Monday, November 28, 2022

“Oh Lonesome Me” … Always Go Back to the Original

My first hearing of “Oh Lonesome Me” was a slow, depressing version by Neil Young that I never really liked. Kind of a downer, really. 

Little did I know how very, very different it was from the Don Gibson original in 1956.

Many years later I finally discovered the original and hoo boy, this is a great song, lively and uptempo, which makes it far more interesting both musically and lyrically.

Don Gibson, “Oh Lonesome Me”

So for decades I fell victim to the weird situation where one artist re-interprets another artist’s song, changes it completely, and then because that’s the first version you hear (and hear a lot), your first impression of the song itself is just … wrong.

This can easily happen when you occupy a musical silo, unexposed to certain styles of music especially from a prior era. In this case, classic country music. You’ve probably fallen victim to this too.

Well, better late than never. Nothing against Neil Young here, he was an accomplished and original artist on his own, and he tried something new as creative folks do — but at least for me, it didn’t work. That’s okay. Artists should try to do their own versions of songs, that’s what creativity is all about.

And it’s on me (and you) as the listener to seek out original versions of songs if so motivated, to learn more about the original song and artist.

Speaking of artists re-interpreting the work of other artists, my favorite band for that is The Ventures, who are masters at doing their own versions of other artists’ work and staying mostly true to it but putting their own unique spin on it. That’s who they are and what they do. 

And this version is excellent, of course.

The Ventures, “Oh Lonesome Me”

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Why “Midnight Confessions” is Awesome


Midnight Confessions 

The drums, bass, horns and vocals, and the arrangement itself, are SO great that I frequently listen to it several times in a row just to re-listen to those specific parts. It’s almost intoxicating.

I recommend you do the same, right here. Stop reading and click play again, and then one more time.

Rob Grill on lead vocals — one of the better pop/rock singers of that era, I would say — with Warren Entner taking the chorus and Creed Bratton on backing vocals.

The drums and bass, well that’s Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye — the Wrecking Crew played all the instruments and (no doubt) did all the arranging, too.

Powerful and deft, those two plus the vocals and horns gives this song incredible energy, which is probably why it charted highest of all their hits at #5 in the U.S. 

Overall the production and arrangement on this song is really original for the time — I cannot think of another song quite like it from 1968-69. Chicago used a similar formula, with drums, vocals and horns driving the sound, but in 1968 they were just getting started, and nothing charted as high as #5 until “25 or 6 to 4” in 1970. Blood Sweat and Tears was more vocals and horns heavy with theatrical-style arrangements, more like a performance art project than a straight-ahead rock band.

It’s just a great tune, and it never gets old.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Memories of the Bears with my Dad


Watching the 1963 Chicago Bears Season Highlights video I discovered recently brought with it warm memories of watching Bears football with my dad on Sunday afternoons in our family room during the 1970s and early 80s. 

Watching the Bears together was our thing, a bonding activity we shared; in fact he’s the one who got me started on it in the first place. 

One Christmas back in ‘67 I think he gave me an autographed football from the 1966 Bears, with the signatures of Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, and several other prominent players. The signatures are pretty faded now, as you can imagine, but still visible.

I still have it. There it is, on the right. It’s one of my few treasured possessions. 

We started watching every Bears game together when I was 11, in the 1970 season, and I have many fond memories of sitting in our family room on Sunday afternoons in that decade and into the early 80s —with the dark blue indoor-outdoor carpet and the green L-shaped couch — watching a mostly inferior team lose most of their games, but with some great individual players, especially Butkus and Payton. 

Fourteen Sundays per year … we suffered through a lot together. Ask any Bears fan from the late 60s through the early 80s. 

Just for some context, in 1969 they went 1-13, tied with the Steelers for worst record in the NFL, and so the NFL flipped a coin to determine who got the #1 draft pick. The Bears lost that too, and the Steelers picked future Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, and by the mid-70s they were winning Super Bowls (four in six years) with him along with the many other great players they drafted after him. Bears fans noticed all of this, of course.

During the Walter Payton years starting in 1975 they gradually improved and made the playoffs in the ‘77 season with a 9-5 record — but in the first round they faced the eventual Super Bowl champions, the widely-hated Dallas Cowboys, and of course got destroyed 37-7. This is what it was like to be a Bears fan in that era — the occasional bright spot (making the playoffs after years of failure) followed immediately by crushing disappointment. Suckers!

Then in 1979 they made the playoffs again, at 10-6, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17, due to turnovers mostly, but a horrible phantom illegal procedure call that took away an 85 yard run by Payton didn’t help. 

During those years our favorite player was, obviously, Walter Payton, but strong safety Doug Plank was not far behind because of hits like these.

Some Walter Payton highlights from probably his greatest individual season, 1977.

By the early- and mid-80s when they gradually became pretty good, it was finally more “the thrill of victory” than the “agony of defeat”, and they finally began to beat very good teams, the royalty of the league. 

One memorable game was November 4, 1984 when they played Oakland in one of the most famously brutal hard-hitting games in NFL history, and beat them 17-6. 

Then I remember well when we watched together as they won their first playoff game, beating the Redskins in those ‘84 playoffs, which was essentially their coming out party. 

Next up, the NFC Championship against San Francisco. They lost 23-0. It was an absolute thrashing. But they did win a playoff game, so … progress. Patience, grasshopper.

Little did we know how fricking great the following season would be, when the 1985 team ran roughshod through the league, going 15-1 and destroying first the Giants and then the Rams, shutting them both out.

Then in the ultimate celebration of the end of an era of futility, we watched Super Bowl XX together, when that ‘85 team destroyed the Patriots 46-10. 

That was SO much fun as a Bears fan, and it was a form of therapy for us to be together watching it. After years of frustration, including some really bad teams, then slowly getting better only to lose in the playoffs, I cannot even imagine a bigger turnaround, and a bigger display of total dominance to just put an exclamation mark on the whole post-1963 era, than that 1985 playoff run.