Saturday, January 5, 2019

Rest in peace, Daryl Dragon...

Some time ago, I read Toni Tennille's book about her time as half of the popular duo, The Captain and Tennille.  I reviewed the book on my main blog.  Tennille was married to Daryl Dragon (the Captain) for about 39 years.  According to her book, their marriage wasn't particularly loving.  They were good friends and excellent professional collaborators, but not necessarily in love with each other... at least not in the physical sense.

Daryl Dragon died on January 2, 2019.  He was 76 years old, living in Prescott, Arizona.  Toni Tennille was at his side when he passed of kidney failure.  She'd moved to Arizona to be closer to him, as he suffered from dementia.  Recalling her book, when she described the incident that led to their divorce, I'm thinking he may have been suffering from dementia when she decided to split from him.  And yet, she was there at the end when the brilliant, classically trained pianist took his final breath.

As a child of the 70s, I grew up listening to the Captain and Tennille's hits.  I was too young to remember their variety show, although I can watch YouTube clips with the best of them.  Dragon was kind of the quirky one, sitting there silently while Tennille was vivacious and charming.  On stage, they belonged together.

In 1980, Toni Tennille had a talk show and her husband was there by her side.

Toni talks about her book.

I read a comment on Facebook in which someone compared Dragon to Richard Carpenter, but with better fashion sense.  I don't know if that's really accurate, although I do know Dragon was a musical wizard.  I will always remember him in his cap, making funny faces as his glamorous wife fronted their act.  

Interesting video featuring the duo with the Carpenters and Ben Vereen.

Rest in peace, Captain.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

I'm sure your alibis are water tight...

Last week, before I got regular Internet access again, I had a song from the 1980s stuck in my head.  I didn't know it last week, but the song was called "Alibis" and it was performed by Brazilian band leader, Sergio Mendes.  Sergio Mendes has been around for many years.  I think he's been leading bands since the 1960s.  His band has gone through different incarnations.

In the 1980s, Sergio Mendes had a few pop hits.  I wrote about a couple of them early this year, but somehow I missed "Alibis", which was a hit when I was about twelve years old.  It definitely has that 80s sound.  Check it out.

Joe Pizzulo sings lead on this hit, although since it was on Solid Gold, he was probably lip syncing.

Sergio Mendes wasn't unlike Santana in that different people sing lead.  Mendes is the band's leader, but he gets singers to be the frontpeople.  In 1983, Mendes rejoined Herb Alpert's A&M label and worked with Alpert's wife, Lani Hall, on a few songs.  A&M went defunct in 1999, but it hosted a lot of really great acts from my youth, including the Carpenters, Sting, Joan Baez, Styx, and Burt Bacharach, among many others.

I don't know why, but "Alibis" always reminds me of riding my bike back and forth to the barn when I was twelve.  It was a summer hit, if I recall correctly, and lent itself well on my Walkman.  I still think it sounds good today, thirty-four years later...

I am getting so old...  but I really do think music was better back in the day.  I have turned into my parents.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Knudsen Brothers-- now known as Six...

A couple of days ago, I ran across this old video of an Osmond Brothers' special.  It originally aired in 1978.

I have to admit, I was most intrigued by Jay Osmond's hair.  It looks like he got a perm.  Perms were all the rage in the 70s.  I had a couple of them myself in the 80s.  Still remember the nasty smell of the chemicals.

This special includes performances by a lot of the big stars of the day.  Andy Gibb, Crystal Gayle, Bob Hope, Jimmie Walker, and a debut by a group of five young lads calling themselves The Knudsen Brothers.  The brothers sang barbershop, just like the Osmonds had done on Andy Williams' show.  They wore blue tuxedos and harmonized very impressively, although I think even in 1978, barbershop was a bit hokey.

I was curious about the talented boys, so I looked them up.  They now perform in Branson, Missouri and call themselves SIX.  That's because another brother joined the group.  The Knudsen brothers actually number ten, but only the eldest six are singers.  The other four work to support the group. 

SIX sings "God Bless the USA" in harmony...  I don't think it's bad, though I think I was more impressed by their debut on the Osmonds' special.

Like the Osmonds, the Knudsen Brothers are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I asked on RfM if anyone knew this band back in the day.  One person said they were members of her ward back in Utah and provided free entertainment at their ward functions.  I'm not LDS myself and have never been.  My exposure to the church comes courtesy of my husband, who was LDS when we met and later resigned.  It wasn't hard for him, since he was a convert.  His daughters are LDS, and one is somewhat rabidly so.  I suppose I can thank them for introducing me to the culture.  Ex Mormons are some of my favorite people, though I'm not a fan of the church.

