Stream of consciousness or California Here I Come (part eight)

It’s a bit of a stretch to call it stream of consciousness when this topic was mentioned about three posts ago.  Let’s just say that I portaged through several posts and am once more in the stream.  And where does this stream lead?

California, Here I Come was written for the 1921 Broadway musical Bombo, starring Al Jolson. Jolson recorded the song in 1924 and it is often considered the unofficial state song of California.

So we’re off to California…how do we get there?

Although The Cryan’ Shames didn’t reach the charts with First Train to California (or, for that matter, the album from which it comes…Synthesis) it a good vehicle to take us there today.

 

Thanks for the ride, guys…

Now we’re here, let’s find a place to stay… maybe Hotel California?

The song, taken from The Eagles‘ album of the same name, did all right for itself, reaching #1 in Canada and the US (unlike our previous song) in 1977 and winning a Grammy (record of the year) in the subsequent year.

The Cryan’ Shames began their song by suggesting…

There must be something in California…

The Beach Boys thought they had the answer.  And that answer?

California Girls reached a respectable #3 in the US in 1965 and became one of the band’s signature tunes for decades. Brian Wilson’s orchestral introduction presaged the musical experimentation found in 1966’s Pet Sounds.

The sound of The Beach Boys certainly helped to take their many fans to the Golden State.  For some, though, it was only dreamin’…

Originally formed in New York, The Mamas and The Papas followed that dream and made their way to California where the song was recorded as part of their debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.  The song reached #3 and the album #1 on the Billboard charts in 1966.

In the song (written by Papa John Phillips and his then-wife Mama Michelle Phillips) it is suggested

I’d be safe and warm if I was in LA…

James Taylor transformed that comforting thought into a plea in the latter 1970’s… (actually the song is written by Danny Kortchmar, Taylor’s sometime guitarist) Honey Don’t Leave LA!

Just as I Left My Heart in San Francisco was the song about the city in 1962 (and the signature tune for Tony Bennett), San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) spoke to another generation about the charms of the place.

If you are sensing a similar vibe here to The Mamas and The Papas, it may be because the song was written (as California Dreamin’) by  “Papa” John Phillips.  The song was released in May of 1967 to help promote the Monterey International Pop Music Festival being held in June that year.  It also fared well on the charts, reaching #4 in the US and #1 in the UK.

Speaking of Monterey, Eric Burdon and the Animals attempted to provide a musical précis of the event in their 1967 hit of the same name. (The band had, by the way, the advantage of participating in that festival as the foundation in formulating this tribute).  It reached #15 in the US and #16 in Canada.

A further aside (if you like San Francisco) the band mined the state again and came up with San Franciscan Nights in August of ’67.  It fared even better than Monterey, charting #1 in Canada, #9 in the US and #7 in the UK.

So, I think we’ve finally exhausted every song ever written about California… just ask Joni Mitchell

Good grief!!  I think I’ll just stop… (for now)…

Beatle boots and five favourite concerts

…in which we continue our discussion of magic…this time the magic which can occur during a music concert.

 

beatle-bootSo… collaterial damage from Beatlemania.  It was 1964 and everything “Beatle” was cool.  Even in our small village, the shoe store carried its (inexpensive [ie. cheap knockoff]) version of the “Beatle Boot”.  Apparently The Beatles had the traditional Chelsea boot adapted and wore this footwear almost constantly in their early public appearances.

Setting trends in fashion as well as music...

Setting trends in fashion as well as music…

I was (at the time) twelve and, although not yet a slavish follower of fashion trends (as I am now), I felt I must have a pair of these stylish shoes.  Because they met the main criterion of purchase (they were cheap) my parents indulged me a visit to the shoe store.  I was wedged into a pair of the aforementioned and became the proud owner of a pair of “Beatle Boots”.  That the shoes were inexpensive was one thing.  The Chelsea boot (I discovered) is truly designed for an individual with a smallish, narrow foot.  My feet, on the other hand, were not small and with a high instep and (even then) requiring an EEE width, I was not destined to live (especially walk) a happy life in this footwear.  The only comfort (and it was in short supply at the time) I can take was that I deformed the shoes as quickly and effectively as they deformed my feet.  Destined it was to be a short-lived relationship.  I would like to say that I learned from that experience and ever after purchased shoes designed to fit my particular foot size.  But not always true.  In fact, I think it was only in the last decade (or thereabouts) that I have consistently sought out footwear with comfort as my main consideration.

And that wee bit of personal history brings me to the subject of my next several posts… memorable (ie. magical) concert experiences.  And I start with my most recent…

1. James Taylor  Budweiser Gardens  May 10, 2016

james taylor

More inclined to hats and caps these days…

Now the first question you might pose is Why is he talking about Beatle Boots and James Taylor in the same breath?  Is it because James Taylor was the first non-British artist recorded by The Beatles‘ fledging Apple label?  Is it because George Harrison was inspired by Taylor’s Something In the Way She Moves to write his own Something.  No and no.  I recounted my “Beatle Boots tale” for quite another reason. I think the thing I find most appealing about James Taylor is that he is the musical equivalent of a comfortable well-fitted shoe. Yes, there are certainly the “Beatle Boots” performers whose style and talent I can appreciate but they just don’t soothe my spirit like Sweet Baby James. And the fact that he remains a good fit after after almost fifty years is testament to his durability.

And so to this particular concert…

Taylor’s voice that night was as strong as it was distinctive.  His songs, the classics and new material (from recent album Before This World) alike, were engaging.  His band/arrangements were consistently spot-on.  Between-song anecdotes and remarks featured his characteristic dry humour and insight which only enhanced the evening’s experience.

I should also confess that this concert marks the third time I’ve had the privilege to hear JT live.  This show differed from its predecessors primarily in that it was my first opportunity to hear him at an indoor venue.  The first time (about 25 years ago) was in Toronto on a “perfect” summer evening, Jane and I  comfortably seated well back from the stage on a grassy hillside taking in the atmosphere and good music.  The second time (still in Toronto, this time Ontario Place) the weather gods conspired to have it rain on the event.  We were on another grassy knoll well back from the covered stage, this time beneath a tarpaulin.  Memorable in a different way.

Although best-known for his own compositions, he has also put his spin on classics by other artists.  In this 2016 performance at the White House (as he did at our concert), he interprets a Buddy Holly classic…

Taylor has enjoyed a long and successful career in popular music in spite of at-times turbulent events in his personal life.  His consistency as a songwriter and as a performer has earned him in a spot in my “top five” concert events.

As for the other four, stay tuned…

Meanwhile… enjoy another recent live performance by JT (this time performing one of his own songs).

And finally, a confession…

several of the concerts I will cite in coming posts have received mention in prior ones.  My intent is evaluate/consolidate these experiences into a sort of “best of” list.