This Masquerade – 1976 – George Benson

May 26, 2011

This Masquerade - George BensonGeorge Benson and his 16th album, Breezin’, put guitar jazz onto the charts – well, it put jazz guitar onto my charts anyway!

discovering jazz

So, it’s 1976.  I’m in my last year of high school and diggin’ all things musical – well, most things.  To this point, I’ve never really cottoned onto jazz.  Not that real improvised-type jazz, that’s for sure, but things can change.

George Benson Breezin'I’m not sure who introduced me to the album but the second I heard it, I wanted it!  George Benson’s Breezin’.  Breezin’ was not, by the way, George’s first album.  Sure, it began his period of greatest commercial success but, believe it or not, it was his 16th album.  (And, I know that for purists George isn’t real jazz, but it opened my ears to this genre and I discovered some good stuff).

upsetting grannie

So, like I said, it’s 1976.  My old Gran hates popular music and she makes sure we know it.  “Yowlers,” is how she refers to anyone born after 1850 who even attempts to sing.  I reckon I might have something that will change her mind, however.  Breezin’ and the title track, This Masquerade, are so smooth and laidback, I’m convinced she’ll have to admit they’re not too bad.

Wrong!  I’m at Gran’s place.  I’ve got my new Breezin’ album and I’m putting it on her old radiogram.

“Listen to this, Gran,” I say, being careful to have it not too loud.

Gran explodes, “Yowlers!  Can’t understand a word they’re saying.”

“That’s ‘cause they’re not saying anything, Gran.  Breezin’ is an instrumental.”

But it’s too late, Gran’s gone already.  If she’d stayed for the next track she would have heard This Masquerade, and I’m pretty sure she’d have understood the lyrics – hmmm, maybe not.

this masquerade fax

  • This Masquerade - George bensonLeon Russell wrote This Masquerade.  Leon’s version of the song has featured on the soundtrack of two movies; The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) and The Bug (2007).
  • The song’s album version was over eight minutes long.  George Benson’s single version was cut down to 3 minutes 18 seconds.
  • This became George’s first big hit.  He was, by this time, a widely respected jazz guitarist but this was his first visit to the singles charts.
  • This Masquerade reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Hot Soul Singles chart.
  • In 1977 George won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year with his version of This Masquerade.
  • In addition to Leon and George, This Masquerade has been recorded by many artists including, Helen Reddy, The Carpenters, Shirley Bassey, Willie Nelson, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’77, No Mercy, and Kenny Rogers.
  • This Masquerade lyrics.

No More Mr Nice Guy – Alice Cooper – 1973

May 19, 2011

No More Mr Nice Guy Single coverNo More Mr Nice Guy is my favourite of the four singles taken from Alice Cooper’s 1973 number one album Billion Dollar Babies.

the day alice cooper and the partridge family went head to head and the partridge family won

So, I’m in my first year of high school and it’s coming up to my birthday.  My mother says to me, “I want you to go up to the record store and buy an album for me.”

Me thinks, “Wow!  New music in the house!”   Me says, “What would you like?”

Mum answers, “Up To Date.  The Latest Partridge Family Album.”

My heart sinks and I’m overcome with a sense of dread.  Could it be that I’m about to become party to purchasing my own birthday present?  Could it be that, comes the big day, I will have to feign excitement and enthusiasm?  Could it be that, when I say, “You shouldn’t have,” I’ll mean it!

“Wouldn’t you rather Alice Cooper’s new album, Billion Dollar Babies?” I enquire – a broad hint.

“No,” she’s quite adamant, “The Partridge Family, thanks.”

back then there were record stores – stores that sold records

I’m in the local music store (back in these days there is such a thing).  I’m enviously fingering two albums I’ve coveted for some time.  Joe Cocker’s, Cocker Happy, and the aforementioned, Billion Dollar Babies.

Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar BabiesThe Alice Cooper album is pretty flash.  It’s has a thick fold out cover that is made to look like a snake-skin wallet.  I’m wondering if I could fool mum by telling her a bus load of teenyboppers pulled up at the store just prior to my arrival emptying the shelves of every The Partridge Family in sight.  I would tell her that the lady behind the counter had assured me people who bought Up To Date also greatly enjoyed Billion Dollar Babies.