Anyway, I've never been to Branson.  It might be interesting to go there sometime, just because of all the performers there.  On the other hand, a lot of it seems to be acts that are family friendly and somewhat corny.  Kind of Las Vegas lite, with less emphasis on gambling, drinking, and other "sins"...  I guess this is where people go who miss the corny TV specials that were so popular in the 70s and 80s.  To be honest, I kind of enjoyed them myself, even though I was a kid at the time.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tommy Page...

Yesterday, I happened to run across this video featuring the late 90s pop star, Tommy Page.  Jodie Sweetin, who played Stephanie Tanner on Full House, is doing a fine job acting like she's enchanted by Tommy Page.

Notice how Stephanie Tanner's little friends all know the same dance routine she does.  Isn't that cool?  In this clip, the late pop star, Tommy Page, sings to Stephanie for her tenth birthday.

Tommy Page died last year at the age of 46.  He was the father of three children, along with his husband.  Yes, that's right, Tommy Page was gay... not that it matters.  Back in the 90s, he was singing songs that seemed to be about heterosexual love.  In 1990, he had a big hit with the song "I'll Be Your Everything".  I will admit that although I was 18 in 1990, I don't remember that song at all.

This video probably has to be viewed on YouTube, but the freakin' site is running slow today.

I'm going to be brutally honest and say that although Page had a lot of fans, I wasn't among them.  I find that really sensitive, brooding, emotional style kind of grating.  I also don't think he was the best singer, although he clearly had musical talent.  I see he played piano and later made it as a music industry executive.  I just don't like singers who do that emotional choking thing before they sing.  It became popular in the 90s and remains so in pop music today.  I mean, just sing the note straight on.  Hit it without that contrived gasp/choke... or whatever it is.  I can't explain it.  You just have to hear it.  It's like he's trying not to cry, but it sounds really fake and annoying...  Some people must like it, though, because so many people do it.

Anyway, that singing style was probably perfect for Full House, since that show was about about the feels.  They would always show the family being all loving and heartwarming while playing swelling background music.  It makes sense that they'd have a sensitive teen idol singing to Stephanie Tanner.  Of course, Page ends up breaking Stephanie's heart by hanging out with D.J. all day the next day.  Then he reveals that the song he sang to her was actually written for his girlfriend, Melanie.  That lying bastard... way to break a little girl's heart!  I am kidding, of course.

I was clearly not familiar with Tommy Page when his career was hot.  I don't know why he died so young.  Some say he committed suicide, which is a terrible tragedy, especially for the family he left behind.  But as I am someone who has experienced depression and anxiety, I know how it feels to want to commit suicide.  I don't judge him for that, if that's what ended his life.  Depression can be just as deadly as any other serious illness.

But... I don't think I'll be downloading anything by Mr. Page.  Not unless it's Jimmy Page I'm downloading.  May Tommy Page rest in peace.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Hokey Pokey...

A Facebook friend reminded me of my old pastime of roller skating yesterday when she posted about her kindergarten aged son learning the Hokey Pokey for the first time.  I am sure I learned that well-known kids' dance when I was very young, but I distinctly remember doing it on roller skates at Old Mill Skating Rink in Gloucester, Virginia.

I was pretty good at roller skating.  I actually learned how to ice skate before I could roller skate, but there were no ice skating rinks in Gloucester when I moved there at age 8.  I remember I used to spend hours at the rink, skating to the hits of the late 70s and early 80s.  And then they'd do the Hokey Pokey, which was so much fun...

This isn't where I did the Hokey Pokey, but the song is the version they used when I did it in the 80s...  And the people in this video don't appear to be very good skaters.  They probably learned how to skate using roller blades.

I listened to this video earlier this morning and I swear, I now have that Hokey Pokey song stuck in my head.  I see this is the version we used... from 1953.

by Ray Anthony & His Orchestra and JoAnn Greer singing.

It's been years since I last thought about the "Hokey Pokey", although I do remember doing it with my students when I taught English in Armenia in the 1990s.  Armenian kids loved it as much as Americans did.  It was a good way to teach body parts, too.

Yet again, I am shocked at how old I am...  

Friday, August 17, 2018

Rest in peace, Aretha Franklin...

I remember the first time I ever heard Aretha Franklin's name.  It was 1980 and I was in the third grade.  I had a classmate with an unusual name.  This girl was in my class, although she was in what was considered the "slower" group.  I think she was at least a year older than I was because she'd been held back.  Her name was Retha, and she was white and came from our very provincial town.  Back then, we were friends, although we didn't stay friends beyond that year.  We ran in different crowds.

I remember going home one day that school year and telling my mom that I had a new friend named Retha.  My mom said, "I wonder where that name came from.  Is she black?"

I said, "No, she's white."

"Maybe she was named after Aretha Franklin." Mom said.

"Who's that?" I asked.

