Monday, December 5, 2011

Pop, Rock & Soul On PBS

I like watching the PBS music specials, especially when the artists are from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Last night the special was called “’60s Pop, Rock and Soul (My Music)”. When PBS puts these concerts on, it’s always during a pledge drive so we have to suffer through the very long segments when they beg, plead and cajole us for money. Usually they have one or more of the musicians being interviewed by the regular PBS folks, so that keeps me watching. The two musicians hosting the show were two Brits, Davey Jones and Peter Noon. Both looked amazingly good for their age, which has to be around 60. Both were young looking even back in the day, so they had un unfair advantage. Davey didn’t bring the other Monkeys with him and Peter was devoid of the Hermits. There were almost 20 different acts on the show and all of the groups had at least some of the original members. That’s probably a rule. The most noticeable absentees were, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane/Starship and Smokey Robinson of the Miracles. I have to say the stand-ins were quite good at imitating the originals. The young blond woman who sang “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” was quite a babe and even had Grace’s fast vibrato down. I recognized Paul Kantner and Marty Balin from the original Jefferson Airplane. I was hoping Marty would do a song, but he didn’t. The worst of the 3 stand-ins was the blond guy who sang lead for the Raiders. He was a good singer, but no Mark Lindsay. Other lead singers sans their groups were Mitch Ryder without the Detroit Wheels and Roger McGuine without The Byrds. I think Mitch sounds better today as an older man than when he was young. Eddy Floyd who sang “Knock on Wood” and Percy Sledge with “When a Man Loves a Woman” were amazingly good. Poor Percy had this huge hit,  most of it  sung in a high register. He’s doomed for the rest of his life to hit those high notes, but he did a good job. The strangest group was ? and the Mysterians. They sang their biggest hit “96 Tears”. A Mexican American garage band from Detroit and Flint, Michigan, today they are thought of as Proto-punk, a precursor to Punk Rock. I never liked the song, but it was obvious that they were still having fun playing music. The most notable one hit wonder band was the Kingsmen. They sang “Louie, Louie” just like it was recorded, the lead singer slurring his words so they were barely understandable. He even copied the mistake on the record where he comes in with the verse too early, stops and then starts again. The audience loved it. Most of us boomers know what the real lyrics are by now, but at the time it was popular, there was an FBI investigation of what the FBI thought were graphically explicit sexual lyrics. The song was originally written by Richard Berry in 1955 about a Jamaican sailor returning to his girl on the Island. It became a popular cover song around the Northwest. Paul Revere and the Raiders, another Northwest band, also came out with a version about the same time, but it wasn’t a hit.  There was a movement in Washington at one time to make “Louie, Louie” the official state song.  I ‘m not sure if it was all the original Kingsmen on the PBS special or not, but they must be damn tired of doing this song. For me the highlight was Chad and Jeremy singing “A Summer Song”. In a pledge break interview one of them said it’s been 40 years since they’d played together, but these aging Englishmen, each playing an acoustic guitar, sang the song  sweetly and with tight harmony. As a kid watching the Ink Spots, Rosemary Clooney and others of that era, I thought their music was old-fashioned and corny. Well now it’s our turn to be old and corny. I didn’t realize back then that rarely are the most popular artists on these kinds of shows. But I enjoyed seeing  them all and there are always enough of the ones I Used to like to keep me watching.







14 comments:

  1. It really bothers me when they dont disclose who is an original member and who isnt. For some groups missing a member might not be so bad as long as it is acknowledged. But the miracles without smokey? Get serious. And Jefferson Airplane cant exist without Grace. As long as were on the subject, another troublesome thing about these specials (besides the annoying intercessions) is the lip synching. Once you spot this happening it is all over. Still I watch these programs every time they come on. The very best one in my opinion was the Roy Orbison special.

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  2. Percy Sledge didn't even sing his big hit in the original key, actually. And PB, it wasn't Jefferson Airplane; it was Jefferson Starship (performing an older Airplane hit).

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  3. Without Grace Slick they shouldnt even try to sing Jefferson Airplane hits...even if the Grace replacement is a blond babe..and even if they are members of Jefferson Starfish (which was a sorry second to the Jefferson Airplane). I wouldnt even mind hearing Grace sing off key... its the memories not the quality of the singing when they get up there...Care to weigh in Reverend Yeager?

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    1. It became Jefferson Starship after it was Jefferson Airplance and then just plain Starship.

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    2. bull shit i thought cathy did an excellent job. No way grace slick could have done as good. she's 77 yo for heaven sakes. So since theres no time machine we have to settle for replacements and much to your chagrin they sometimes do a good job. As good as Grace in her prime? No of course not but it was still good

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    3. Thank you, I couldn't agree more! These bands have every right to perform their music, and I for one love it. I have attended five concerts of Queen + Adam Lambert, and they are fabulous. Purists are missing a lot of fun..IMO

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  4. I once saw the Lovin spoonful without John Sebastian, that didn't work, and Mike Love is going around with Bruce Johnston and calling themselves the Beach Boys, that doesn't work for me either.There is something to be said for the groups keeping the original sound alive though. I think the groups without the main guys should call themselves something different and then tell everyone they are going to be trying to replicate the old music.

