IT’S T TIME

It’s T time — time once again to take to the links and “T” off. Our first link, as I post this in the wee small hours of the morning, is a tune that goes through a roll call of maids-in-waiting. As you will hear, Frank’LL TAKE TALLULAH. (It dawns on me that come the Don, Frankel take her too, or I miss my bet*):

*referring to our friend Don Frankel, fellow unofficial member of the Frank Sinatra fan club

Four years after the above 1944 recording, another T came into Sinatra’s life:

As you may know, Tina is the name of Sinatra’s ‘other’ daughter (Nancy being the older and more celebrated of the two). So how did Tina really feel about her famous father?

We started with a WW II era song from a movie, and we’ll close with another: Johnny Mercer’s TANGERINE, from THE FLEET’S IN (1942). The orchestra this time is Jimmy Dorsey’s (brother of Tommy, who took Tallulah aboard Ship Ahoy in the first clip):

If the last clip, in particular, shows its age and looks/sounds quaint to us today, remember this is what your parents or grandparents listened and danced to in their day ….and you would have done the same in their place. Truth be told, aren’t most of us captives of the culture we’re in? I may be spitting into the wind, but it strikes me that we’re stuck in shallow water if we think there is only ‘now.’ Why so many have so little interest in where we came from is beyond me. It might tell us how we got here. It might even help tell us where to go (not that I would ever do such a thing).

 

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THIS IS THE S’s (PART II)

Believe it or not, I have standards — which I have made the standard for S (Part II). One of the all-time great standards of America’s Golden Age of popular music is STELLA BY STARLIGHT, composed by Victor Young for the 1944 film THE UNINVITED.  I invite you to be my guest for this good-as-it-gets rendition by the man known as “Mr. B”….

By most standards, the obscure tune which follows isn’t considered a standard….but when it’s by Cole Porter, almost any song (in my considered opinion) qualifies:

Our next S song has had more lives than a cat named Susie. It was first recorded by Eddie Cantor on 4/6/1925 and became a bestseller. It was subsequently sung by an actor who played Cantor in THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936), by two guys named Gene & Frank in ANCHORS AWEIGH (1945), and again by Cantor in the films IF YOU KNEW SUSIE (1948) and THE EDDIE CANTOR STORY (1953)….not to mention other vintage recordings and performances. The clip below is from (guess which) one of the above:

We close with a song which may be too highbrow for some of you, but a little taste of class is surely worth the risk of a black eye to your reputation (such as it is — ha ha):

 

THE N DAME

In doing research for the posts of this fem song series, I occasionally come across an old tune which not only is unfamiliar to me, but has a ‘trivia’ connection that catches my attention as much as the song itself. Such is the case with my first N song — NINA, recorded in 1931 by Wooding’s Grand Central Red Caps:

Orchestras of that era often adopted the names of venues where they played extended gigs, such as Richard Himber and His Ritz-Carlton Orchestra / Billy Wynne and His Greenwich Village Inn Orchestra. These venues lent a certain prestige to the orchestra and, one assumes, vice versa — though it’s hard to see how Grand Central Station could gain prestige from being coupled with a relatively obscure band like Wooding’s. But beyond that, it seems unlikely that any orchestra would be the ‘house band’ at a train terminal ….even one so grand as Grand Central — unless a night club was ‘on board’ there (which I can find no record of). If anyone can throw some light on the latter, please comment.

Moving on, we have a gal named NELLIE who is also waiting for some light:

The end dame of our N game is NANCY….you know — the one with the laughing face.

 

THE DUKE AND THE COUNT

Contrary to what the above title may suggest, this post is not a narrative of two nabobs of European nobility in medieval times. Rather, it’s about two giants of jazz royalty in Big Band-era America: one whose birthday, and the other whose expiration day, occurred last week. I refer to Duke Ellington (born 4/29/1899) and Count Basie (died 4/26/1984).

