August 31, 2007

REPOST: 77 Santas

We received a special request yesterday about “77 Santas,” the song we’re named after. Naturally, we jump at any chance to post a Christmas tune, but we also strive to please our readers. Lorilei, I tried to find your profile and send this to you, but couldn’t get to your blog. So, I hope you stop back to read this post, originally posted last November.


For the first post, it’s only fitting that I begin with our namesake. “77 Santas” by Gayla Peevey.Peevey is probably most famous for the novelty song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” a 1953 regional hit in Oklahoma City. Peevey was only ten at the time. The exact origins of the song seem unclear. One version says that the Oklahoma City Zoo had no hippo at the time and that Peevey sang this song as a fundraiser. Another version, one claimed to have been corrected by Peevey. This comes from Wikipedia: “The record was released nationally by Columbia Records and because the Oklahoma City Zoo needed a hippo at the time, the song gave them the idea of putting together a major media blitz asking kids to send in nickels and dimes to raise money to buy Gayla a hippopotamus for Christmas. Matilda, a baby hippo, was presented to me, and I donated her to the zoo. In a roundabout way the song indeed helped the zoo acquire a hippopotamus, but the song was not recorded for that purpose.”Peevey recorded a few other hits, including “77 Santas.” This song probably dates to the mid-to-late 50s. She recorded several Christmas songs during this era—this is the only other song that I’ve heard. Her voice is distinct, precocious and childlike that captures that exuberance for all things Christmas that kids feel during December.Around 1960, Peevey recorded pop songs under a pseudonym but none achieved much success. Still, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” remains popular on Christmas radio stations and collectors of novelty records. The last known fact about Peevey, at least according to one website, is that she lived in San Diego in 1999. We wish her well and would love to know the real story about these songs. So Gayla, if you happen to read this, let us know.

77 Santas – Gayla Peevey

Or, read the book!

August 25, 2007

Girls, Girls, Girls!

This week, the Sunday EP and Retro Friday overlap—so I’m posting them on Saturday. Thanks to PC for the kind words in the last post!

Say what you will, but I’ve been on a serious girl group kick the past few days. The following songs are primarily culled from two fantastic compilations—the single disc Girls! Girls! Girls! 25 All-Time Classics of the Girl Group Sound (Varese Vintage) and the box set One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found (Rhino). The first disc is a fantastic introduction for anyone just getting into this period, a broad perspective of the bands and their sounds, complete with a nice essay inside; the four-disc box set is one of the best box sets I’ve ever seen, complete with fantastic packaging and detailed liner notes.

Since I love this period so much, it was hard to whittle down my list to just a few songs—you’ll get a baker’s dozen instead.

Needle in a Haystack – The Velvettes
A great way to kick-off this set. The back-ground vocals, the handclaps, the horns, and bad-mouthing both boys and girls—yeah, this is a classic.

Nothing but a Heartache – The Flirtations
My mother always says that if a song has a good beat, she’ll like it. This song has one hell of a good beat that builds to an incredible crescendo down the stretch.

Give Him a Great Big Kiss – The Shangi-La’s
Bonus points to anyone who can name what seminal New York punk band pays tribute to the opening words of this song.

Bobby’s Girl – Marcie Blaine
She’s not a kid anymore, and she has but one goal—to be Bobby’s girl.

Soldier Boy – The Shirelles
A 1962 number one hit, the minor chords are unapologetically saccharine, but damned if it doesn’t work perfectly. By the time the soaring chorus comes back at the end of the song, it gives me chills.

One Fine Day – The Chiffons
This song was co-written by Carole King, who was part of the girl group sound before branching out. The off-key piano could probably never be replicated to its glory.

I’m Into Somethin’ Good – Earl-Jean
Another Carole King songwriting credit, Earl-Jean sang this song in 1964, taking it to number 38. However, not long after, Herman’s Hermits remade it and the song went to number one.

You’re No Good – Dee Dee Warwick
Here’s original, though most probably know Linda Ronstadt’s 1975 version. The Warwick single came out over a full decade earlier. The overlapping vocals sound amazing.

Love’s Gone Bad – Chris Clark
A blue-eyed, platinum blonde on the Motown label—kind of unusual. Considered the U.S. answer to Dusty Springfield.

Yes I’m Ready – Barbara Mason
Not much info on Mason, but I do know that if you have La Toya Jackson’s Japanese single of this song, you’d have something that’ unbelievable valuable and also painful to listen to.

Popsicles and Icicles – The Murmaids
In 1963 this song climbed to number three. David Gates, the future lead-singer of Bread, wrote the song. The perfect light pop song for a hot summer day.

Make the Night A Little Longer – Palisades
The sweeping strings, the weepy melody, the pleas to make the night just a little longer—you can’t imagine how anyone would want to make the short.

