Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Tears of a Clown

Posted in Smokey Robinson on May 16th, 2015 by Willie

tears of a clown

“If there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public, but when it comes down to fooling you, now honey that’s quite a different subject.”

I don’t think there is a better opening line of lyrics and verse melody ever crafted in a pop song. It’s the perfect combination of clever introspective word play and a soaring melody that cuts through the air like a skyscraper. It’s sublime and it’s no wonder that it was crafted primarily by Motown titans Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. In the past week, I must have played this song about 30 times on my iPod. This song has become a key part of my late Spring 2015 soundtrack as I walk around the city. The music just animates NYC as I turn corners, climb steps and gaze at crystal blue colored skies with this jam kaleidoscoping through my brain.

It’s ironic how much joy this song gives me despite it’s depressing subject matter. It’s a great breakup song with perfect rhymes. The only complaint I have is the circus like orchestral melody which is supposed to tie in with clown theme. It’s incredibly catchy and suits the song musically but I wish they made it a bit cooler and less commercial. Maybe record it with a Rhodes electric piano or a fuzzed up electric guitar line. That doesn’t matter, this song is fantastic and will probably be replayed thousands of times in the lives of the people who come to love the song. Become one of them by watching the video below.

BTW, here is the friendly reminder to check out my album “Funeral Business,” which is for sale on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. More information on this modern rock and roll classic album masterpiece can be found by clicking here. Also, for previews of the album you can check out the cool videos on my YouTube channel or check out my Pandora radio station. Thanks for all the continued love and support!


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Big Mama Thorton, Budddy Guy, Hound Dog

Posted in Big Mama Thorton, Buddy Guy on October 25th, 2012 by Willie

“Hound Dog” is one of the greatest blues rock songs of all time, so it should come as no surprise that this is the third instance of me posting a version of it. The other two occasions involved the King Elvis Presley, but for this time, I have the superior version. Its Big Mama Thorton and Buddy Guy teaming up to play the song that Mama made a hit 4 years before Elvis. Her version just roasts with perfection. The way Big Mama just growls and bites into the verses, singing like no one else could sing it, even the King of Rock and Roll. This performance is almost too hip for this galaxy, proof of human artistic perfection, and America couldn’t help but agree as Willie Mae Thorton sold 2 million copies of it in 1952 and 1953, spending 7 weeks at #1; an ultra smash for the early era of rock and roll. I’ve played this video about eight times this week and I can’t get enough, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Robert Johnson's Real Voice, Love in Vain

Posted in Robert Johnson on August 27th, 2012 by Willie

I’m convinced.  Slow down his voice, and you hear the real man.  Someone on the internet put it much more eloquently than I, that it’s like meeting Robert Johnson again for the first time, and what better thing could there be?  I suppose I should explain myself, so I’ll do it as succinctly as possible.  Robert Johnson, godfather of confessional guitar oriented blues, which is essentially the underpinning of all modern pop music, has been misrepresented.  His precious 30 or so recordings, which represents the majority of the scant evidence of his very existence, was recorded at a speed 15% faster than the reality of the performance.  The main consequence  being that his guitar playing was cartoonishly sped up, and his voice given the Alvin and the Chipmunk treatment.  Why was it done?  Probably to fit more songs on the record.  I doubt it was done for any artistic reason on part of Robert or the producer.  It wouldn’t so much of a crime if there existed more than what we have, but we don’t have anymore, so all we are left with are crazy people like me who hear slowed down versions and state baseless certitudes with reckless abandon on the ole fashioned internet.  Alright, enough of my craziness.  Time to listen for yourself.  I present below “Love in Vain,” his most beautiful and haunting broken love ballad, in both its original form (tampered form,) and in the ‘fixed’ form.  You be the judge.

