Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Set list Friday night:

In July
The ground below, the stars above
Worms in the sky
Clinging to a cloud (words adapted from Johnny Burke's lyric for “Misty”)
I can’t get that song out of my head
In summer (written with Bob the drummer)
The bottle on the window sill
Wasting away
Have you ever been in love? (written with my friend Nick)
President’s Day (written with my son)

Jillian and Jim joined us for the last song, which was really fun. I had a blast; their set was nice too. Out drinking afterwards with Jen from my band, the soundman Jim Nason (a fine songwriter, singer, guitarist, and washtub bassist), and two friends of Jen’s. The kid had played games with Robert’s daughter, who’s 12 days older than him, during our set. Everybody in bed by the time I got home. I sat in the kitchen and listened to a CD of covers Jen had recorded this December -- gotta get her playing guitar in the band. Nice stuff. And a CD that I bought from Jim Nason -- really good songs. And a CD that I picked up at Starbucks earlier in the day as a partner to my company had passed out Starbucks gift cards to everybody in my department (it’s a small department) and an “Artist’s Choice” collection compiled by Bob Dylan was discounted for 8 bucks. What a great lot of music on that comp! I started falling asleep but didn’t want to leave the music so I turned out the lights, rolled up a jacket for a pillow, and fell asleep on the kitchen floor. (Not from drink; I had had one drink at the bar hours before.) Our living room CD player is on the fritz, so we listen to music on the boombox in the kitchen.

Looking at that set list, I like all those songs, but I’m concerned about the middle-aged disease: All but two of them are mid-tempo or slower. And the uptempo songs -- people like pep. Even middle-aged people. Gotta watch out for that next time we play. I sing more of the uptempo numbers in the group (two of the three I sang lead or co-lead on last night were the two faster ones), and I’m trying to spread out the singing more. Thing is: I’m the best at the patter numbers, and the other three lead singers all have much more beautiful voices than mine, so they should have the slower ones to glory in those tones. Gotta write some faster ones for them too.

* * *

The Bob Dylan comp is a corker.

1. Pee Wee Crayton - Do Unto Others
2. Clancy Eccles - Don't Brag, Don't Boast
3. Stanley Brothers with The Clinch Mountain Boys - The Fields Have Turned Brown
4. Gus Viseur - Flambée Montalbanaise
5. Red Prysock - Hand Clappin'
6. Sol Hoopii & His Novelty Quartette - I Like You
7. Ray Price - I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)
8. Stuff Smith & His Onyx Club Boys - I'se A Muggin' (part 2)
9. Charley Jordan - Keep It Clean
10. Junior Wells - Little By Little (I'm Losing You)
11. Patty & The Emblems - Mixed-Up, Shook-Up Girl
12. Gétatchèw Kassa - Tezeta
13. Flaco Jiménez with Toby Torres & José Morante - Victimas De Huracan Beulah
14. Wanda Jackson - I Gotta Know
15. Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra - I Hear Music
16. Junior Parker - Pretty Baby

Not an untasty track among the bunch; only one I’d ever heard before (the Wanda Jackson); and a handful that are now in my personal pantheon of All Time Great Records.

Gus Viseur played super tasty accordion in Paris in the 1930s and ‘40s, in the French pop style musette. If you don’t know the genre, think “French accordion.”

Stuff Smith’s “I’se A Muggin’” is an infectious novelty number, also ‘30s era. Mingus and Joni Mitchell did a seven second uncredited cover of it on Mitchell’s album Mingus. I can’t help thinking that the main lick is lifted from a Fats Waller tune, but I can’t place it.

The Pee Wee Crayton tune provided the Beatles with the opening guitar lick of “Revolution.” Patty & the Emblems were a mid-’60s girl group I’d never heard of; their tune is a classic of the genre. Gétatchèw Kassa was a singer from the golden era of Ethiopian pop (‘60s and ‘70s); his track has the deep, cardamom-spiced groove of the style. Red Prysock was a champion R&B tenor sax honker; his instrumental straddles jazz, R&B, and early rock and roll.

Billie Holiday from 1940 is ebullient on the visionary Loesser/Lane standard “I Hear Music.”

I hear music
Mighty fine music
The murmur of a morning breeze up there
The rattle of the milkman on the stair

Sure that's music
Mighty fine music
The singing of a sparrow in the sky
The perking of the coffee right near by . . .

A lyric like that might presuppose a collage of musique concrète for the tune, but no; paradoxically, it’s a delightful American pop tune I want to hear over and over.

The songs from early ska singer Clancy Eccles (whom I’d never heard of), the Stanley Brothers, Hawaiian 1930s steel guitar virtuoso Sol Hoopii, country icon Ray Price, Flaco Jiménez, rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, and Junior Parker are aces too.

Dylan’s booklet notes wistfully evoke his early 20s, when he was getting to know a lot of this music, and how he got to know it.

-- manuscript of the opening from the Fourth Toccata of Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643).

I've got the mid-tempo problem myself. I'm going w/ the Neil Young solution -- substitute "loud and soft" for "fast and slow." It kinda works. Kinda.

I love loud, but I don't really like playing loud -- I've been practicing in the living room for 18 years; renting a rehearsal room is a really foreign concept at this point. But I'm thinking of overdubbing some simulated loud for the next record.

Anyway, thanks for the Neil tip -- good observation.
I'se A Muggin' is one of my favorites! I've got it on 78. (I've also got that Sol Hoopii record!)
The Dylan comp includes only Part 2 of "I'se A Muggin'"; I'll have to track down part one.

I found the Fatsian source for the tune -- it's a wordless vocal lick he sings after the first verse of "Your Feet's Too Big." I don't know whether the lick was part of the original song (written by Fred Fisher and Ada Benson), but when the Beatles covered it in Hamburg, Paul sang that part too.

More later.
Whoops! Stuff Smith's record preceded Waller's by 2 or 3 years. Waller was probably consciously interpolating the Smith riff into his record.
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