Walk away Renee and other female titled songs

As I travel by car, the radio is my companion. When a song comes on with a female name like the above, I have speculated if there is a similar song for each letter of the alphabet. So, in this spirit and after a little bit of research into odd letters, here is my rendering:

A – Alison by Elvis Costello; Amanda by Boston

B – Bernadette by the Four Tops; Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys

C – Carrie Ann by The Hollies; Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel

D – Diana by Paul Anka; Oh Donna by Ritchie Valens

E – Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles; Evangeline by Emmy Lou Harris

F – Fannie (be tender with my love) by The Bee Gees

G – Gloria by Van Morrison; Gloria by Laura Branigan (different Gloria)

H – Holly Ann by Boston; Henrietta by The Fratellis

i – Good night Irene by The Weavers

J – Jolene by Dolly Parton

K – Kara Jane by The Vines; Kristi by Soundgarden

L – Layla by Eric Clapton

M – Maybellene by Chuck Berry; Melissa by The Allman Brothers

N – Natalie by Bruno Mars

O – Ophelia by The Band

P – Hey Paula by Paul and Paula

Q – Quinn the Eskimo by Manfred Mann and written by Bob Dylan (who said Quinn had to be a man?)

R – Roxanne by The Police; Walk away Renee by Left Banke

S – Sarah Smile by Hall and Oates

T – Tracy by The Cufflinks; Tammy by Debbie Reynolds

U – Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boys; Uptown Girl by Billy Joel (think Christie Brinkly his second wife)

V – Valerie by Steve Winwood; Veronica by Elvis Costello

W – Wendy by The Association

X – Theme song for Xena arranged by Joseph LoDuca from a Bulgarian song Kaval Sviri

Y – Yolanda by Bobby Blue Bland

Z – Zoe Jane by Staind

As you review the list, I am certain I left off one of your favorites. As with any list, opinions will vary. Please offer additions and comments on the list below.

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Singin’ in the Rain

It has rained each of the last five days and we expect five more ahead. In the middle of this sogginess, it is easy to reflect on the various emotions portrayed within songs about the rain.

Arguably the most famous is the title song from Gene Kelly’s movie “Singin’ in the Rain.” Here are the opening lines in this playfully happy song, exceeded only by Kelly’s wonderful dancing:

“I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again.”

This is only the first few of many raindrops in song. One of my favorites is one of two great songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Have you ever seen the rain?” The other is also good, “Who’ll stop the rain?” Here is an excerpt from the first song noted:

“Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
I know it’s been comin’ for some time
When it’s over so they say
It’ll rain a sunny day
I know shinin’ down like water.”

One of the best voices to sing about the rain is Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics in “Here comes the rain again.” She sings of wanting to be with a lover while it storms, as noted in this splash of lyrics:

“Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you.”

The emotions range in these and other songs from melancholy to happiness, from love to lust and from worry to fear. Eric Clapton’s “Let it rain” has a wonderful guitar lick which seasons this great song which is about just letting the rain wash over us. Two pop songs from the 1970s that sold millions were on the opposite ends of emotions – “Raindrops are falling on my head” by Burt Bacharach and “Rainy days and Mondays” by The Carpenters.

An older song which is about sadness is Brook Benton’s “Rainy night in Georgia” who “feels it must be raining all over the world.” Others include Bob Dylan’s “A hard rain’s gonna fall, Adele’s “Set fire to the rain,” and “Rain” by The Beatles.

Let me close with the most colorful title by a colorful, talented and enigmatic performer named Prince. His movie title song of “Purple Rain” truly brings the house down as he comes to terms with a father’s suicide attempt and his anger that pushes his lover away. Here is an excerpt:

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain.”

Any list of rainy songs will leave off a number of others. Let me know some of your favorites. As CCR sang “who’ll stop the rain.”

A little Bread goes a long way

Those who follow my post know that I do like my rock-n-roll. Yet, what I find most fulfilling is good music paired with great lyrics. While I love Eric Clapton, Styx, Heart, Stevie Ray Vaughan, et al,  I am equally thrilled to listen to Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, etc.

On the softer side of all of this is a band called “Bread,” whose lead singer and songwriter, David Gates wrote some terrific lyrics. He mostly sang of love lost, so his music will take you down a melancholy path.

My favorite of Bread’s is simply called “If.” Here is a sample of the lyrics from memory.

“If a man could be two places at one time, I’d be with you

Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way

If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,

I’d spend the end with you and when the world was through

Then, one by one the stars would all go out

Then you and I would gently fly away.”