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Battle of the Bands, Part 5, Stones Surrender to the Beatles in Cleveland, perform "I Saw Her Standing There," as Pennance

Posted in Battle of the Bands, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 29th, 2012 by Willie

As the battle raged for decades, with both bands suffering unspeakable tragedy (Brian Jones, John Lennon), the bloodshed just HAD to end.  And end it did with Mick Jagger’s historic concession in Cleveland, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Mick, clearly disgusted at being forced to admit bitter defeat, inducted the Beatles, minus Paul McCartney (who apparently was too busy to witness  Mick’s humiliation), in a ceremony of drunken revelry, and cheeky good humor.  Watch this hilarious clip below…

My favorite part is seeing Mick’s unabashed, yet good-natured jealousy as he recounts the Beatles story.  That’s actually not something to be underrated, as that jealousy fueled Mick Jagger to heights he probably never dreamed of attaining.  It’s brilliant that Mick agreed to induct the Beatles into the Rock Hall, as he hung out with the Beatles a lot in the 60s.  He was there in the early London club days, the early drug taking days, the Maharishi lectures, the “Day in the Life” recording party, and the “All You Need is Love” performance.  He was an intimate eye-witness to a lot of the behind the scene Beatle madness, and you can tell by this great speech.  He inducts the Beatles, but the only ones to show are George and Ringo.  John, being dead at the time, had Yoko, Sean, and Julian represent his presence, while Paul is mysteriously absent.  George, Ringo, and Yoko, all make subtle bitter jokes about Paul’s lack of being there, and its all actually quite hilarious, especially George.  Sean also has a brilliant line as well…watch!

That was great, and yes, Paul’s presence was missed sorely, but so was John’s…After all, the Beatles would never really ever exist anymore without the four of them, so who cares.  Imagine if he lived though?  I guarantee they would have all come to this ceremony, and rocked the shit out of this joint.  Instead we get Billy Joel, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and Bruce Springsteen taking a shot at “I Saw Her Standing There.”  Even with all that star power, it doesn’t come close to the power the original Beatles could have generated with just the four of them.  Ah well, its still a fun and rollicking performance, with George again being the main cut up, giving the patented Beatle head shaking “wooo!” a move he probably hadn’t pulled in 25 years.  It’s amazing, a perfect end to a glorious war, with the Beatles and the Stones coming together to agree that yes, we are all super gods enshrined in a museum of rock.

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Hall and Oates, I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)

Posted in Hall and Oates, Youtube Favs on December 20th, 2011 by Willie

Oh the hits keep rolling for Hall and Oates.  “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” was a #1 for Daryl and John in 1981, and another track that set the tone for 80s pop.  Their embarrassing cover art for the single also help set trends of decadent ugliness for the 80s as well.  Pop music from the 1980s had many uniting broad themes from futurism, celebration, dark sexuality, and paranoia.  “I Can’t Go For That” has those trademarks in spades.  It also holds the distinction for being the first song by a non-African American group to top the R&B charts.  Daryl Hall, the songs primary writer, was most pleased with this achievement, stating, “I’m the head soul brother in the U.S.  Where to now?”  Good question.  One direction led to an even bigger hit, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”  Michael admitted to Daryl that he copped the bass line from “I Can’t Go For That” for his own ultra-smash hit, to which Daryl replied, ‘I took that bass line from someone else to begin with, and that it’s “something we all do.”‘  That reminds me of another theme in 80s pop, superstar collaboration.  It’s as if their was one continuous party of mega rich famous rock stars, who all inflated each others egos, and played on each others records.  Heady times, heady coke fueled times indeed…

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The Rolling Stones, Some Girls

Posted in The Rolling Stones, Youtube Favs on November 29th, 2011 by Willie

Some Girls is one of the best Rolling Stones records.  It’s sleazy, dirty, punky, and country.  It came out in 1978, and has just been reissued it a nice little collectors package.  You should get it; I know I will.  To celebrate its corporate repackaging, I present to you a thoroughly scandalous fan made music video of the title song from the record.  The video features classic films such as “Easy Rider,” “Backbeat,” “Quadrophenia,” “Death Proof,” “Goodfellas,” and “Dr. No.”  It also has great clips of the Sex Pistols, Blondie, and the Rolling Stones, all vamping it up for one of the Stones most booziest songs.