Be My Baby – The Ronettes
For me, no list of girl group songs would be complete without The Ronettes. One of producer Phil Spector’s many masterpieces—anytime I hear this song, I stop and listen. Unfortunately, last year, that including a pharmaceutical commercial for hard-on medication, which was unfortunate for all involved.

August 22, 2007

Please allow me a moment

To congratulate my dear friend JV, whose memoir, tentatively titled "Burn", was recently bought by Algonquin Books. The book will come out in Spring '09, and I can't wait. While I've read it already in various forms, I'm still excited to get my copy and read it again. He's humble (thank god), so I know he probably won't announce this himself. So, his delays in posting songs are quite understandable as he's been dealing with this tremendous news. I wish I had such a good excuse.
Here's to ya JV!

Make-Up Post

That’s right. This is a post where I make-up to you for not posting in several days. So, I’m sorry. But I’ve been busy, lots of people visiting, lots of stuff going on. Anyway, here’s Neko, Eddie, and lots of others worth checking out. This is a down-on-your-luck, kicking-an-old-soda-can, walking-with-your-head-hanging-low kind of mix.

The Mirror Speaks – James Blackshaw

The Dark End of the Street – James Carr

In California – Neko Case

Goddamn Lonely Love – Drive-By Truckers

Girl in the War – Josh Ritter

For the Widows in Paradise; For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti – Sufjan Stevens

Blue Moon with Heartache – Rosanne Cash

$1,000 Wedding – Gram Parsons

Crazy Mary – Pearl Jam

August 10, 2007

Retro Friday: Blowing Through the Jasmine in My Mind

These are the dog days. All week, the temperature in Central Virginia has licked one-hundred degrees—and of course that meant the heat index registered at around Hell’s Eternal Fire. In short—it’s been hot, and many of you are suffering just like me. So, for Retro Friday, a few cool songs about summer.

Summer Breeze – Seals and Croft

Jim Seals and Dash Croft released this song in 1972. It remains their seminal song and one of the quintessential songs about songs in my book.

Turn Down Day – The Cyrkle

This band was discovered by Brian Epstein, better known as manager of The Beatles. In fact, John Lennon provided the unique spelling of the band’s name. In 1966, they scored two nice hits—this one and their better known “Red Rubber Ball.” However, the band disbanded the next year. However, band member Tom Dawes wasn’t done with fame—he went on to pen the famous “plop plop fizz fizz” jingle for Alka-Seltzer.

Palisades Park – Freddy Cannon

Game-show host Chuck Barris wrote this song. Barris of course hosted “The Gong Show” and wrote the infamous “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” in which he claimed to have been a CIA assassin. Check out George Clooney’s great film of the same name staring the supremely underrated Sam Rockwell as Barris. This song was originally a B-side for Freddy Cannon in 1962 but the song caught on in Flint, Michigan and took off from there.

California Sun – The Rivieras

No wonder The Rivieras dreamed of that warm California sun—they came from South Bend, Indiana. The band only released three albums before their split in 1966. However, they are most notable as being one of the last American rock acts to score a hit in 1964 before the British Invasion. When I was eight or so years old, my dad bought me a cassette of classic surf songs that included this song. I’ve loved it ever since.

I Live for the Sun – The Sunrays

This band was managed by Murray Wilson, father of Carl, Brian, and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys. Though this hit was their biggest, reaching #51, it remains a little-know gem with fantastic lead vocals and harmonies. Check out this surprisingly comprehensive site on the band.

Remember (Walking In the Sand) – The Shangri-Las

Little known fact: Billy Joel played piano on the original demo of this song. This was the Shangri-Las first hit in 1964, before their “Leader of the Pack.” The over-wrought drama of the lyrics fits perfectly with the stunning vocals.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow? – The Shirelles

The Shirelles were the very first girl group to score a hit on the Billboard Hot 100. They scored a string of hits—many of them covered too many times to count—in the 1960s. Truly one of the powerhouse groups from the era who remain as indelible today. Rolling Stone named them #76 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time and this song was named #125 on the magazines list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.

August 09, 2007

Did AT&T Censor Pearl Jam?

On Sunday night, like thousands of Pearl Jam fans unable to attend this year’s Lollapalooza where PJ headlined, I watched AT&T’s sponsored webcast of the event. The band played a perfect set for the crowd, delivering some of their most well-known hits, a rarity for the hardcore fans, and some tracks off the new album.

News broke yesterday that AT&T supposedly censored at least one of the songs. During “Daughter,” Ed tagged Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” During this, he sang the following:
“George Bush, leave this world alone." (He sang this line twice, apparently; the first time aired uncensored.)“George Bush find yourself another home."

