Petula Clark, Downtown, A Sign of the Times

Posted in Petula Clark on October 4th, 2012 by Willie

Normally, when you think about the end of the baseball season, you don’t think about Petula Clark, but I do. I’m a rabid New York Mets fan, and when I was a kid, I had a VHS of “Amazin Era,” a film about the history of the New York Mets from 1962-1985. I watched that tape endlessly, over and over, and the soundtrack from that tape just fills me with that special brand of nostalgia. As the Mets season came to another disappointing finish yesterday afternoon, I randomly stumbled on the old Petula Clark song “A Sign of the Times.” This song was featured prominently in the “Amazin Era” tape, and its etched in the loops of my childhood memories. Now, those who read my website know that when I’m posting songs from the 60s, they are usually the absolute best songs of the era; the most artistic, the most serious, the most life changing. Petula’s 60s output doesn’t live up to those standards, but she WAS a product of the most glorious time in pop music, and as a consequence, her cheesy music still IS powerful. “Downtown,” made famous in modern times as a minor subplot in a Seinfeld episode, is an example of this. Its about a lonely woman who just travels to the city to see a movie to lift her spirits. Its totally dumb, but the melody, and Petula’s singing are out of this world. The same goes for “A Sign of the Times,” a sterling diamond of a song. To me, and I know this is borderline insanity, but “A Sign of the Times” was exactly the type of song Paul McCartney was writing in early 1967. It has an awesome vintage British feel that has proven incredibly hard to replicate by anyone since that era. So, sit back, and enjoy these two hunks of 60s confectionery sugar.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ella Fitzgerald, Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)

Posted in Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Youtube Favs on October 11th, 2011 by Willie

You may be wondering why I’m putting up an old Cole Porter pop tune from 1928 up my website.  If you’ve seen Woody Allen’s glorious flick, “Midnight in Paris,” you know why, but if you haven’t, then a bit of explanation is needed.  In the film, a time traveling novelist played by Owen Wilson stumbles back in time somehow, ends up at a hot 20s jazz party in Paris, and finds Cole Porter himself performing the song in an intimate setting.  Not “intimate” like an orgy, though maybe one broke out later after Owen left, it’s hard to tell.  Anyway, it’s hilarious, but more importantly, the song is simply one of the best ever.  This version from Ella Fitzgerald is my favorite, which says something because this song was performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Louie Armstrong to Diana Ross and Joan Jett.  I’ve taken it upon myself to learn this song on guitar this past week, and its damn hard because of all the jazz chords that require real finger gymnastics.  However, with some real determination, and some real creative chord interpretation, I managed to plunk it down pretty well after a few days.  Here is the link I used to learn, and if you want to play along with Ella, put a capo on the 3rd fret.  Trust me, you’ll like this one guitar players….and uh…lovers of music.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Everly Brothers and John Lennon, All I Have to Do Is Dream, Cathy's Clown

Posted in John Lennon, The Everly Brothers, Youtube Favs on July 24th, 2011 by Willie

Dreams are mysterious and crazy things.  Sometimes you’ll have a dream and have no idea of what to make of it.  Songs simply about dreams, even sort of romantic cliched ones, are sometimes enough just to trigger those feelings of the novel, the unexplained, and the otherworldly.  Such is the case with the 1958 Felice and Boudleaux Bryant penned classic, “All I Have to Do Is Dream” performed by the Everly Brothers and Chet Atkins, (on guitar.)  Don and Phil Everly, are still out there today, singing their unique brand of 50s dream rock, living legends found unstoppable by age or changing trends.  The song is an intoxicating whirlpool of perfect close vocal harmonies, and proto-psychedelic lyrics about love and dreaming.  In the performance below you also get “Cathy’s Clown,” their gorgeous 1960 hit that really ensnared John Lennon of Beatle fame in its beautiful structure.  Speaking of the Beatles, the Everlys were always listed as a MASSIVE influence on John and Paul, and all you gotta do is see the video below to guess why.  Two boys singing pop with flawless harmony as if it was second nature.  The Beatles just took that as a device and added it to their already killer repertoire of songwriting and performing mastery.  As a bonus, I’ve included a demo by John in the 70s of him trying out his own version of “Cathy’s Clown.”  It’s brilliant and sad.  Enjoy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Elton John, The Measure of a Man, End Credits of Rocky V

Posted in Elton John, Fun and Crazy on July 5th, 2011 by Willie

Yesterday was July 4th, and the movie channel AMC celebrated by having a Rocky marathon. I’m a sucker for the Rocky movies. The original Rocky (1976) is clearly a masterpiece. It was subtle, bleak, realistic, hopeful, and filled with great original characters. Rocky II continues the tone of the first, but is more serialized and a little bit redundant. Rocky III and onwards are full blown cartoons of 80s excess. The worst movie of the bunch, Rocky V, is an absolute train wreck of a movie. In 2010, Stallone admitted he made the movie out of greed.  In an attempt to make Rocky more of the everyman he originally was, they radically change his life. First off, Rocky loses all of his money on account of Paulie (Burt Young) making some bad investments. This forces Rocky to move back to the Philly inner city with his family and start over. If I remember correctly, even Adrian (Talia Shire) goes back to work for the pet store she worked at in Rocky I. Insane. All Rocky would have to do, considering he established himself as the greatest American boxer ever, is make a few endorsements and he’d back on his feet financially. Anyway, Rocky begins training some stupid young boxer, his kid Rocky Jr. (Stallone’s real life son Sage) begins to resent him, and it ends with Rocky kickboxing Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) all over the streets of Philly. It’s incredibly bad. However, the one thing that always got to me about Rocky V were the end credits. It’s a montage of all the Rocky films up to that point, with Elton John’s “Measure of a Man” playing in the background. The song, in proud Rocky tradition, is sappy, sentimental, cheesy, and overblown. Still, like the Rocky movies, its kind of touching and very memorable. I had no idea that this was Sir Elton until this morning when I looked it up. I also didn’t know this song was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for worse song in a movie…it lost…Hah! Well, to me, this is proof that the song isn’t that bad, so I’m sticking on my website despite the haters.  Enjoy.

