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)…

Plan B Getting a round toit…

You know the old joke…

round toit

So, after some delay, I’m…

Today’s examples have a certain circuity.

 

I.  Going in Circles   The Friends of Distinction

It could have been Luther Vandross or Isaac Hayes.  It’s been covered by a number of artists.  But the Friends got there first.  It’s from their 1969 album Grazin’ and provided them with a #15 hit on the Hot 100 (and #3 on Billboard’s R&B chart).

By the way, do you remember the group from our obscurities series?

II.  The Circle Game     Buffy Sainte-Marie

Again, I might have chosen another artist… like Canadian-born Joni Mitchell, the person who actually wrote the song and made it part of her very successful 1970 Ladies of the Canyon album.  But it was Buffy Sainte-Marie who first recorded it in 1967.  And although that version only reached #109 on the charts (the only version of the song to chart), The Circle Game has enjoyed remarkable longevity with over 200 artists recording their own cover of the song.

Buffy Sainte-Marie continues to record and perform… her most recent album, Power in the Blood, released this past year, won the 2015 Polaris Music Prize.  If interested in hearing more, have a listen to Sing Our Own Song from that album.

III.  Will the Circle Be Unbroken  

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Johnny Cash et al

How can you lose with this lineup?  And… you won’t find many songs so often covered as this hymn (since its creation in 1907).  Enjoy…

IV.   The Circle of Life      Elton John

It’s difficult to say whether this song is more closely linked to Elton John (the song’s composer with lyricist Tim Rice) or the musical which has perpetuated its popularity (The Lion King).  Depending on the list you examine, the song reached from #30 (Austrian Top 40) to #1 (Canadian Adult Contemporary chart [RPM]) in 1994-1995.  It remains a staple in John’s live performances and a show favourite in The Lion King.

In digging up the above performance on Youtube, I came across a version (below) which you might also enjoy (for the do-it-yourself type)…

V.  Turn Down Day    The Cyrkle

Well, I’ve been rather loose in my use of circle in this enterprise.  So… why not finish with Turn Down Day, a song which doesn’t even have circle in the title (doesn’t the group name count?)  Here’s The Cyrkle performing their 1966 hit (#16 in Canada and the U.S.)

…and leave out their #1 hit (in Canada and #2 in the States)?  I think not!