The problem is, what if I’m wrong?  What if the album isn’t intended for me?  Honesty, the best policy…? yeah, I guess so.  I buy The Partridge Family.

alice and the billion dollar babies

Alice Cooper was, as most of us will know, the name of a 70s music band and the adopted name of the band’s lead singer – Vincent Damon Furnier.

Billion Dollar Babies was the fifth, and most popular, of the band’s six albums.  The album’s title reflected the band’s amazement at their success.  Alice Cooper (the man not the band) once said, “How could we, this band that two years ago was living in the Chambers Brothers’ basement in Watts, be the Number one band in world, with people throwing money at us?”

The album also had more singles released from it than any of the band’s other albums.  Four singles in all; the title track, Hello Hooray, Elected and No More Mister Nice Guy.

no more mr nice guy fax

  • There are two differing explanations for the origins of this song.  The first says that Alice wrote No More Mr Nice Guy in response to the reaction of people toward his on stage persona. In particular, the reaction of his mother’s church friends.  The second explanation suggests that it’s Alice saying, in effect, “you ain’t seen nothing yet,” and that there was worse stuff that he could do in his life than what he’d already shown on stage.
  • No More Mr Nice Guy features in the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.
  • No More Mr Nice Guy has featured in both Family Guy and The Simpsons.
  • There have been two notable covers of No More Mr Nice Guy.  The first was by Megadeth for the soundtrack of the 1989 comedy thriller movie Shocker.  The second was by Pat Boone on his 1997 album In a Metal Mood.
  • No More Mr Nice Guy lyrics

ps – yes…

The Partridge Family was my birthday present and, to be honest, a lover of most music as I am, I have to reluctantly admit – it was okay for what it was!  But I spent the money my Gran gave me on Billion Dollar Babies.  And, I never did get that copy of Cocker Happy!


Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) – Benny Hill – 1971

May 12, 2011

Novelty songs should not be confused with parody songs.  Novelty song = a song that is comical or nonsensical and performed principally for its comical effect. 

 wozza and ooh wakka doo wakka day

In his blog, Googoogarjoob, my mate Wozza recently commented on one of my posts and mentioned Gilbert O’Sullivan.  It got me thinking about some of Gilbert’s songs.  Do you remember this one?

She’s got a brother like any other

Who got his nose caught inside a gate

And when they freed him it so relieved him

He just went, Ooh wakka doo wakka day

Catchy tune; the sort that bores into your mind and can hang around for days.  Nonsensical words, though. 

they’re nothing new

From Gilbert’s songs, I got to thinking about other novelty songs.

Novelty songs have been around for a long time.  They were popular in the days of music hall and very common in WWII as comic songs to encourage the troops.  Songs like K-K-K-Katy and Yes, We Have No Bananas

It seems to me, though, within 70s music this particular genre reached an all time low. 

who can forget

Dead Skunk (in the middle of the road), or Disco Duck, or The Streak ?

And what about, David Bowie’s dreadful, Laughing Gnome ? Or The Pipkins, Gimme Dat Ding ?

 70s hits every one of them!! 

But how many of you remember the novelty song I heard while driving yesterday?

back to the 70s

So, it’s 1971.  Dinner’s over.  Homework’s being avoided.  My mother and father are sitting back in their arm chairs. My brother, sister and I are sitting side-by-side along the three seater sofa – five pairs of eyes fixed on the big rent-to-buy, valve-driven, wood-grain finish, have-to-get-up-to-change-channels, Pye television. 

Benny Hill quoteNow, if you think some of the stuff on the tele today is a little “inappropriate” – the 70s were no better.  In fact, they were arguably worse as far as crude humour is concerned.  At the forefront of the risqué movement was Benny Hill and his self-titled show – The Benny Hill Show.

My father’s chuckling, my mother’s tut-tut-ing, and I’m confused, unable to fully grasp the meaning of the jokes that cause such loud guffaws from the television audience. 

“We should really turn this off,” my mother looks nervously across at her three children as another buxom blonde bounces across the screen.  Dad chuckles.  I’m still puzzled, but not admitting it, as another piece of innuendo floats away high over my head.

and then comes the song

Every episode had a song that was acted out.  Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) tells the story of Ernie, a milkman who drives a horse-drawn milk cart.  He vies for the heart of Susie, a widow, with the bread delivery man – Two Ton Ted from Teddington.