One of his more painful songs is called “Diary,” about a boy who feels his love is unrequited until he finds his girlfriend’s diary. He is surprised by the intensity of her feelings and then he reads on.

“I found your diary underneath a tree, and started reading about me,

The words you’d written took me by surprise, you’d never read them in your eyes.

They said the love you’d found was someone else, not me.

Wouldn’t you know it, she wouldn’t show it.”

A little more upbeat song is called “The Guitar Man.” Here is a sample of the lyrics:

“Who draws a crowd and plays so loud,

Baby, it’s the guitar man.

Who’s on the radio, who steals the show,

Baby, it’s the guitar man.”

A few other favorites include “It don’t matter to me,” “Everything I own,” “Make it with you” and “Baby I’m a want you.” Later Gates had a solo hit when he wrote “The Goodbye Girl” for the Neil Simon movie with Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfus.

If you are not familiar with their music and like the softer side, check them out. If you want to rehash some old memories, break out the CDs, albums or add to your playlist. A little Bread goes a long way.

A few distractions from unexpected guitarists

With so many things happening in the world, we could use a few distractions. The following music factoids on some interesting guitar collaborations are quite unimportant, but may bring a moment of relief and reflection.

Joe Cocker covered several songs making them his own with his unusual style, including The Beatles’ “Little Help from my Friends.” What I just learned this week, the beautiful guitar lead-in to and throughout the song was played by none other than Jimmy Page. Page had left The Yardbirds and had not started Led Zeppelin with Robert Plant.

– Speaking of great lead guitarists, Jeff Beck, who also played with The Yardbirds and with several famous performers like Rod Stewart, Mick Jaggar, Tina Turner et al, was captured in a collaboration on a very famous song with a Motown star. Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” has a pulsating and memorable guitar riff throughout, played by Beck.

– Another guitar collaboration married a very talented songwriter and performer by the name of Michael Jackson with lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen. Jackson’s famous song “Beat it” has a Beck-like guitar riff and solo player by Van Halen, whose own band is quite successful.

Eric Clapton is arguably the best known guitarist in the world. He also played briefly     with The Yardbirds – an amazing line-up of guitar talent. Before he died, Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers joined with Clapton on his most famous song “Layla.” Allman was an expert slide guitarist, so he played the plaintiff crying sound on “Layla” for the last half of the song.

– Finally, although not quite the capable guitarists as the above players, two other famous musicians played on “Carolina in my Mind,” James Taylor’s song. Taylor was signed by Apple Records, which was The Beatles’ self-created label. Needing a bassist and additional guitarist, Paul McCartney and George Harrison decided to do the honors for Taylor. That was quite the set of studio musicians for the 18 year old Taylor.

I find these collaborations fascinating. When I learned of them much later than when the songs were hits, I enjoyed the songs even more. Give them a listen and hear past the singer for the guitar sound. There are some famous fingers strumming along in these songs making them even more memorable.

Guess Who Randy Bachman is

For someone who has been a driving force behind two very successful rock bands, most people could not tell you who Randy Bachman is. The two clues are in the title.

Starting in Winnipeg, Canada, Bachman teamed with Burton Cummings to form the “Guess Who.” Cummings is the voice you hear as lead singer, but Bachman is the lead guitarist and co-writer of most of the songs with Cummings.

Several songs of note from a vast body of work include: “American Woman,” “No Time,” “These Eyes,” “Undun,” “Hand me Down World,” ” Albert Flasher,” “Share the Land,” “No Sugar Tonight/ Mother Nature,” and many others. It is hard for me to pick a favorite as the quality of each is terrific, but if you held a gun to my head, I would say “Share the Land.”

After deciding to part ways, Bachman formed another group with his two brothers – Robbie and Tim – and Fred Turner. The band used the moniker “Bachman Turner Overdrive.” Often referred to as BTO, the band offered a heavier rock sound than the Guess Who.

Some of BTO’s songs include their anthem “Let it Ride,” the most radio played “Takin’ Care of Business,” “You ain’t seen Nothing Yet,” “Hey You,” and my personal favorite “Roll on Down the Highway.”

Even though Bachman is a major part of both groups, they have different sounds. In the Guess Who, Cummings is a very underrated singer whose voice is expressive. The lyrics are more poetic with terrific musicality in support of Cummings voice. “These Eyes” is a great example of their work – “these eyes have seen a lot of love, but they’re never going to see another one like you.”