If you’re of a certain age, no doubt you’ve heard of them, but unless you’re a pre-rock jazz buff, that’s probably the extent of it. Permit me, then, to introduce you to these musical titans of yesteryear, and to a sampling of their legacy.  After all, it’s not every day that you get to meet a Duke and a Count.

I could get carried away with all there is to say about the former, but in the interest of not getting carried away, I will confine my remarks mainly to this quote:

Ellington has often credited his sidemen with the success of his band. But those who knew Duke and his music best — and this includes those very sidemen — will invariably tell you that what set Ellington’s apart is just one thing: the brilliant conductor-composer-arranger-pianist-bon vivant and leader of men, Duke Ellington himself. –George Simon (from his book, THE BIG BANDS)

Here are two of the Duke’s many compositions, the first from the 1930 film CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK, and the second from a European tour decades later:

Let us now turn to that other distinguished composer-pianist-band leader, Count Basie, whose talents weren’t as multifaceted as the Duke, but whose orchestra likewise outlasted the end of the Big Band era. Quoting George Simon one more time:

For several years [after] the days of the big bands, Basie didn’t do well, and he was forced to cut down his group to a sextet. But then he made a comeback and, aided greatly by support from Frank Sinatra, who helped him get lucrative bookings in Las Vegas and appeared with him in a series of successful concerts, the Basie band [again] rode high. 

 Let’s jump to a conclusion with this swinging rendition (especially the last seventy seconds) of Basie’s own composition and theme song:

MARRIAGE TO A-MUSE

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution? –Groucho Marx

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My wife and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary yesterday. You may think that, unlike the 50th, a 48th wedding anniversary is no big deal — and I wouldn’t disagree. But, being in need of an idea for this post, I wasn’t about to look a gift source in the mouth; thus, yesterday’s anniversary became my inspiration to write about….divorce.

Ha ha — just kidding (my wife might kill me if I were serious). This post will, of course, be about MARRIAGE….a fate which, as fates go, beats being killed (almost) any day. Ha ha ha. Just kidding again! Lest there be any doubt concerning my true feelings about marriage:

Yes, just as in the song, ask the local gentry, and they will say it’s elementary. But why stop with the local gentry? I believe my readers are nothing if not broad minded:

Marriage is the most licentious of human institutions — that is the secret of its popularity. –George Bernard Shaw

Getting married, like getting hanged, is a great deal less dreadful than it has been made out. –H. L. Mencken

It’s no disgrace for a woman to make a mistake in marrying — every woman does it. –Ed Howe

A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband. –Michel de Montaigne

Marriage is like paying an endless visit in your worst clothes. –J. B. Priestley

When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife. –Prince Philip

Marriage is a feminine plot to add to a man’s responsibilities and subtract from his rights. –Evan Esar

Before marriage, a man declares he would lay down his life to serve you; after marriage, he won’t even lay down his paper to talk to you. –Helen Rowland

The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin. –Honore de Balzac

I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her. –Rodney Dangerfield

Ha ha ha ha….I mean, Yes, dear — I’m listening. Seriously.

 

TELLTALE TITLES

How much time and thought do you devote to coming up with just-the-right title for your story, poem or article? If you take writing seriously, the answer is probably: as long as it takes to nail it — which could be almost no time at all, if it comes to you in a flash — or, more time than a less intense writer is willing to allot.

Ernest Hemingway, for one, evidently wasn’t the latter type. Case in point: in writing his definitive Spanish Civil War novel, he didn’t settle for less than a killer title that would encapsulate ‘the moral of the story,’ eventually finding it in this passage from a 1624 work by the poet John Donne: “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

As a writer of (mostly) humorous poems and posts, I’m inclined to go for witty and/or wordplay titles. Many times, the title to a particular piece all but suggests itself, but more often, no such luck, and I’m stuck — until eventually (as with the title of this post) a eureka moment rewards my resolve….or a poem resists my labeling efforts, and I just settle for:

UNTITLED

This poem’s title is Untitled —
Not because it is untitled,
But because I am entitled
To entitle it Untitled.

