Posted in 1972, 1981, 1993, Reverb

More From the Park

Related to this week’s episode, a couple of extras. One of them I had to cut from the podcast because it was getting so long, the other I’d forgotten about until a listener mentioned it to me.

Let me do mine first, because it’s a quicker bit. In addition to the covers done of “MacArthur Park”, Weird Al Yankovic did a parody song that’s quite faithful to the original, including the fact that there are different movements with different moods, and he plays it a little straighter than usual, with a lot of little shout-outs to different elements from the film. Plus, the video is done in claymation, which was still about as complicated as it got in 1993 (remember that Jurassic Park-level CGI was crazy expensive at that time):

Here’s a weird coincidence.  This is the third time that 1993 has come up in connection with this song:

  • During the podcast I mentioned that Suzy Horton got married to Robert Ronstadt in 1993.
  • I also noted that Maynard Ferguson did a jazz cover of the song that year.
  • And now we have this Weird Al video, which was also released in 1993. COINCIDENCE? Sure, of course it is.

The other extra I have goes back to when I was a Senior in high school. I was a big fan of the show Second City Television (SCTV), which was a comedy skit series that had a fictional Canadian television station as the central conceit of the show. Everything you saw was a show on the station, or a movie they were presenting, or a “commercial” or promo for an upcoming program (which the viewer rarely saw). Later on they branched into the behind-the-scenes activity at the station. One of the shows on the SCTV Network was a satirical sendup of American Bandstand, with a host who was so incredibly uncool that he was uncomfortable to watch in this disco setting. The show was called “Mel’s Rock Pile”, hosted by “Rockin'” Mel Stirrup (played by Eugene Levy), and there was an episode of “Rock Pile”that featured a performance from Richard Harris (as portrayed by Dave Thomas). This originally aired on February 20, 1981:

I actually remember when this first aired, and it’s funny on its face just because it’s so absurd, but I recently learned that, like so many  great parodies, it has a strong basis in reality. In 1972, Harris performed the song on a BBC special called “A Gala Evening of Music and Wit”. During the instrumental break, Harris sat on the stage for awhile, but then did an awkward roll with a spring to his feet, and some rather directionless dancing around. What’s also interesting is that he’s definitely singing it differently from the way he sings it on the record: a little more fully-throated, with some more actual singing involved.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find the entire performance on the Interwebs anywhere, but there are a few clips from it in this piece:

Go figure!

Posted in 1970s, 1976, Reverb

Playing the Palace

For the record: non-episode-based posts are going to have dopey titles. I’ve been doing it over at Baltimore Diary forever, and I’m going to do it here, because it amuses me and the sooner you accept it, the better off everyone will be. Mmkay?

This week’s episode was inspired by an old high school friend by the name of Kevin, who actually asked me to do a podcast about the song Crackerbox Palace, which also appears on George Harrison’s album Thirty-Three and 1/3. I did the due diligence as far as researching it, and while there is a little bit of a story behind it, it wasn’t really enough for an entire podcast, so I figured I’d save it for here.

Image result for lord buckleyIn 1975, George was at the Midem Music Festival, which is a trade show that’s been held in Cannes, France, every year since 1967. At the festival, he met up with a man named George Greif. Harrison remarked that Greif reminded him of the late comedian Lord Buckley (seen here at left). Coincidentally, Greif had been Buckley’s manager back in the day, and he invited George to come visit him at Buckley’s home in Los Angeles, which he referred to as “Crackerbox Palace”.

George was intrigued by the phrase and wrote it down, later turning it into a song that contained a little shout-out to both Greif and Lord Buckley:

Some times are good, some times are bad
That’s all a part of life
And standing in between them all

I met a Mr. Grief, and he said:

I welcome you to Crackerbox Palace
Was not expecting you
Let’s rap and tap at Crackerbox Palace
Know that the Lord is well and inside of you

Also of note is that, in addition to the “This Song” promotional film, George made one out of “Crackerbox Palace” as well, which also aired during the November 20, 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live. If you catch the re-run that’s been cut to an hour, though, this one usually gets cut based on the time considerations. It’s also pretty whimsical, though not as obviously comedic as “This Song”. Directed by Eric Idle, it features future Rutle Neil Innes as the nanny (above, right) and agai his future wife Olivia appears briefly in the bedroom shot (on the left). And while it wasn’t shot at Buckley’s house, it was shot at Friar Park, George’s home from 1970 until his death in 2001. Some have said that he occasionally referred to Friar Park as “Crackerbox Palace,” but I haven’t been able to nail that one down for sure.

Here’s the video. And if you’re curious, the answer is Yes: George did lift that “It’s twoo, it’s twoo” from Blazing Saddles.

Posted in 1970s, 1971, Reverb

Back it Up A Little

Image result for harrison my sweet lordThis week the podcast visited a chunk of George Harrison’s life, specifically the aftermath of the copyright infringement lawsuit surrounding “My Sweet Lord” and the tune inspired by the suit, titled “This Song”.

