Monday, December 29, 2014

Farewell Joe, Thank You Mom

My mother bought the Mad Dogs and Englishmen album when it came out in 1970. I was only 12, so she had to explain why the two-disc set was so exciting: the line-up, the repertoire, the captured rawness of life on the road. We listened to it on the stereo console in our den with the sloping floor.

She had an appreciation for contemporary music trends that my friends' mothers did not share. Those other mothers listened to pap; mine understood pop. She knew what made a pop song great. Decades before 20 Feet From Stardom belatedly paid tribute to the unsung heroes of popular music, she pointed out the contribution of the background singers in "Honky Tonk Women," as well as the songs on Mad Dogs and many others. She knew about the roots of rock and had an archive of 78s to prove it.

Our favorite song on the Mad Dogs album was Joe Cocker's "The Letter." We had the 45 of the original 1967 Box Tops version and it was fun to analyze the differences.

Joe Cocker was the king of the differences. Like Linda Rondstadt, he specialized in making other people's hits his own. From "With a Little Help from My Friends" (the Beatles, of course) to "Feelin' Alright" (Traffic/Dave Mason), "Whiter Shade of Pale" (Procol Harum) to "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (Randy Newman) Joe Cocker made everything his own.

A year and a half after Mad Dogs, at 14, I bought the Concert for Bangladesh. I played it in my room and didn't share it with my mother. That's the difference between childhood and the teen years: the adolescent yearning for independence is in full force. I no longer wanted my mother to like the same music I did.

But we'll always have Joe Cocker. When she heard he'd died Christmas week, she sent me a link to a Youtube video of him with John Belushi and the oh-so-true comment "Cocker certainly had a sense of humor."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Musical Library: Part 3 (Sex)

This is third in a series of stories told through the titles of songs in my iTunes collection. 

C’mon Girl
Sexy Eyes
You Sexy Thing
I’m Old-Fashioned
Change Your Mind
Let’s Get It On
Let’s Go Crazy
Let’s Groove
Let’s Go All the Way
Let’s Spend the Night Together
Sexy Love
Sexy Sadie
Sexy Plexi
Let’s See Action
It Started with a Kiss
Sexual Healing
Go All the Way
Love Me Like That
You Sure Love to Ball
Hump De Bump
In the Bush
Rock On
Sexbomb (Peppermint Jam Mix)
Sex with a Move Star (The Good Witch Gone Bad)
Sex on Fire
You’re So Damn Hot
Too Hot
You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth
Sex and Candy
Sex Type Thing
Sexed Up
Torture Me
Animal Bar
Hot Stuff
Hot White Cum
Shot in the Dark
Hot Shot (Long Single Version)
Let’s Stick Together
The Sticky
It’s All Over But the Smoke
Hold On
Victim of Love
I’m Confused
We Just Had Sex
Hurt Feelings
Relax (Sex Mix)
Find Your Way Back
Hard to Concentrate
All These Things That I’ve Done
Believe Me, I’m a Liar
Are You Happy Now?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Musical Library: Part 2 ("I'm")

This is second in a series of stories told through the titles of songs in my iTunes collection. Check back for what happens next!

I’m Still Here
I’m Still Standing
I’m Not Dead
I’m Gonna Be Strong
I’m So Young
I’m Gonna Find Another You
I’m in Great Shape
I’m a Believer
I’m One

I’m Free
I’m in the Mood for Love
I’m Coming Out
I’m Every Woman
I’m Searching for a Love
I’m So Trampomatic
I’m Happy Just to Dance with You
I’m Not Scared
I’m Ready for Love
I’m Shooting High
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
I’m Gonna Love You Too
I’m on Fire

I’m a Man
I’m an Ordinary Man
I’m All Over It
I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little
I’m Beginning to See the Light
I’m Feeling You
I’m Your Man
I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man
I’m Your Boogie Man
I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)
I’m With You
I’m Always Touched by Your Presence Dear
I’m Sitting on Top of the World
I’m in Seventh Heaven
I’m So Crazy (‘bout You)
I’m Into Something Good
I’m Just a Lucky So and So
I’m All Smiles
I’m Alive
I’m Gonna Live Until I Die
I’m More than Happy (I’m Satisfied)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Musical Library: Part 1 ("I'm")

This is the first in a series of stories told through the titles of songs in my iTunes collection. Check back for what happens next!

I’m Losing You
I’m Not Your Stepping Stone
I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking
I’m Walkin’
I’m Going Home
I’m Going Slightly Mad
I’m Henry VIII, I Am
I’m a Chiquita Banana
I’m Afraid of Americans
I’m Mad About You
I’m Affected
I’m a Loser
I’m a Pushover
I’m Livin’ in Shame
I’m Not That Smart
I’m Gonna Tell Santa Claus on You
I’m Slowly Turning into You
I’m Not like Everybody Else
I’m So Tired
I’m Down
I’m Confused
I’m Broke
I’m Bound to Pack It up
I’m Blue
I’m Tore Down
I’m Still in Love
I’m Still in Love with You
I’m Not in Love
I’m Through with Love
I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)
I’m a Boy
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter

Friday, July 18, 2014

Elaine Stritch: A Tribute

Elaine Stritch, 1925-2014, was a favorite of mine. Her performance in Stephen Sondheim's Company is iconic, as is her appearance in a D.A. Pennebaker documentary on recording the soundtrack of that show, my favorite musical.I recently watched Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, a warts-and-all expose. I saw her one-woman show, Eileen Stritch: At Liberty when she was on the road more than a decade ago. I've recently been reviewing the recording of it, since I'm about to perform my own one-woman show, although unlike Elaine I plan to wear pants.