If I’d not titled it Untitled,
It would truly be untitled….
Which would make it unentitled
To the title of Untitled.

So it is vital, if untitled,
Not to title it Untitled,
And to leave that title idled,
As a title is entitled.

Moving on, suppose we try a title quiz based on the Papa Hemingway model (sorry, those of you who’d prefer the mistermuse model). Here are five passages from classic original works from which later authors lifted titles for their novels. Can you name the five later works and pin each tale on its author (ten answers total)? If you name all ten correctly, you win the title (with apologies to Cervantes) of Donkeyote Of All You Survey.

PASSAGES FROM ORIGINAL WORKS:

Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree/Damned from here to Eternity/God ha’ mercy on such as we/Ba! Yah! Bah! –Rudyard Kipling

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley/An’ lea’e us naught but grief an’ pain/For promised joy! –Robert Burns

By the pricking of my thumbs,/Something wicked this way comes. –Wm. Shakespeare

Come my tan-faced children/Follow well in order, get your weapons ready/Have you your pistols? Have you your sharp-edged axes?/Pioneers! O pioneers! –Walt Whitman

No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr’d,/Nor is Paul’s Church more safe than Paul’s Churchyard./Nay, fly to altars; there they’ll talk you dead/For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread. –Alexander Pope

TITLES (WITH AUTHORS) FROM  ABOVE PREVIOUS WORKS:

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY –James Jones
OF MICE AND MEN –John Steinbeck
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES –Ray Bradbury
O PIONEERS! –Willa Cather
WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD –E.M. Forster

How many of the ten titles/authors did you get? That last title, parenthetically, became part of Johnny Mercer’s lyrics to this 1940 hit song composed by Rube Bloom:

And now I fear I must tread on out….before something wicked this way comes.

 

DRIVING MUSE CRAZY

“What’s the matter with you? Want to get your head full of lead? Get out of here.”
–James Cagney to Pat O’Brien in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938 gangster movie)

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As you’ve probably heard, Flint, Michigan, has a problem. To save money, the powers-that-be in that distressed city decided to change the source of their water supply from the Great Lakes to the lead-laden Flint River….whereas they could’ve bitten the bullet (if they wanted to get their heads more full of lead than their constituents) and found a way to pay for safe drinking water for those with less desire to live dangerously.

More water problems in Flint, Michigan

Not to make light of man-made malfeasance, but humans aren’t the only ones who suffer. Suppose you’re a fish in that river –or other such stream or body of water. I think it’s safe to say you’d carp about any amount of brain-damaging lead, much less having our elected blowfish bargain for more. Holy mackerel — even a bullhead knows adding pollution is no solution! Can you imagine facing death floundering around like a crazed piranha because a bunch of political pikers don’t give a crappie about your well-being?

So I’m glad I’m neither a fish nor a resident of Flint….as if there aren’t already enough things that drive us crazy in this dogfish-eat-dogfish world, without having to worry about budget-balancers compromising our health. Now, I’m willing to allow that they dood it more out of ignorance than pure evil, but poison by incompetence is little comfort to its victims. Talk about a costly can of worms.

Of course, screw-ups aren’t the only thing DRIVING MISS DAISY crazy (you may think said film title is a stretch as far as a connection here is concerned, but take another look at this post’s title). Word play aside, I could probably come up with a plethora of pet peeves, but why go to all that trouble when I can sum it all up in four words: LIFE drives me crazy! — or, as my wife might call it, a short trip for a big drip. Well, love o’ my life, perhaps you’ve forgotten the words to our (some might say) fin-icky love song:

As for those of you who are drowning in pet peeves and want them spelled out, I hope the following will serve the porpoise:

76 Incredibly Accurate Pet Peeves That Will Drive. You. Nuts.

P.S. But after all is said and done….