"She's a very famous black singer." Mom said.

Aretha in 2017, still demanding "Respect".  She was quite regal when she performed, very befitting of the "Queen of Soul".  

For all I know, my friend's unusual name was in honor of the Queen of Soul, who died yesterday after having been very ill.  I haven't seen or talked to Retha since high school.  I don't think I talked to her much when we were in high school, either, because, like I said, we ran in different crowds.  I remember her to be someone who cared less about school than I did.  She seemed to be more into boys.  My mom probably would not have approved of her, had she met her.  My mom has always been a bit classist.

However, for some reason, I never forgot that innocuous conversation with my mom.  Every time I heard Aretha Franklin's unmistakable pipes, I'd think of Retha, the girl from my third grade class.  And then I would forget Retha and concentrate on Aretha's magnificent range and passion.  She truly was in a class by herself.

Although this is definitely not among Aretha's most impressive songs, it's always been a guilty pleasure for me.

Oddly enough, though, the first time I remember hearing "Respect", it was sung by Maureen McGovern on the film "Airplane!".  She was playing a nun trying to comfort a passenger who had food poisoning.  When I heard Aretha's version, Maureen's uptight nun version seemed all the more ridiculous.

The jive brothers aren't impressed.

I remember in the 1980s, Aretha Franklin had a few Top 40 hits.  She sang, "Who's Zoomin' Who?" and "Freeway of Love", both songs that adolescent me liked.  Of course, neither were as memorable as Franklin's remake of Otis Redding's "Respect" or "Think".  Actually, I can't listen to "Think" and not think of yet another white person.  In 1990, Canadian figure skater Elizabeth Manley skated to Aretha Franklin's song, "Think", and I never forgot it.  I think that might have even been the first time I ever heard that song.

Liz Manley skates to an Aretha Franklin hit.  Manley won the silver medal in ladies figure skating in 1988.  I seem to remember the first time I saw this performance, Manley used the original version.  

Of course I knew "Respect" in those days, but that was the first time I'd heard "Think", which kind of blew my mind.  Not long after that, I invested in a double CD set featuring Aretha Franklin's hits.  I discovered a lot of her other hits... songs like "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)", which I think I heard the first time at a party in Yerevan, Armenia.  I watched yet another white person dancing to her music.  He got mad when I slammed into him. 

Actually, this is probably one of my favorite Aretha Franklin songs.  It's so soulful and emotional.  It takes a lot to be able to deliver this kind of performance.

Some time later, I was back in the States and watching 7th Heaven.  Actress Jessica Biel, then about fourteen years old and playing Mary Camden, was singing in a band.  She bravely took on Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man".  

Um...  I'm not sure this was the best song for her...

Her version of "Respect" sounds a little like "The Hard Knock Life" from Annie.

Aretha Franklin was the kind of singer who appealed to everyone.  She had a voice that made everyone respond.  However, although many people tried to emulate her, almost no one could hold a candle to her.  She was in her own league.  

This is a Carole King song... and while I'd rather hear Carole sing it, Aretha Franklin certainly made it hers!  Look at how the audience responds!  

Another memorable take on "Natural Woman"...  It's not that I don't appreciate Aretha's classic take on it-- it's more that I like to hear songwriters performing their music.  I can't deny that Aretha turned Carole's song into a gold mine.  

I'll be honest.  It's taken me a very long time to learn to fully appreciate Aretha Franklin.  In fact, I'm not sure I appreciate her as much as I should.  I haven't listened to nearly enough of her music.  She truly was a goddess in the music world, though, and worthy of all of the respect.  We lost another musical legend yesterday, on the same date we lost the King of Rock and Roll in 1977.  Maybe Aretha is up there in Heaven, singing with George Michael again...

Two stars in Heaven.

Anyway... Godspeed, Aretha.  You were a rare and unique talent and the world will miss you.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Beast of Burden... Bette Midler style

I have never been a particular fan of Bette Midler's brand of music.  I love her as an actress and a comedienne, but her singing doesn't do it for me.  I kind of rank her singing with Celine Dion's and Barbra Streisand's... very talented, but kind of annoying.  The other day, my friend Joann reminded me of a long ago forgotten memory.  Bette Midler once covered The Rolling Stones' hit, "Beast of Burden", which is one of my favorite songs by them.

I watched the video, which I had seen ages ago, but long ago forgotten about.  This song was released in 1983.  Look how young they both are!  I was young then, too.

I had forgotten how funny this video is.  Bette does alright with this song and Mick is funny getting a pie thrown in his face.

You never see this kind of silly shit anymore.  I guess this just proves that Mick Jagger has a sense of humor and fun.  I'm not sure he should give up music for an acting gig, though.

Still, I much prefer the original!


This song doesn't age.  Neither does Mick Jagger.