Here's my homage to Stritch (and to Sondheim), which I wrote after seeing Follies a few years back.

Hear the original, by Stephen Sondheim, sung by Elaine Stritch, here.

Good times and crap times,
They’re all on my blog, so it’s clear
I'm still here.

Chanel bought at retail,
Sometimes a Target souvenir
But I'm here.

I've shopped at Goodwill
For used pants
Offered phone sex
To buy implants
Watched TMZ kill my career
But I'm here.

I've slept in shelters,
Funded by donors I knew
But I'm here.
Danced on the pole –
My thong only slightly askew
But I'm here.

I've taken handouts
With celebrities’ kids,
They were ironic,
Me, on the skids
In the Recession was I recessed?
Nowhere near.
Banged a Facebook engineer
So I'm here.

I've been through the recount,
Monica’s blue dress post-grope
And I'm here.
Tea party crazies,
The demise of Change and Hope
But I'm here.

I got through Full House,
SNL’s decline,
File-sharing, emoticons
Kim Kardashian’s behind
Witnessed NASA fade
Pluto degrade
The lost frontier
Lived through two rounds of O.J.
And I'm here.

I've gotten through Bushes 41, 43
The best part was when those years ebbed
Jeez, what a dynasty – not!
On your knees, vow “No Jeb!”

Made a guest appearance
on “Reno 911,” then “The Hills”
And I’m here
Not always coherent
But it paid for my cannabis refills
And I’m here

Been called elitist
By bitter have-nots
Got through it while pissed
On my yachts
I should sign up as a Housewife,
That seems clear.
Still, I made it through crises dubbed midlife
So I’m here

Louboutin one day,
Next day it’s in Decades Two
But I’m here
Top billing Monday
Tuesday Gawker asks “Who?”
But I’m here

Through my own show
I once strode,
then a guest on Law and Order,
then a webisode
The posse still lingers but shrinks
Every year
I’m writing an e-book – it’s “content”!
And I’m here.

I live with tourists snapping cell phone photos
Then asking who I once was
And sometimes, “You remind me of someone
Didn’t she used to have buzz?”

Good times and crap times,
They’re all on my blog, so it’s clear
I'm still here.

Chanel bought at retail,
Sometimes a Target souvenir
But I'm here.

I’ve had a blast
And seen it all
Auctioned my past
Held them in my thrall
The internet said I’d died last year
But I’m here.
Hell, I was there
And I’m here
Yeah, it’s me!
I’m still here!

© 2011 by Laura Foti Cohen

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cusp Song of the Day: Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)"Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)," sung by the movie's star Diana Ross, came out at the end of 1975 and went to number 1 on the pop charts in January 1976.

It was written by the late, great Gerry Goffin (after his many previous solo hits and Carole King collaborations) along with Michael Masser; Masser also produced. It received a Best Original Song Academy Award nomination, losing to "I'm Easy" by Keith Carradine from Nashville

In Cusp, Karen and Mark go to see Mahogany together and she notes it's "pretty lame but still makes me cry." Later, on New Year's Eve at the cusp of the Bicentennial, a Diana Ross impersonator performs with two fake Supremes then, when she wants a solo spotlight, "walks toward them singing, "Do you know where you're going to?' They squeal and scurry off the stage in mock terror. She then turns back to the audience and finishes the song. They lyrics are gloomy ('How sad the answers to those questions can be') but this drag Diana turns it into a triumph for herself and sadness for her former sisters Supreme. It's a funny bit, and probably pretty accurate as well." 

I have to admit, this was never my favorite song, or movie; both are overblown and slightly ridiculous. But worst of all is the song's bad grammar. Every time it came on the radio (which was a LOT back then) I wanted to yell, "It's 'Do you know where you're going'! Not 'going to'!" I'm anal that way.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cusp Song of the Day: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Neil Sedaka's original upbeat 1962 hit "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" was remade in 1975 as a ballad. Both versions of the song appear in Cusp on the same jukebox as ZZ Top's "Tush." And both hit the Top 10 and were completely ubiquitous in their respective years.

According to Weekly Top 40, only two other acts in the history of Billboard's Hot 100 chart have made the Top 10 with two versions of the same song. Surf icons the Ventures did it with the instrumental “Walk, Don’t Run” in 1960 and ”Walk, Don’t Run ’64″ in, duh, 1964. Elton John did it twice, with “Candle in the Wind” in 1974 and ”Candle in the Wind 1997″ in honor of Princess Diana, as well as “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” a solo hit in 1974 and as a duet with George Michael in 1991-92. Interestingly, Elton was responsible for '60s hitmaker Sedaka's '70s comeback, as detailed here.

"Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" was written by Sedaka with Howard Greenfield. Each version spent about three months on the charts, the original version hitting number 1 and the remake, which entered the chart Christmas week 1975, peaking at number 8.

Since the Supremes feature so heavily in Cusp, here's a little Supremes-Sedaka history: A 1983 Sedaka concept album Come See About Me, redid '60s pop hits with an interesting collection of collaborators. Producer Dan Hartman brought in Edgar Winter, with whom he'd performed as a member of the Edgar Winter Group, to play sax. Ashford & Simpson, Gary U.S. Bonds, Neil's daughter Dara Sedaka, Hartman and Mary Wilson all contributed vocals - Mary Wilson reprising her Supremes-era background sound on the title track. The talented Dan Hartman died in 1995 and is missed by those who knew his kind and generous ways.