Monday, August 26, 2013

Linda Ronstadt - Prisoner in Disguise

Saturday Song Selection: Special Edition

"Blessed with arguably the most sterling set of pipes of her generation ... rarest of rarities—a chameleon who can blend into any background yet remain boldly distinctive ... It's an exceptional gift; one shared by few others." – Christopher Louden, Jazz Times

 “The thing you have to be prepared for is that other people don't always dream your dream.” – Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt - Stone Poney, solo artist, cross-over artist, pioneer standards standard-bearer, Broadway, Hollywood and operetta performer, teenage lust object.

In a previous Saturday Song Selection featuring Linda Ronstadt and the song, “You’re No Good,” we wondered about the relative invisibility of Ronstadt in recent years. There was a sustained period of time, not all that long ago, when there was no more popular or successful international recording artist as she, with broad appeal across generations and musical genres. She has recently explained the reason for her absence from the public eye, in this era of TMZ, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and even the NSA, when no one, no matter how renowned or obscure, is afforded any true measure of privacy or anonymity (We are all Number 6 – “I am not a number, I’m a free man!”)

In an interview in the current issue of “AARP Magazine: The World’s Most Depressing Periodical” whose editorial philosophy is “50 is the new 100, so give up – enjoy the free hemlock with every paid subscription,” 67 year old songstress, Linda Ronstadt, discusses her on-going battle with Parkinson’s Disease, and the heartbreaking, resulting loss of her once pristine and powerful voice.

 Ronstadt, as senior citizen, seems almost unimaginable, as for many of us baby-boomers, she remains an indelible icon of our youthful bygone days of high school and college. (As her carefully placed, Spencer Gifts purchased poster, Scotch-taped just so, on my teenage bedroom wall would attest to.)  For any readers who may be Tea Party affiliated, or are potential GOP Presidential Candidates, colleges are institutes of higher learning, or as you refer to these establishments of academia, “Elitist Communist Indoctrination Camps.”

To nycityman and his uninteresting memories of meandering musical tastes (Linda fell in after British Invasion and Protest Music and before New Wave and Zydeco) and fluctuating infantile infatuations (she was after Barbara Eden and Jill St. John and before Grace Slick and Annie Golden of the Shirts – I got a bit untraditional for a while) she seems in some ways stuck in time and of a particular musical age, and although owner of 8 of her uber-successful 33 1/3 LPs, from “Don’t Cry Now” to “Mad Love,” my collection never made the technical transition from platter to CD, and needless to say,  MP3 downloads remain unexplored assets, as well. And although there is a certain satisfaction in the warm and imperfect sound of needle on vinyl, it’s far beyond the time to rectify this aural oversight.

Linda Ronstadt was the first of the rock-era warblers to make the now common cross-over to exploring and recording classics from the Great American songbook, paving the way for Carly Simon, Cyndy Lauper, Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart, and many lesser talents like Bobby Darin wannabe – Canadian, karaoke-level, crooner Michael Buble. She did so with great success and class, as she teamed with the eminent arranger of such music, frequent Sinatra collaborator, the incomparable, Nelson Riddle.  There was a time when a friend and I could listen to Frank Sinatra tracks and easily distinguish the individual arranger for each song - be it Riddle, Billy May, Gordon Jenkins or Don Costa – such was the uniqueness and level of distinct talent of Old Blue Eye’s partners; and such was the degree to which we clearly needed to get a life.

Prisoner in Disguise

“You think the love you never had might save you
But true love takes a little time
You can touch it with your fingers
And try to believe your eyes
Is it love or lies?” - J.D. Souther

These were sad and discouraging days for we closeted-Caruso’s, as Karaoke clubs had not yet reached Western shores, and we had but shower stalls as our sole outlets in which to exercise our earnest, but humble, musical chops. “Prisoner in Disguise” was one of nycityteen’s preferred melodies in which to stretch his extremely limited instrument. Standing very close to the stereo, equidistant between left and right JBL’s, I would find a place to blend my inimitable and non-too pleasant bleating, with the far more mellifluous intonations of Ms. Ronstadt and, back-up singer and songwriter, J.D. Souther;  out would emerge all the emotion and soul that this middle-class, Italian-American, spoiled, suburban white boy could muster.  And speaking of soul, I retain the same Ma Bell 7 digit number that I’ve had for decades, as I still also retain the hope of the soon to be received phone call that will request my participation as the first Caucasian replacement Temptation in history.

