Archive for the my favorite song Category

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.


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

Luciana- Soy Madre Soltera

Posted in my favorite song, whole weird world on July 4, 2010 by jonathanghess

Poco Hombre!

The internet is a mixed blessing, isn’t it? I’m enjoying having this medium for sharing my favorite music with you in this unique, immediate and multi-media employing way (although we did, and can, share home-made mix tapes and write letters or- gasp!- speak in person about the music we love). But, damn it, some of the mystery is gone now that we can go on Google and know everything about everyone! The spaces our imaginations would fill- how the performers looked; the performance; the cultural context- all are now packed with this easily-available information. There’s something really sad and spiritually impoverished about this to me. I miss the mystery behind the music, and the exercise of my own imagination, which I can literally feel atrophying.

Luciana- Soy Madre Soltera mp3

This makes me appreciate the lack of information I can offer for today’s selection. I found the song on a cheap used CD. The only online photos I can find of Luciana are the badly foreshortened photos you see here, “grabbed” from the YouTube channel of one MrFubarito (get a load of what comes up when you try a Google Image search for “Luciana”). Web information is refreshingly skint; a single badly-translated paragraph which, in the spirit of pre-‘net mystery I will not reproduce- except to pass on that Luciana died young, in 1980. An early end seems somehow appropriate to the possessor of this wildly passionate, even demented voice- pacing, pausing to glare at the audience, and then continue telling her tragic tale (“I am a Single Mother”), a three-way interaction between her, those gorgeous, soulfully harmonizing trumpets and that bulbous, colonic electronic organ.


Update (21/12, from Raglan, New Zealand)

OK. I take it all back, re: the internet killing the sense of mystery. Just found these videos of Luciana, and now the question is- how did this reality enter into my imagination prior to exposure? I’m not kidding. From the choreography of the musicians, to their Andy Kaufman-esque looks, to- my god- her, and her performance style- this is exactly what I imagined. Hoped for. Weird, wonderful.

The whole performance is fantastic, a sensory overload of perfection!



Henri Salvador- Hello Mickey!

Posted in cartoon music, drum machine, home recording, ineffably poignant, my favorite song on June 24, 2010 by jonathanghess

I won’t go into a big introduction for Henri Salvador; if you aren’t familiar with him already and you want to know more, click here. Needless to say, as you can see by the cover image above, he exudes fun-loving charm.

Until this beat-up LP arrived in the store, I hadn’t heard of him. The major joy of working in a record store was having the opportunity to explore just such relics (because there’s few better words to describe a physical artifact like this), and discovering magic!

Hello Mickey! mp3

The crazed sound of this tune is a result of enormous talent, personality, and the fact that Henri played all the instruments and produced the recording himself, at home. Not many musicians were doing this in 1970! When one player calls all the shots, the sound is pure personal expression- and very, very few one-man bands that I’ve heard express such positivity mixed with a unique, ineffable poignancy as Henri Salvador. Why would a song about Mickey Mouse’s Birthday slip into a minor chord b-part? Only a Gallic genius of the highest magnitude would know, and he’s passed on…. The whole record is great- I’ll transfer more of the LP later and post more here.

This particular LP sleeve is pretty special, too. It belonged to the French American International School of San Francisco, which at the time was located around the corner from the shop (this is a prime example of availability directly corresponding to regionalism, something record buyers come to anticipate). The LP bears the marks of innumerable childrens hands, and it’s pleasing to imagine how many little listeners have been exposed to the sounds on this record over the decades.

Something about the layout and artwork on the back cover just slays me- some quality of melancholy, like a broken toy (ah, the Frenchness of it all!).

Click to really see…

The Bowen-Jenkens Band: Pretty Senorita

Posted in closet favorite, easy listning, ineffably poignant, my favorite song, real surf music, sad grandma music on June 24, 2010 by jonathanghess

The Homegrown compilation series are the work of San Diego radio station KGB AM/FM. Apparently, five separate editions (and one “best-of”) were released. These records are comprised of the winners of an annual  competition for submissions of original music with the binding theme of… San Diego! (and environs). Sample titles include:

Spring Valley Lady

Can’t Go Back to Cardiff

My Home in La Jolla

…and so on. Listening to a whole LP of such stuff (I have three) is a mildly disorienting experience; suddenly you’re in an alternate universe where one soft-rock tune after another is about one thing and one thing only (…). No other aspect of the human condition need be expressed.

Pretty Senorita mp3

This bouncy, gently racist little tune would not leave my head; like a junky parched for his skag, I needed to hear it over and over, returning the needle to the beginning again even as the last plaintive notes were dying away. So many of the little hooks tugged at that ineffable confluence of sound, emotion and temporal context… the way Bowen (or is it Jenkins?) spits out “PURtee senorita”; the way Jenkins (or is it Bowen?) chimes in with her “dew-it, dew-it”‘s- well, in this particular case, that’s what I was getting at by temporal context: we just don’t use the term “do it” in the same way in 2010 as we did in 1975. The chord progression in the chorus seems to me particularly keening and wistful, especially because I consistently mis-hear the repetitious “Muy Bien” lyric as the more poetically meaningful “More Again”… According to the liner notes (which you can double-click to legibility if you’re truly bored), the group  was “in the midst of recording 12 new songs for its own album”. Believe me, I’ve  searched, but this fine tune and only one other (“This Boulevard”, from Homegrown IV, which I haven’t heard) appear to have made it to vinyl.

Back cover (click to enlarge)

Greatest Hits (sic)

back cover (click to enlarge)