Problem is—I didn’t hear these. In fact, unless you were actually at the event, no one heard these. Johnny Censorship over at AT&T decided to cut it out. We didn’t need to hear such strong words about this shit-for-nothing president.

PJ released a statement on their website.
Entertainment Weekly wrote a little article about it.
Even the Wall Street Journal picked it up.
You can read what fans think over at the Message Pit.

You can read the articles there and decide what you think—it’s probably obvious what I think. Even though I have AT&T as my cell company, if the corporation had anything to do with this, then they would be grade-A motherfuckers in my book. They’re already just plain ole motherfuckers for willingly giving the NSA phone numbers and other information without a warrant.

In the meantime, here are a few songs that would probably piss off the people like AT&T and George Bush.


Satan’s Bed

Do the Evolution

August 05, 2007

The Sunday EP: Neotraditionalist Country

Before we get to the mix, let me just urge anyone who hasn’t yet had the chance to see Once to run to their nearest independent theater and watch this beautiful film. It’s one of the best movies of the year (maybe the best?) that features an aching love story and some amazing music. Here’s a song from the film.

If You Want Me – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova

Now, what all you came here for—country music! Yes, yes, I know. But I think country has gotten a terrible name in recent years, mainly from horrible mainstream country radio stations. Disco country in the seventies didn’t sound as bad as today’s slickly produced schlock about “real” rednecks, faux-American patriotism, and beach bums. Not long ago, in the 80s and 90s, country music was actually about something. Most of my favorites from this movement could best be described as Neotraditionalist Country, a movement in country that harkened back on the musical and fashion stylings of the 1940s and 1950s.

In fact, for about six or so years of my adolescence, I only listened to country music. Believe me, it’s taken me a while to admit this (thanks Jake!). Over the past week, I’ve been working on an essay about this experience. Hopefully in a few months, you’ll be able to read it in a magazine. But until then, here’s a few of the songs I discuss in the article.

Seminole Wind – John Anderson

Before global warming and environmental concerns became a political issue (yes, there was a time when it was a human, not corporate, concern), John Anderson sang his ode preserve the Florida Everglades. The song was a smash, reaching #2 on the country charts in 1992. Anderson, who just released a great album of new material, possesses one of those voices you can never forget and impossible to describe. A plaintive piano opens the song before the drums and fiddles kick in. Ironically, in the novel I’m writing, one of the plots involves the main character joining a band that covers country songs from this period. One of the first songs they perform is Seminole Wind.

Ships That Don’t Come In – Joe Diffie

There was a time when country artists looked like country artists—Joe Diffie exemplifies this. With a beer-gut and a mullet, Diffie was the type of guy who knew how to sell a haunting ballad like this one or a rocker that you wanted to hear at a juke joint on Saturday night. In later years, he verged too much into novelty songs, but “Ships That Don’t Come In” remains one of his masterpieces.

Set ‘Em Up Joe – Vern Gosdin

A direct reference to Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You,” Gosdin loved the classics. Known as “The Voice,” Gosdin scored a huge hit with this song in 1988. (Check out the very good Some Velvet Blog, who coincidentally posted Tubb’s original today.)

Ain’t Nothing Wrong with the Radio – Aaron Tippin

Much of that essay I’m writing is about this song—at the time, my mother and I felt as if the radio was the only thing in our lives that actually worked. Tippin’s nasally drawl is distinctive and unique, propelling him through a string of hits in the 90s. How unfortunate that he chose to cash-in on the 9/11 music of his lesser, younger peers.

I’m No Stranger to the Rain – Keith Whitley

For me, Whitley’s voice the pinnacle of country music, just as Roy Orbison is one of the pinnacles of rock. Tragically, Whitley battled alcoholism for years. In 1989, he drank himself to death. This song was a number one hit that year, and is maybe the best country song of the 1980s. Sure, perhaps the lyrics are bit clichéd, but when delivered by Whitley’s aching vocals, it hardly matters.

Past the Point of Rescue – Hal Ketchum

Ketchum’s crisp vocals and that untypical electric guitar made this song reached number two on the charts in 1992.

Famous In a Small Town – Miranda Lambert

In the past few years, country has seen hope by way of Shooter Jennings (his album, Let’s Put the O Back In Country is dead-on about the genre’s current state), Hank Williams III, and Miranda Lambert, the only one of the three who really gets much radio airplay. Lambert, only 24, writes many of her songs and swerves all over the map, pulling from traditional country, rock, and folk. She’s got a distinctive voice and a point of view, something so many artists today lack.

See you back here next week. I’m willing to bet that this is the least viewed post ever. People just don’t like country anymore. But I’m not ashamed.