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Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Little Bitty Pretty One

Posted in Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Youtube Favs on November 6th, 2011 by Willie

Before Michael Jackson, before Justin Bieber, there was Frankie Lymon.  Well, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers to be exact.  Frankie is the original rock and roll prodigy, a 13 year old backup singer from Harlem who by a stroke of fate stepped in to sing lead for his vocal group the Teenagers when original lead vocalist Herman Santiago caught the flu on their crucial audition day.  Even when Herman got better, it was no contest, Frankie was the goods, blessed with the voice of a rock and roll angel, annihilating audiences with his golden pipes.  When Frankie and the Teenagers became a smash, they hit the road hard.  Frankie was dating 25 year old women, smoking cigars, drinking booze, and using heroin.  He ended up marrying 3 women, without divorcing any of them, losing his front teeth, joining the army (well he was sentenced to join by a judge) and then quickly dropping dead in a NYC bathroom at the age of 26.  Frankie burned out quickly, but his voice and songs live on.  “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” and “Little Bitty Pretty One,” are testaments to inhuman voice, a voice he lost quickly when puberty hit.  I guess he was basically one of the early prototypes for childhood stars who got success too quickly, and turned to drugs in an effort to destroy their lives.  It’s hard to imagine a time when the songs below rocked hard, but at one point they did, so give em a play and let Frankie’s voice soar one more time.

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RIP Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber

Posted in Youtube Favs on August 24th, 2011 by Willie

Two songwriting icons passed away yesterday, and ironically, both were halves of legendary songwriting teams.  Nick Ashford, legendary Motown songwriter, who was paired with his wife Valerie Simpson, died at 70 in Manhattan.  Jerry Leiber, partnered with Mike Stoller, co-wrote some of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits, died at 78 in Los Angeles.  Among Ashford’s greatest hits were “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” displaying his mastery of the word “ain’t.”  Leiber and Stoller churned out “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Stand By Me.” Both Ashford and Leiber were beloved geniuses of their craft and produced songs that are etched like concrete in the public’s minds.  It’s a sad day, but on the sunny side, the great  thing about dying a master songwriter is that your music truly lives on, leaving the perfect memorial.  My little memorial comes in the form of Ben E. King’s rendition of “Stand By Me,” and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s version of “Aint No Mountain High Enough.”  Oh, and just a reminder, click here and you can vote for me every day for CBS’s Most Valuable Blogger where I am a finalist!  Thanks!

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The Jackson 5, The Love You Save

Posted in Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Youtube Favs on July 29th, 2011 by Willie

This was the third killer single (I Want You Back, ABC) from the Jackson 5 after they made their killer debut on Motown.  It’s a song with a crazy soaring melody and complex vocal arrangement that came from the hit making geniuses “The Corporation,” the Los Angeles wing of Motown’s machine.  This performance, from Ed Sullivan, is lip-synced, but who cares, the recorded version is so insanely good that its still thrilling to see the boys go all out performing it.  For my money, this is young Michael Jackson’s greatest vocal achievement.  It’s the most exciting and challenging lead vocal he ever did, and he absolutely owns it, breathlessly showcasing his unlimited talent and potential.  It’s spellbinding to see how relaxed and confident Michael is on that stage.  He just exudes cool, even at 11 years old. I really think it’s almost impossible how god-like young Michael was.  He is simply one of the greatest child prodigies in music history, and that includes the likes of Mozart.  Unreal.

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Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, Ebony and Ivory

Posted in Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Youtube Favs on June 14th, 2011 by Willie

Welcome to part 89 of my legendary youtube countdown.  Countdown to what?  I have no idea, but lets hope the world finds peace along the way.  One way to help this planet on that quest are the musical stylings of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder singing “Ebony and Ivory” from Paul’s 1982 LP Tug of War.  By the way, pick up Tug of War if you see it sitting dusty in a record store.  It’s one of Paul’s better 80s albums produced by the legendary Beatles George Martin no less.  That record also features Paul’s tribute song to John Lennon, “Here Today,” a track I might cover in the future.  Anyway, Paul wrote this mega hit “Ebony and Ivory” after hearing an old Spike Milligan phrase, “black notes, white notes, and you need to play the two, to make harmony folks!”  Well, the phrase is right, and the song is true.  Paul and Stevie performed the song live in studio, which is always a cool yet difficult feat.  Ironically, due to scheduling conflicts, they had to film their parts in the music video separately.  It’s an amazing feat, considering they are sitting next to each other, but its just camera trickery folks.  What IS true is that they both traveled to Bolivia to dance on the world’s largest piano. ; )

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