Soothing Sounds for Baby 1

Posted in cartoon music, closet favorite, distressed, ineffably poignant on June 29, 2011 by jonathanghess

What relaxes you?  Making a drink and taking off your shoes. Reading a newspaper from somewhere else. Music. Music! Everything is Music.

These things relax me. Wear headphones, lie down. Listen.

Cat biting nails

Some people either love this or hate it. Me- have a cat on my chest relaxed enough to see me as an inanimate object, a heated bed, and start taking a bath or if I’m lucky,  biting his nails- that’s heaven to me. Neither of us is going to move.

The nails, the purring, nursing kitten, the other sleepy cat, the light… this was someone’s peak experience.



ROM Pack

Something about this guy’s accent and brain dead delivery (“It”), the close-miked, compressed production, the music, and- well, I’m not sure what all else- lull me into a deaf, milky late-night stupor. Lights out. Next!



Sunday Night

Somehow, Beatrice Witkin, an electronic/ new music composer, got these two tunes to be used for the opening and closing credits of the early 70s nature show “Wild Wild World of Animals”. 

They didn’t sound like the other music you’d hear on tv.

The instrumentals have an ineffable quality that, judging by the passionate, protracted comments on Youtube, haunted a lot of children, myself included.

These trigger feelings of Sunday night, sitting between my parent’s legs getting them to play with my hair, watching grainy footage of cheetahs stalking in the savanna… getting drowsy… eyes closing….

‘Night, people.


Brian Happy

Posted in ineffably poignant, my favorite song on February 1, 2011 by jonathanghess

This performance by The Beach Boys is by no means an “Odditty”, but it moved me, and I wanted to share it with you.

The band sometimes looked and sounded a bit wobbly in vintage TV performances; they’re still usually pretty strong- they were pros- but they were also very young, and I’m sure terribly nervous to be on national TV. And inevitably, one can’t help but feel particularly for Brian, famously fragile, and at this song’s point in time (with the Beach Boys Today! LP) soon to retire from public performance at his own tortured request.

But you wouldn’t know that from this confident, rockin’ performance. The band kills, the sound is totally together- the vocals full and the instruments tight; everybody is smack in the groove. My eyes are instantly drawn to and stay on Brian, who looks at ease and in complete control; eyeing the audience with a confident, Elvis-like crooked smile, then closing his eyes and listening… riding the sound like a wave.  The inter-band symbiosis is working, and one gets the impression that if Brian was happy, everyone played it right.

The narrative is witnessing the ingenuous genius, at a time when we now know was coming to pieces emotionally (and soon to enter decades of darkness), rise to the occasion… at least for the duration of one wonderful song.

Vera- Take Me To The Bridge

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 by jonathanghess

Your New York Cit-tay Woman!

I found this next selection while poking through the hundreds (thousands?) of generic white-sleeve 12” dance discs at my last record store job. San Francisco is a great place for certain genres of records. Rock, obviously, but the locale is also dependable for wild Asian pop music (The Stylers!), discos Latinos (Los Sepulchuras featuring Dulce Maria!) and, for sure, quality vintage disco dance music!

Why is that?

…Girlfriend, please.

I love that the sum of this moody dance rocker is greater (or at least better-than-average) than its mediocre parts; I’m a big fan of inspired mediocrity- atta boy, fellas! Teamwork! The chorus for sure is an undeniable killer, despite or maybe because of the fact that the call-and-response lyric makes no sense whatsoever. The ascending synth-string harmony in particular gives my musical center goosebumps of pleasure; I can picture this tune  providing a moment of early-evening dancing transcendence for the mustachioed minions as the night’s first hits of acid and/or poppers and/or crystal meth kicked in!