August 04, 2007

13 ways of looking at heat exhuastion

Been away awhile, working my ass off, writing when I can, sweating, and growing grumpier with each long day of summer. I'm a fall person, so I can't wait. Gonna keep my blabbin' to a minimum and my songin' to a maximum.

Talked with Jay V about posting each original and then its cover off of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "Greatest Palace Music" and while I'd like to do that, I don't have that kind of time. Plus, everyone should own all (or at least most) of his material from his many manifestations. Good ideas are as regular as shitting to him. Covering himself being only one of such instances. In addition to this, I want to throw up some other covers/originals. Also, some new (or older, but in heavy rotation) tunes that have been doing it for me. Consider this 3 EPs album by the PC Band.

For all of the covers, I will put the original first.

Palace Brothers: No More Workhorse Blues

Bonus Covers:

Bonus Studio/Live Versions:

Palace Music: A Sucker's Evening

While it's impossible to cover a traditional tune, here's two versions of a great one. I just discovered Fern Jones. She's awesome. "She sounded like Saturday night on a Sunday morning." Her version, with the Gram Parsons blessed Byrds' version to follow.

Bonus with ghost:

(I don't have the Johnny Cash version or it would be right here. Shame on me. Sam Phillips only let him put one gospel tune on his first album. This is the one he chose.)

And thus ends the covers version of our post. Let's move on to some tunes that I'm currently listening to, eh? Random rules here.

Got "Marry Me" by St. Vincent the other day, and I love it. Here's a few.

Astrud Gilberto's voice is so wonderful. Because of her (and her husband Joao, and Stan Getz) I've been a long time fan of Bossa Nova music. It's great in summer, even though summer sucks.

I went to Jamaica in May for my brother's wedding, which only futhered my love of Reggae music. Here's some classics from Jimmy Cliff:

Jimmy Cliff: Wonderful World, Beautiful People

Meg Baird (of Espers) put out a solo album on Drag City called "Dear Companion"... It's beautiful. Like swimming in a river very early in the morning. Here's the A Capella version of the title track.

I went of a slight Polvo kick last week. Their album "Exploded Drawing" fucking rocks. We used to listen to this at the end of our long shift at CD Alley (Wilmington branch) before retiring to The Blue Post. Ah, fuzzy memories.

Polvo: Fast Canoe

I'm usually a little leary of long solos in songs, but I love the guitar solo in this. The Allmans rule.
The Allman Brothers: Blue Sky

"Moments can be monuments to you/If your life is interesting and true/ It's just the same for a man or a girl/the meaning of the world lies outside the world" should be everyone's motto. Here's the tune from which these (and other equally brilliant) lyrics spring. Only from the mind of David Berman.

And that's where I want to end it. People. Good to be back. Hope to check in more often before the wonderful season of snow and cold is upon us. Of course we need to get to autumn first, the wonderful season in which everything turns beautiful and then dies and rots.

While posting and downloading songs is great, don't forget to go to your local Record store and spend some money.

PS: I took that picture on a ferris wheel, looking at a rival ferris wheel.


August 03, 2007

Retro Friday: Fried Neck Bones and Some Homefries

Along with The Sunday EP, we’re introducing Retro Friday. PC—who is still out there, trust me; he’s just busy—and I both adore oldies. We have a venerable treasure trove of songs from the 60s and 70s, enough to start out own full-time radio station. But a cool radio station—so many oldies stations, the few that remain in this country, continually seem to play the some songs. Sure, some of them are classics and should still be heard, but there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of songs from the era that are just as amazing. Just as we like to do with our Christmas picks, we’re going to feature some songs you likely won’t hear anywhere else.

Fried Neck Bones and Some Homefries – Willie Bobo
The sly opening guitar chords seem to just chill your mood. By the time the horns kick in, you won’t even care what the lyrics are.

A Losing Game – James Carr
Classic R&B gem with a great groove.

Love Is a Losing Game – Amy Winehouse
Okay, we’re cheating—Obviously Amy Winehouse has done way more cocaine than any of these people. She’s also a current artist who strives for retro. But damned if don’t sound good!

Wine, Wine, Wine – The Renegades
A great long-forgotten garage band, the Renegades exploded with energy. And wine.

Scorpio Red – Holy Mackered
I know nothing about this band. A Google search pulls a band called Les Claypool and the Holy Mackered. No idea if that’s the correct band title or not.

Start All Over Again – Ida Sands
Oh, here’s a wonderful soul classic. Those background vocals, the horns, and of course Ms. Sands’ soaring and soothing voice.

And FYI about the page layout—we’re trying to find something that’s wide enough for our text yet also includes our map. Yes, we like to know where you’re at. At all times. Always. No, it just lightly strokes our ego to know someone in Russia reads the blog. So, from now until Sunday, the page might look different as we experiment.

Happy weekend. See you Sunday.