PS: Youtube won’t let me embed the version with credits on my website, but I do have a link to it if you want to see the famous Rocky montage, just click these words.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Islands, Vapours Review

Posted in Islands, Record Reviews, The Unicorns on July 1st, 2011 by Willie

Nick Thorburn, leader of Islands and co-founder of the now deceased Unicorns outfit, is my favorite young songwriter.  His 2009 LP, Vapours, is my favorite record of 2011, and the more I play it, the more I love it.  In the world of indie rock, Islands is big but have yet to transcend the “scene,” whatever that is.  It’s a shame because Thorburn and his gang should all be big pop stars.  He’s watched groups like Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend achieve mainstream success and cultural breakthroughs when he knows he is just as good, if not superior.  He’s jealous, and he’s justified.  Take a look at this clip where he tears into Vampire Weekend with dry sardonic viciousness.
Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Beach Boys, The Ramones, Do You Wanna Dance?

Posted in The Beach Boys, The Ramones, Youtube Favs on June 20th, 2011 by Willie

Part 95 is a double dose of glorious rock and roll.  I’ve got the Beach Boys and the Ramones rocking the Bobby Freeman classic, “Do You Wanna Dance?.”  In the Beach Boys version, drummer Dennis Wilson takes the lead vocals, and man is he good.  Dennis was the only Beach Boy that actually surfed, and like his brothers and cousins, was a fantastic singer.  I love the Beach Boys version for their gorgeous harmonies and almost indie rock slacker like take on the song.  This video is also hilarious to see Mike Love just dance off on the side not contributing nothing to the song but Beach Boys vibe and attitude.  The Ramones version is just as good, if not better.  Recorded for Rocket to Russia, the Ramones are shown ripping their version of the song through the halls of Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, the 1979 Roger Corman cult classic.  The Beach Boys were always a favorite of the Ramones, and they bring all the high octane distorted punk joy they can to this number, making it one of the greatest covers of all time in my opinion.  So, in conclusion, the answer to the question is, yes, I wanna dance…RIGHT NOW!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Beatles, I Should Have Known Better

Posted in The Beatles, Youtube Favs on May 12th, 2011 by Willie

Part 60 now, and for this slice, I have the Fab Four back again with a clip of them performing “I Should Have Known Better,” from their movie and record of the same name, A Hard Day’s Night.  This is simply one of my favorite songs of all time.  And I mean that with total sincerity.  To understand me, Willie Simpson, is to understand that the early Beatles mean everything to me, and that this song in particular is probably at the top of that list.  Why?  Because its guileless sublimity is unmatchable by anyone.  It’s the kind of song that make the Beatles so unbelievably special to so many people around the world.  First of all, the lyrics are brilliant.  John just captures the uncontainable desire of a young man discovering true love for the first time.  The part where he sings, “I should have realized a lot of things before, if this is love you gotta give me more, give me more, hey hey hey, give me morrree,” is just so exuberant and true, that it borders on madness.  In other words, its perfect rock and roll.  Oh, and the middle eight where even though the words are still positive, the music casts a note of anxiety as he almost pleads the, “when I tell you that I love you,” is just genius.  The Beatles just knew how to use their music to capture people’s hearts. And to top it off they somehow managed to knock out practically the entire soundtrack to the movie starring them in less than a week, and its timeless and perfect and real, and that’s all I can say about this masterpiece.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Unicorns, Tuff Ghost

Posted in The Unicorns, Youtube Favs on March 11th, 2011 by Willie

If you’ve been visiting my site, you realize that a lot of my youtube favorites come from another era.  Well here’s one from a more recent time.  Part 18 of my countdown continues with the Unicorns, Tuff Ghost.  Hailing from Montreal, the now defunct Unicorns were fronted by silly pop geniuses Nick Diamonds (real name Nicholas Thorburn) and Alden Ginger (real name Alden Penner,) and backed by creative drummer J’aime Tambeur (real name Jamie Thompson.)  They had one major record release Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone, an awesome concept album about fear, death, dying, ghosts, camping, and airplanes.  I love the Unicorns because they were fronted by two incredible pop singer/songwriters who do nothing but remind me of a modern day Lennon/McCartney.  The Unicorns would sadly break up, and Diamonds, the more Lennony one went on to form the incredibly underrated group Islands, and Ginger, the McCartney one went on to form the equally interesting Clues.  I still dream of a reunion record one day, but until that happens, I’ll have to make due with videos like of Tuff Ghost.  It’s a hard bass driving pop gem with Diamonds and Ginger alternating verses about a weight lifting ghost who doesn’t sweat.  I love The Unicorn’s stage presentation, costumes, and most of all, incredible music.  So here you go, Tuff Ghost!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,