The eyewitness, not the streaker.) Plus, I guess at ten, the whole thing seemed a little risque.

There are only three other songs I specifically remember requesting:

God knows why I remember these. Chalk another one up for useless trivia taking up brain space that could be used for more important or relevant data.

Like Calculus.

Or Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Or what brand of baloney I like.

I do know I’ve requested more along the way (Songs, not baloney.) Some even got played. But I couldn’t tell you what they are. I guess my brain isn’t completely full of trivia at the expense of real knowledge.


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…