Eventually, Ernie’s frustration gets the better of him and he makes the mistake of challenging  the bread man to a duel.  Ernie comes off second best.  He’s tragically killed when a rock cake hurled by Two Ton Ted connects underneath his heart.  To add insult to mortal-injury he’s then broadsided by a stale pork pie in his eye.

The story concludes:

But a woman’s needs are many fold and, Sue, she married Ted,

But strange things happened on their wedding night as they lay in their bed.

 The strange things are caused by Ernie’s ghost returning to haunt them.

 ernie fax

  • Benny Hill had a milk run when he was a teenager.  This song, originally written in 1955, was intended to be the introduction to a screenplay about Hill’s milkman experiences.  The film was never released.
  • The song was first performed on The Benny Hill Show in 1970.
  • The original song clip was made in black and white because there was a technicians’ strike at the time of filming – not that we’d have noticed, back in those days everything on our tele was black and white!
  • Ernie became the first novelty song to reach #1 on the UK singles charts – it sat at number one for four weeks over Christmas 1971.
  • Hill re-recorded the song shortly before his death in 1992 for the album, Benny Hill… The Best Of.
  • Another piece of trivia – The Benny Hill Show ran, in various forms, for a long, long time, from 1955-1989
  • Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) lyrics

Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty – 1978

May 6, 2011

Baker Street CoverThe bluesy saxophone intro. makes Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street one of the most instantly recognisable of all 70s songs.

something amazing, and horn awareness

One of the things about music that never ceases to amaze me is that, after the multitude of songs and tunes penned through the ages, it’s still possible to create something that’s totally unique and instantly recognisable.

Another personal thing about music, I’ve always loved songs with a strong horn backing.  It’s that soul feel.  Songs like Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4, or Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, or Steely Dan’s My Old School, or any number of other great songs.

Put those two together and you get instantly recognisable horn-based songs – no prizes for working that out!

disclaimer

Yes, I know!  A saxophone is not really a horn!!  I know it is a reed instrument.  But every decent horn section has a sax.  (doesn’t it?).

winding my way down to baker street

So, it’s university exam time again.  These days, I see my children’s university calendar and study time seems to fill so little of it.  Most the year is packed full of free time and opportunities to chill out and relax.  It didn’t seem that way when I was in the midst of it.

I’m at home.  Studying… well… the fact that I’ve got the radio going shows that I was, most likely, taking a break from studying.  And on comes this haunting saxophone.  I’m captivated.  So much so that I’m thinking of ditching the guitar and purchasing a sax.  I never bought the horn (oops, reed instrument) but plenty of people did.  In fact, that solo led to what became known as “The Baker Street phenomenon.”  That is, there followed a huge resurgence in the sales of saxophones and their use in mainstream pop music and television advertising.  That popularity remains to this day.

gerry rafferty

Gerry was a Scotsman who began his musical career as the third member of a duet(!) called The Humblebums.  One of the other members was comedian Billy Connolly.  Gerrywent on to perform as a solo act and as a member of the band Stealer’s Wheel who had a massive hit with Stuck in the Middle with You (which was featured in the soundtrack of the Quentin Tarantino movie, Reservoir Dogs).

Gerry died on 4th January 2011 of liver failure.  He had a history of chronic alcoholism.

baker street fax

  • Baker Street is a real street in London.  It was made famous as the home of Sherlock Holmes.
  • After his band Stealers Wheel broke up there were various contractual disputes and Gerry was unable to release any material for three years.  During that time he would often travel on the overnight train from Glasgow to London where he would meet with his lawyers and stay with a friend who lived in Baker Street.
  • The famous saxophone solo was originally played on guitar but didn’t sound quite right.  Someone suggested a sax and the rest is history.
  • There is no chorus to the song Baker Street.  The sax solo is played instead.
  • In October 2010 the song was recognised by Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) for surpassing 5 million performances worldwide.
  • Baker Street was ‘performed’ by Lisa Simpson at the end of The Simpsons episode “Lisa’s Sax,” where she receives a new saxophone after her old one was destroyed.
  • The Foo Fighters released a cover version of Baker Street using a guitar to play the solo.
  • Baker Street Lyrics.

leave a comment

Tell everyone what your favourite instantly recognisable song is.  Hit the comment link below and write away!