Linda Ronstadt and J.D. Souther
Composer, J.D. Souther’s contribution to the quality and excellence of “Prisoner in Disguise” should not be underestimated. Souther’s compositions were covered by a wide-range of recording artists, and after release of  a solo album; he followed the proven mathematical formula to super-group success by teaming up with one Byrd (Chris Hillman) and one Buffalo Springfield member (Richie Furay) to form the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band.  While not reaching the heights of originator and model of this folk-rock equation, Crosby, Stills and Nash, they did produce some fine work, and all enjoyed lengthy and prolific careers, moving on to be part of Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Manassas, among other bands. Nycityman’s ideal super-group - The Who have lost their drummer and bass player; all that survives of the Beatles, are their drummer and bass player, thus would be born – the Who-tles! (Okay, maybe that moniker’s a tad too “Seussian,” sounding, we can revisit it later.)

Linda Marie Ronstadt by the Numbers

As was mentioned earlier, Linda Ronstadt began her recording career as a member of the Los Angeles-based, folk-rock trio, The Stone Poneys (the misspelling was intentional) with Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards. While not the original intent - Ronstadt initially shared lead-singing duties with Kenny Edwards - Lovely Linda soon became the vocal focal point of the group, culminating in a major hit with the Michael Nesmith penned “Different Drum.”  By their third album, in the great egomaniacal tradition of “Diana Ross and...” and “Frankie Valli and...” any pretense of equality had been vanquished and the band became known as “Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys”… and then they broke up.  However, no hard feelings must be assumed for Kenny Edwards remained an integral member of Linda’s solo career musical family, singing and playing on her best-selling albums for 10 years after the group’s demise.

It would be extremely hard to repudiate (again, for Tea Partier’s, feel free to substitute the Palin malapropism “refudiate”) Linda’s decision to troll the waters of solo stardom. She was a giant - a superstar whose domination of, not only, the music charts, but also, the magazine covers, would today send the Kardashians, each in turn, screaming back to their wealthy and highly-irresponsible plastic surgeon in frantic desperation to be put up on the rack again, for a lube job and some rhino-recalibration  – earning 11 Grammy Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award (for we unenlightened Gringos that’s stands for American Latino Media Arts) and numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums. She also received nominations for a Tony Award and a Golden Globe award – not quite an EGOT, but close.

For insomniacs, late night television aficionados and illicit drug abusers – But Wait… There’s More!
Ronstadt appears on over 120 albums, including her own 30 studio releases of new material, and her 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. She charted 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles, with 21 reaching the top 40, 10 in the top 10, three at #2 and "You're No Good" at #1. Thirty six of her LPs reached the Billboard Pop Album Charts, with 10 achieving top-10 status and three attaining the coveted number 1 spot.

Tragically, we may never hear Linda Ronstadt’s beautiful and exceptionally lyrical singing again, but she’s given the world a rich body of work that will remain undiminished for the perpetuity of musical appreciation. And although her performing days may be behind her, her voice has not been silenced. Linda recently authored a memoir, “Simple Dreams,” which will reach iPods and Kindles, and the unfortunately few remaining booksellers, on September 17th. To those aware of nycityman's true identity, and who also participate in Christmas gift exchanging, please take note.

Now sit very close to your computers, equidistant between left and right speakers (or with Dr. Dre’s firmly on ears) and find a place to blend your, no doubt, magnificent and mellow tones with Ronstadt and Souther, and enjoy “Prisoner in Disguise.”

Any comments, questions, criticisms, compliments, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Eydie Gorme – I Wanna Be Around

Saturday Song Selection: Special Edition

“What a delight to watch somebody who really knows how to sing get up there and do it.” – Johnny Carson

“Her voice was incomparable and her interpretations tugged at my heart. May she rest in peace and be welcomed by the angels.” – 
Ann Hampton Callaway

1960 – 1969 – Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme co-host the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon alongside  TV emcee and game show host, Dennis James, relieved during the overnight hours by comic Morty Gunty. Year in and year out, the young nycityman family faithfully tune in to one of the limitless 7 channels currently available, on first, the black and white GE, and then later, the recurrently broken behemoth that was our color Admiral. Enjoyment of the show is only occasionally ruined by the typical telethon cavalcade of meekly talented wannabes and never-was’s who volunteer for these rare attainable moments on the tube; and worst of all, by the questionable taste of the “Look at Us We’re Walking, Look at Us We’re Talking” segment when Jane Pickens Langley, the fourth co-host, parades melancholic and mortified, ill children about the studio as she painfully, and with a vibrato so over-wrought and pronounced that it registers on the Richter Scale, warbles the tacky tune. 