Neither lead singer in BTO matches the vocal talents of Cummings. But, that is OK. The harder songs – “Let it Ride” and “Roll on Down the Highway” – have a more robust feel with the guitar lead. BTO’s other hits are more fun than gritty, but they do have great guitar riffs, as well. “Takin’ Care of Business” starts and continues with a well-known guitar riff that even AC/DC, who typically started each song with a guitar riff, would admire. My guess is this song would be the fan favorite at a concert.

If you are not familiar with either band, start with the Guess Who. You will likely recognize some of their songs. “American Woman” was later covered by Lenny Kravitz. But, you must give BTO a listen. They had a huge following as well.

“If your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine and start your slavin’ job to get your pay……..takin’ care of business.”

Sgt. Pepper turns fifty

Fifty years ago this month, what is regarded by Rolling Stone Magazine as the greatest album of all time was released – The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Airing on PBS is a BBC produced show called “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution,” hosted by musician Howard Goodall.

The show is worth the watch as Goodall highlights the innovation and storytelling behind the album. Being a musician, he demonstrates a few items of note and highlights what then was truly cutting edge. In essence, The Beatles had grown tired of touring where they and their fans could not hear their music over their screaming fans. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr wanted to get their creative juices flowing back in the studio and, boy, did they ever.

Working with record producer George Martin, The Beatles told a series of stories about their youth and observations about current life. They blended instruments such as the harmonium, which was a small organ for churches, with piccolo trumpets with sitars with nine pianos playing at once.

I don’t want to steal the thunder of the show, but let me highlight two items . To me, the most avant grade song is “A Day in the Life,” which blends a McCartney song about daily routine with a Lennon song about select news of the day. But, to blend these two songs together, they needed a bridge. So, they used a concept called accidental music and had fourteen orchestra members start at the lowest note possible and build slowly to a certain common level giving the musician the option of being just below, at or above that level. It was pure genius.

The second item is the song “Within you, without you,” by George Harrison. He actually played and orchestrated Indian musicians to play in a somewhat Western style. Goodall had some musicians play the song in an Eastern style, which produces a different sound, But, he notes Harrison wanted to blend two cultures together introducing Indian music to westerners.  He felt westerners were not ready for a total immersion. It is fascinating.

There are many surprising observations that show how cutting edge this album was. The fact that some history and actual people and places are recurring themes makes the music live even more. “Penny Lane” is an actual place, “When I’m 64,” was about McCartney’s father, “Lovely Rita,” was an actual meter maid, and “Strawberry Field Forever,” was an actual park where Lennon played when he was young. It should be noted that while recorded at the same time, “Strawberry Field Forever” and “Penny Lane,” were released as a two A-sided single as Brian Epstein, their manager, did not want too much time to elapse since their previous release, so they were not on Sgt. Pepper.

Please give the album a listen again or for the first time. And, do watch the PBS special either here or on the BBC. “We’re Sgt. Pepper’s one and only lonely hearts club band,” they sang toward the end.

Paul is dead

When The Beatles released what I think is their best album called “Abbey Road,” quite a stir was raised. It was in 1969, well before Social Media and just before the mechanics of the Internet were invented. A rumor was started that Paul McCartney was dead and it went global as a story.

The rumor was based off a story in 1969, that Paul had died in a car crash three years earlier and was replaced. There were several clues, but a key piece of evidence was on the cover of the Abbey Road album where the four band members were pictured walking across the street in front of their studio of the same name.

John Lennon walked first dressed in all white like a spiritual being. Ringo Starr came next dressed in black as a minister or funeral director might. George Harrison was last dressed in jeans and a blue work shirt, as if he portrayed grave digger,

Paul was third and was dressed in a suit with no tie and no shoes. He was also walking out of step with the other three. Other signs were used as evidence from earlier songs and albums. Was this to promote record sales or was it one of the many crazy stories that followed The Beatles?

Two final comments. If this story came out today with Social Media, it would go viral beyond belief. It would likely fragment into many permutations which would also go viral. I am reminded of the story about Bob Hope’s passing which led Congress to have a moment of silence for him to commemorate his life. Yet, no one checked into the fact that he was not dead at that time.

Lastly, I am among many tourists who travelled to the site of the famous album cover picture. Like many before, I quickly walked on the street for a photo shot. The dilemma is Abbey Road is a busy street and the tour guide forwarned us. We just might have ended up dead like Paul needing the three others to bury us. By the way, Paul is still not dead.