And Vera? Like all the rest of the elements of this production, nuthin’ special. A dispassionate New York City Woman staring moodily at her featureless reflection in the black mirror of a subway car’s window. In all likelihood Vera was probably just a girlfriend of producer/writer/coke dealer Louie Toteda, and a handy if reedy-voiced mouthpiece for his philosophies:

Come on lover, leave all the confusion

Loosen up and forget your illusions

It’s no use to be alone

There’s no love in a heart of stone

Right. Well, who listens to the lyrics on the dance floor anyway?

Question: This song, like the massive hit “Good Times” by Chic, is based around a minimal, throbbing minor-key chord progression played on an electric piano. That “moody” sound is a definite disco cliché. Why is so much disco dance music sound so morose? Could it be that the producers are responding to the Mr. Goodbar-like tragedy inherent in the prowlings-for-strange-new-flesh that is the subtext (if not subject, outright) of a night at the disco?

I think, perhaps, yes.

Vera- Take Me to the Bridge

Helen Intintoli and The St. Basil’s Elementary School Chorus- Winnie The Pooh, We Love You

Posted in ineffably poignant, my favorite song on July 30, 2010 by jonathanghess

This week’s selection is a record so special, delightful and rare that I’d like to present it here in its entirety- Winnie the Pooh, We Love You, written by Helen Intintoli, MA, and performed, under her direction, by The St. Basil’s Elementary School Chorus of Vallejo, California.

The concept of a school self-producing their own record is nothing new- try doing an Allmusic search for “High School” and see how many entries turn up (as a matter of fact, even the tiny hippie alternative school I attended made one- and someone resurrected it and put it in their blog!). The record shop I worked at even had a section set aside for them, albeit a small one. What is unusual is for one of these records to consist of well-written (and decently recorded) original music. Most (including the widely heard Langley Schools Music Project) are comprised of cover tunes, performed with varying degrees of enthusiastic ineptitude; records only a parent could love.

That’s why this record was such a surprise.

The very first track encapsulates everything that is special about this wonderful LP. It’s a perfect pop song in the multi-dimensional, musically complex mode of a Brian Wilson or a Bert Bacharach composition- beautiful melodic parts, lovely contrapuntal instrument lines and interesting, affecting chord progressions.

The center feature, of course, is the children’s voices. This LP is imbued with the plaintive, wistful emotional quality that can be unique to a child’s voice. Note that I say “can be”; an out-of-tune or tritely arranged childrens chorus can be gratingly unpleasant. On this production, Ms. Intintoli’s skilled direction brought out the best, most musical qualities of her students.

The loving care and musical attention to detail are evident throughout the record in numerous playful directional touches- the “buzzing” vocal at the end of “Isn’t It Funny How a Bear Likes Honey”; the chanted vocals on “Kanga’s Marching Song”; the Ray Davies-like melodic piano figures on the waltz section of “The Customary Procedure” to name but a few.  Some tunes are truly gorgeous- the first track and “How Sweet to Be a Cloud” in particular. I can only imagine how special it must have been for the young participants, and what wonderful memories they must have of the experience!

Through the magic of the internet, I located and wrote to Ms Intintoli. I asked her to tell me what she could about the production of the record and her influences. I was delighted to receive a response! She wrote, in part:

We had lots of fun making the recording.  It was part of a project for my master’s degree at San Francisco State in 1973.  I was teaching classroom  music part time  at St. Basil’s in  Vallejo .

I have a BA in music from College of Notre  Dame (Belmont) and my master’s is in Creative Arts Interdisciplinary.  I wrote the music and directed the production on stage. That way it incorporated many elements of drama, music, scenery and costumes, lighting etc.   I found a script for Winnie the Pooh but it had no music, so I worked songs into appropriate places in the existing play script. My musical ideas were influenced by the way different styles of music were used in Godspell. So I tried to match the style with the character–like Eeyore’s Blues and the whimsical nature of Pooh and the know it all Owl.  It was fun. I added into the script a “chorus” of butterflies, bunnies, and other small animals to let more children participate.

We made the recording in a warehouse type of recording studio in one afternoon.   It was a big hit and of course all the families bought copies.