1963 – Eydie Gorme’s  hit song “Blame it on the Bossa Nova” makes the Billboard Top 10, Mom (nycitymom) purchases the, still owned, 45rpm platter and the then nycitytoddler, swings, sways and shuffles about the Staten Island abode to the irresistible beat. 

August 10, 2013 – 84 year old, Eydie Gorme passes away, 4 years after retirement and her withdrawal from the public eye. I search for clips on YouTube and discover, obviously and unfortunately too late, the under-appreciated and exceptional talent that existed right in front of us, lo these many decades.

Although cursed with a braggart's heart when it comes to my deep abiding affection for, and pride in, my native metropolis, as if I sailed from the old country on the SS Mr. Bacciagalupe and planted the flag of ownership at the tip of the Battery myself, and then dispatched all my fellow countrymen across the harbor to Staten Island to claim it forever and always for the good people of Italia; truth be told, one of the five million wonderful things about living here is, despite the competitive and covetous claims of rivals such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the Big Apple is the genuine entertainment capital of the globe. My lifetime residence has afforded me the opportunity to see, and relish in, the artistic abilities of the premium purveyors of American pop, and the torch carriers of the Great American Songbook - among them, Joe Williams, Mel Torme, Jimmy Scott, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Liza Minnelli, Rosemary Clooney and Tony Martin – the point of said impressive inventory – why did I pass on Eydie? What did I have that I don’t have (number 17 on the charts for Eydie in 1966)? 

Peruse the pulsating pipeline of the internet yourself and unearth the indisputable virtuosity of Eydie Gorme. You’ll look at the many clips and wonder, “why wasn’t this woman on Broadway” she appears born to it. And alas, she did dip her toes in the Great White Way in the late 60’s, when she and hubby Steve co-starred for a little over a year  in a musical adaptation of “A Hole in the Head” called “Golden Rainbow,” from whence came the chart-topping standard, “I’ve Gotta Be Me.” But, her musical comedy resume ends there, and it is unfortunate, for in Ms. Gorme one can picture and project a flawless Fannie Brice and a model Mama Rose. And feel free to call me crazy or to laugh at my lucidity, but in performance is there not a detectable style similarity somehow to both Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand?  Judy came before and was clearly an influence as they share an energy, a dynamism and even vocal and presentational aggressiveness.  Brooklyn-born Barbra is the younger and so came to the fore after Bronx-bred Eydie, but in stage manner they are distinctly and undeniably New Yorkers, the power of the city pours from their pores as they take command of the arena and the audience.

 A Little More Eydie, A Lot Less nycityman

The former Edith Gormezano was daughter to immigrants, Fortuna and Nessim Gormezano, (isn't that the title of a famous aria?) Dad, hailing from Sicily and Mom from Turkey. Cousin to the man unnaturally smitten with Calendar Girls, Neil Sedaka, and a William Howard Taft High School classmate of, less than subtle director, Stanley Kubrick, interesting and beneficial pairings seemed her destiny. With a natural gift for languages (maybe Italian and Turkish), she worked for the United Nations as an interpreter before finding success as a Big Band belter, first with the Tommy Tucker Orchestra (not the anchorman from “Family Guy”) and later with Tex Beneke's band (not the late, disgraced New York City weatherman.)  In 1953 came the start of something big, when Eydie walked onto the set of Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” and when her soon to be spouse and performing partner, Steve Lawrence, walked into her life (1967, number 5 on the charts.) Three years hence, Gorme and Lawrence were betrothed and the entertainment world gained the enduring pairing of Steve and Eydie.

If you were unfamiliar with Eydie Gorme, explore her work. If you had some knowledge but it was slight, follow suit. Perhaps, you too, will come to value a singer deserving of a position in the pantheon, and a rightful place among the upper echelon of great American song stylists.

In closing, as is appropriate, Eydie shares her talent with the world, and a large late night audience, in a 1966 appearance with Johnny Carson on his “Tonight Show.”

Any comments, questions, criticisms, compliments, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

No Sex Please, We're Skittish

Even Educated Fleas Do It

The Case for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

“Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
And don't worry 'bout tomorrow, hey, hey, hey”
 – The Grass Roots

"Virginity Rocks” indeed! Pity such a woefully misguided notion and the frantically, frustrated faithful who follow it. Unmistakably, this is a movement in much need of deliberative dispute, dissent and persuasive disagreement.