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  5. We agree. In the case of the beach boys they could withstand the loss until all that was left was Mike Love... who was arguably the least talented. But the lovin spoonful couldnt afford losing john sebastian... as the supremes could afford to lose diana ross, the 4 seasons frankie valli, the doors Jim Morrison. Basically groups which had a distinctive sound that stemmed from one strong individual should not be falsely replicated.. It looks and sounds phoney. I saw the smokey robinson fill in...He looked like him and sounded like him. But I thought that it was clearly meant to mislead the unknowing because they never stated it was the miracles minus him.

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  6. I watched OPB (Oregon public broadcasting) last night and indeed, it was a fund raiser. I should have known because it was one that I wanted to watch. It was “straight-no chaser” singing songs of the decades in acapella. These 10 guys are really talented and presented arrangements of famous songs by famous performers. In a reverse blog sort of way this is what I think really works about bringing back the old stuff. These guys did a great job of imitating the sounds of the lead singers like Frankie Valie but obviously they were not imitating the song. They had fresh arrangements but kept much of the original syncopation. A few weren’t so good but overall I really enjoyed it and because none of the 10 guys were famous they weren’t able to give lengthy interviews during the breaks. They did good jobs on Shout (isley brothers I think), Under the boardwalk (drifters), Big girls don't cry (4 seasons), Heard it thru grapevine (Marvin Gaye), and even some BeeGees…. I hate the BeeGees but I liked this medley. If you don’t know about the group you might look them up. They were originally the Indiana University Acapella group who became famous with the 12 days of Christmas. Hard to know who, if any of the group, is original but the beauty of the whole thing is that it really doesn’t matter. They work together.

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  7. I missed that program but went to Straight No-Chaser's website and listened to some selections. They are very good and keeping some good music alive in a fresh new way.

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  8. HEY , I WORKED WITH MARTY BALIN, .....(WHEN HE WAS MARTIN BUCHWALD).......IN SAN FRANCISCO.....1960.....MARTY WAS PAINTING SETS....& BUILDING THEM TOO...AT THE SAN FRANCISCO "OPERA RING"....ALONG WITH ANOTHER TALENTED GUY...RALPH MATHIS....(YEP, JOHNNY'S BROTHER) AN ACTOR..SINGER & MUSICIAN ...& A GREAT DANCER.....THEY WERE GOING TO SAN FRANCISCO STATE COLLEGE..&...DIRECTOR, IRMA KAY PUT THEM INTO SOME SHOWS....& MARTY DEVELOPED INTO MARTY BALIN, LATER LEAD SINGER WITH "JEFFERSON AIRPLANE",...&.ALSO, HE IS A FINE ARTIST & PAINTER..& FILMAKER..& RALPH HAS A BAND WITH HIS WIFE, IRENE....IN L.A......GOOD TIMES...JACK ENGLISH..ACTOR/SINGER...WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA......

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    1. Hey Jack - I am a friend of Irma Kay's here in Sonoma...and sad to say that we are loosing her....there is a celebration for her next Fri (her birthday) at her home in Sonoma - please feel free to email me if you would like more information or might also have some old photos of her for the newspaper - time is slipping away. Thanks for your time and story. Laura Benward - johnbenward@aol.com - 707-321-2648 (cell)

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    2. Sorry for the typo - I meant "losing her" - she could sure use a boost - even if it is just and email that you can send to her at ikay@vom.com Thank you for our thoughts. Laura Benward

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  9. ALSO, MORGAN FREEMAN WAS AT THE "OPERA RING",IN 1961 & 1962..... AS A DANCER!........& A DAMN GOOD ONE, AT THAT!....JUST OUT OF THE AIR FORCE, & A BIG AFRO..... MORGAN JOINIED THE THEATER, WHEN WE DID "WEST SIDE STORY"..(WITH MARTY BALIN AS A DANCER/SINGER....&...BASICLY A DANCE SHOW...(NOT ME, I WAS AN ACTOR & SINGER, & PLAYED A JET, & UNDERSTUDIED 5 ROLES..)..I STARTED OUT PLAYING "TONY", BUT MY TRUCK DRIVING DAY JOB, & NIGHT COLLEGE COURSES AT S.F. STATE......WERE A CHORE,...,...SO I RECOMMENDED MY ROOMATE, MILT CASTRO (RIP) FOR THE ROLE OF TONY, & I BECAME HIS UNDERSTUDY...& GLAD FOR MORGAN'S CAREER....HE DESERVES IT.....BEST, JACK ENGLISH..ACTOR/SINGER..WEST HOLLYWOOD

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