What a thrill to hear from her! How marvelous to imagine this music in full production! I also discovered her subsequent professional history- she was hired shortly after her graduation by Solano Community College, where she has taught music ever since, leading chamber and jazz vocal ensembles. She also leads The Well-Tempered Voices, who have recordings available here.

In this blog to date, many of the pieces of music I’ve shared and written about have something “weird” or “off” about them- a reflection of my own rather deviant sense of humor. This is the first entry that is unequivocally sweet and sincere; a collaboration between guileless children and a mentor sympathetic to their sensibilities. Perhaps something of both resides in each of us, and that is why this record is so affecting. It is also the first post that I am sure the creator of the music will read, so- Hats Off to Helen Intintoli, and the St. Basil’s Elementary School Choir!

winnie the pooh we love you mp3

isn’t it funny how a bear likes honey mp3

eeyore’s misery blues mp3

the cutomary procedure mp3

oh pooh you can depend mp3

how sweet to be a cloud mp3

kanga’s marching song mp3

roo’s fun song mp3

we’re rabbit’s friends and relations mp3

farewell song mp3

give three cheers for winnie the pooh mp3

Jacques Loussier- You Only Love Once

Posted in cartoon music, whole weird world on July 23, 2010 by jonathanghess

French pianist and composer Jacques Loussier is best known for his jazz trio interpretations of classical pieces. Those spartan, tasteful arrangements are a far cry from the wild sounds on this soundtrack LP! On these dense, eccentrically orchestrated tunes, Loussier manages to balance richly melodic themes with dissonant noise, find toe-tapping grooves in non-2/4 time signatures, and generally remain unpredictable without sacrificing pleasurable accessibility.

Another swell find that came through the store that I never would have found otherwise- the film is pretty obscure. I selected five of the most rocked-out numbers, but the whole record is great, and available on iTunes if you want to own the whole thing…

ballet photo rouge mp3

ballade dans paris la nuit mp3

poursuite jaguar mp3

clara’s jerk mp3

leslie’s jerk mp3

Apologies again for the blurry photo.

Lynsey De Paul- Sugar Me

Posted in closet favorite, ineffably poignant, sad grandma music, whole weird world on July 11, 2010 by jonathanghess

Just stumbled across the “Sugar Me” video while looking for something else. It was on a non-English fan page of some sort, and was set to play automatically, something that’s always unwelcome. I had never heard of her or the tune, and was assaulted by the stomping jackboot fuzz beat, which was further distorted on the video version I watched by a terrible transfer… To be honest with you, I wondered if it was Lady Gaga, who I have also never seen or heard, and thought “Wow! Lady Gaga is amazing! Jeez, I’m getting on the bandwagon!”.

Nope. It’s Lynsey De Paul! Well, maybe you’re hip to her- “Sugar Me” was a big hit- but Lynsey, a prolific ‘seventies British pop girl who I now see lived a high-profile celebrity life, was new to me.  I’m going to keep an eye out for her records now (in New Zealand, hmm!).  There’s something intriguing about her- that robotic yet ethereal feminine delivery… that mole…. And as much as I was bemoaning the over-abundance of media and its effect on our imagination, I have to say in this case, the video makes her come alive to me. What is this frightening, dark space in which she performs to what appear to be a motionless colony of silverback Morlocks?  Apparently, Lynsey is politically right-wing, and one might discern a whiff of the fascist in her image and sound…

But hey! That’s pop for you!

Here is a link to a fine and special fan site, and a page of absolutely unbelievable 45 covers. You’ll need to click on the special Lynsey De Paul section- but I want you, too, to experience the beauty of her French fan’s home page; it’s the most BEAUTIFUL website I’ve ever seen!

sugar me mp3

Anthony Moore- Judy Get Down

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2010 by jonathanghess

Slapp Happy keyboard player’s perfect pop new wave non-hit. Would love to see a roomful of people try to dance to this!

judy get down mp3