Readers often contact me with one common query (not true, this is a flagrantly false set-up) – after such extensive blogging, 119 posts, a quarter of a million views, a permanent afterlife that will exist forever and always on the internet long past my demise,  “what would you most like to be remembered for, what thought, what idea, what concept?”  Well, one goes where the needs arise and it appears that this blog’s greatest contribution to mankind may lie in, of all unexpected things, championing recreational sex!

While this prurient proposal will be possibly perceived as a most insubstantial, inconsequential, insignificant, inappropriate, if not even irresponsible and potentially danger-fraught and health threatening supposition, I say nay.  Yes, nay is what I say, for one should never underestimate the necessity, importance and contribution to happiness, livelihood and long term success, of satisfying, satiating, rewarding, mollifying and gratifying – safe, cautious and responsible - casual carnality.

Perhaps this seems substantially less than a profound postulation, but as a wiser, older gentleman, someone who’s lived a life that’s full and traveled each and every highway, and, yes, much more than this, who did it my way; I suggest to the younger generation, heed this well-intended fatherly advice from someone looking back on decades past of enjoyed opportunities, and of many others that were regrettably passed on. Please have sex.  

If you are a consenting adult in the decade of your 20’s, you’re practically perfect in every way, or certainly, as close to perfection as you will ever achieve. You may never again look or feel as healthy and energetic. At this juncture in your growth and lifecycle, physical and medical excellence is as effortless as a strike out for Ike Davis, a red-light district discount for Elliot Spitzer, or a section 8 exam for Louis Gohmert. Your hormones are peaking and surging, and chances are, while you wear a silly grin, the prospects are a-plenty.

It seems you did pick a fine time to leave me, Lucille
Should interpretation of faith be your desire-denier, if the political propaganda of a many-millennia old, delusory digest; these supposed sacred scriptures penned not by a deity but by ancient, uneducated, superstitious citizens be your behavioral handbook; repudiate this sacrosanct sentence of celibacy, this senseless self-inflicted punishment. In later years, no matter the sincerity of effort and exertion, as the foreboding and frightening faces of Kenny Rogers and Joan Van Ark can concretely attest, no attempt to maneuver and manipulate the hands of time will invert inevitable aging; life’s clock will continuously and steadfastly, rebuff and rebuke reversal. I respectfully submit that you reconsider this hasty waste of these prime and irreplaceable years, for they will not be returning to you.

I was once sexually desirable and active, now I look like a Batman villain
Consecrated couples, ponder, if you will, this point of view – is sex not one of God’s truly great gifts to his children; and is your refusal to participate and partake of His generous and lavish largesse not then, also a refusal to acknowledge and accept His theological divinity? Furthermore, would this not also mean that Hugh Hefner is more blessed than Pat Robertson, and Plato’s Retreat more a sacred sanctuary than the Vatican? In practical consideration of physical manifestation, had He not intended us to experience, appreciate and revel in the pleasures of the flesh, Ken and Barbie’s Toyland interpretation of the human form would, in actuality, be anatomically correct.

You bet, virginity rocks!!
If, to this point, one has not been swayed by this argument for ardor and amour, perchance some reason in rhyme will prevail, with the class of a classic, a timeless Cole Porter lyric updated by yours truly but, nonetheless, faithful to the initial intent conveying the joy and humor of love and intimacy, “Let’s Do It.”

Let’s Do It – 2013

Birds do it, bees do it
High School teens pre-SATs do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

The fully clothed in Iraq do it
Rumours have it Fleetwood Mac do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The Palin kids they can’t help do it. 
They can barely refrain
Then preach you shan’t do it
Say, what’s the new baby’s name? 

Barnes and Noble on their shelves do it
Narcissists all by themselves do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Most songs by Burt Bacharach do it
Carson joked that sickly yaks do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The G.O.P. claims unborn do it
Southern kin in fields of corn do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The older folks in Palm Beach do it
If they remember the rules
And Congressmen who impeach do it
When they’re not tweeting their tools

Yes, people all ‘round the globe do it
Travolta’s aliens that probe do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love!

Finally, properly performing this abiding tune, the legendary Ella Fitzgerald, followed by the Grass Roots entreating us all to “Live for Today.”

Any comments, questions, criticisms, compliments, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.