With regard to “My Sweet Lord,” someone commented, “I always did like the black gospel singers singing “Hare Krishna”. Most of them probably had no idea what they were saying.” And he’s at least partially right. If listeners weren’t listening too closely, they may not have realized that the backup singers were singing “Hare Krishna”, in part because for the first couple of verses, they sing “Hallelujah”. It’s certainly possible that they stopped listening too closely after that point.

After the song’s bridge, the backups stop singing “Hallelujah” as a response to each line, instead moving on to the first part of the Hare Krishna mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama

According to his autobiography I Me Mine, it was always George’s intention to have the voices singing “Hare Krishna” in alternation with “Hallelujah,” largely to demonstrate that they mean more or less the same thing. They do, in fact, return to “Hallelujah” a couple of times before switching to a Vedic prayer (I’ve replaced a few letters containing diacritical marks with typical Roman letters, to make it a little easier to read here):

Gurur Brahmā, gurur Visnur,
gurur devo Maheśvarah,
gurus sāksāt, param Brahma
tasmai śrī gurave namah.

Which, according to Joshua Greene, translates as:

I offer homage to my guru, who is as great as the creator Brahma, the maintainer Vishnu, the destroyer Shiva, and who is the very energy of God.

It’s one of fourteen verses of a hymn praising Hindu teachers.

But there’s another element to the backup singers that you may find surprising: it’s not a Gospel group singing. Now, on the Billy Preston version, it’s absolutely a Gospel group. As I noted on the podcast, those are the Edwin Hawkins Singers, who had a hit of their own with “Oh Happy Day”, and had also just been noted for singing backup for Melanie on her breakout hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” So who’s providing the backup voices for “My Sweet Lord”?

They’re all George Harrison, hence the credit on the album sleeve to “the George O’Hara-Smith Singers”!

Posted in 1970s, 1976, Reverb

Episode 6: This Song by George Harrison

This is the original sleeve that the record came in. I still have mine, though not quite in this condition.

In the mid 1970s, George Harrison was having a rough time of it. He was still embroiled in the lawsuit over “My Sweet Lord”, he was tangled up in other legal issues caused by his breakup with his business manager, his album Extra Texture had taken a beating by the critics, and to top it all off, while recording Thirty Three and 1/3 he was struck with hepatitis and couldn’t work for most of the summer of 1976.

A still from the promotional film (they weren’t calling them “videos” yet) for This Song, from near the end. If you look closely you can see that George’s playing hand is cuffed to the cop, played by Harry Nilsson.

But he managed to turn it around with the release of this, the first single off the album. It didn’t exactly tear up the charts (it peaked at #25 on the Hot 100), but it did remind us all that George was still around and could still bring it when he wanted to.

This episode was inspired by a suggestion by a friend of mine, who originally asked me to write about a different song that appears on the same album. It turns out that the story behind that song is quite short, not long enough for a full podcast, so I’m saving it for a post you’ll see in a couple of days.

As usual, if you haven’t subscribed via iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher, you can download it or you can listen right here:

And of course, if you’re so inclined, please leave a review on your favorite podcast software. Thanks so much for your support!

As promised, here’s the video. So tell me: who can you identify? And is that vampiric-looking prosecutor really Michael Richards?

And just for the giggles, here’s Billy Preston’s version, which was recorded first. You can still hear the “He’s So Fine” echoes in it, but I think that, compared to Harrison, Preston might have gotten away with it:

 

 

Posted in 1970s, 1975, Reverb

Update to Episode 1

Hey, gang!

It’s been great to get the positive feedback and such from you folks in the few short weeks since How Good It Is first launched. I made those first few before the official launch date, so I was working in a bit of a vacuum. And when it comes to stuff like this, I’m my own harshest critic. Back in my Radio Days I was known for doing dozens of takes before finally going back and deciding that Take 17 was “eh, good enough”.

One of my brothers has been listening regularly and is probably my second-toughest critic. But he invariably raises good points so I can’t fault him for it. He told me that he’s actively looking for a song (by a specific artist) for me to do a show about. My other brother, I don’t know if he’s been listening, but that’s OK. I’m pretty sure my wife doesn’t listen, either. Or my father, or my sisters, or my daughters, or…you get the picture.

Anyway, this post is actually in response to some feedback I’d received.

During Episode 1 I noted that the song “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and that in each of the three weeks it spent in that position, there was a different #1 song. Someone in the Land of Social Media asked me, “So what are those three songs?” You took the time to listen, so I took the time to look it up.

Image result for van mccoy the hustleWhen it first reached #2 the week of July 26, 1975, the #1 song was “The Hustle” by Van McCoy.

 

Image result for eagles one of these nights

For the week of August 2, 1975, The Eagles’ “One of These Nights” was at #1.

 

Image result for jive talkinFinally, on my oldest daughter’s (negative seventeenth) birthday, it was “Jive Talkin'” by the Bee Gees.

 

As a 12-year-old, I was pretty immersed in pop music and I’d look at the Top 20 chart that was published in Long Island’s Newsday every week. I kind of remember that summer being one in which the charts churned a lot of change from week to week. So remaining in one position, even if it was #2, for several weeks, was still a bit of an event.

Next week we dive into a solo single by one of the Beatles.