Given its massive radio play, I’m sure you know about the Elvis Presley Christmas Duets album that was released by Sony BMG a couple of months ago. In particular, the cover of Blue Christmas with Martina McBride. But have you seen the video?
Using footage from Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special, some digital wizards have magically inserted Martina onto the stage with Elvis, and dang if it don’t look convincing. Especially since they went to such pains to make the lovely lady look of the period … in fact, with that bouffant, false lashes and miniskirt, they pretty much made her a (not-quite-dead) ringer for young Priscilla.
Check it out. More on how they did it after the jump.
ELVIS PRESLEY AND MARTINA McBRIDE – BLUE CHRISTMAS
Turkey, stuffing, green-bean casserole, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and loooong post-meal naps — Thanksgiving staples all. But lest we forget another holiday fixture that you may (or may not) hear on your local radio station: folk-singer, hippie-activist Arlo Guthrie’s iconic 1969 anti-war song, Alice’s Restaurant. If you are thirty or older, you probably know the chorus to this one by heart. If you are under thirty, probably not so much. (Arlo is the son of folk legend Woody Guthrie.)
How do I describe this? I’m tempted to let Wikipedia do my ‘splainin, simply because their description is about as condensed as anyone could make it:
Guthrie’s talk-song, a satirical, deadpan protest against the Vietnam War draft and widespread anti-hippie prejudice, recounts a true but comically exaggerated Thanksgiving adventure. “Alice” was restaurant-owner Alice M. Brock, who in 1964, using $2,000 supplied by her mother, bought a deconsecrated church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Alice and her husband Ray would live. It was here rather than at the restaurant, which came later, where the song’s Thanksgiving dinners were actually held.
On that Thanksgiving, November 25, 1965, the 18-year-old Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins, 19, were arrested by Officer William “Obie” Obanhein for illegally dumping some of Alice’s garbage after discovering that the dump was closed for the holiday. Two days later they pleaded guilty in court before a blind judge, James E. Hannon; the song describes to ironic effect the arresting officer’s frustration at the judge being unable to see the “27 8-by-10 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.” In the end, Guthrie and Robbins were fined $50 and told to pick up their garbage.
ARLO GUTHRIE – young hippie
The song goes on to describe Guthrie’s being called up for the draft, and the surreal bureaucracy at the New York City induction center on Whitehall Street. Because of Guthrie’s criminal record for littering, he is first sent to the Group W Bench (where convicts wait) then outright rejected as unfit for military service. The ironic punchline of the story’s denouement is that, in the words of Guthrie, “I’m sittin here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug?”
ARLO GUTHRIE – old hippie
The final part of the song is where Arlo tells the audience that should they find themselves facing the draft they should walk into the military psychiatrist’s office and sing, “Shrink, you can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant,” and walk out. Thus is born, “the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement, and all you got to do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.”
I hope that isn’t too much of an antiseptic description of this iconic song — it’s charm is in its melody, humor and troubadour telling. As of this Thanksgiving 2008, Arlo (with extended family in tow) is still knocking ’em dead in concerts around the world. Also according to Wikipedia: In 1991, Guthrie bought the church that had served as Alice and Ray Brock’s former home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and converted it to the Guthrie Center, an interfaith meeting place that serves people of all religions.
At 18 minutes and 34 seconds, Alice’s Restaurant does not get radio play other than Thanksgiving. Depending on where your dial is set, it is often a crap shoot whether you get to hear it or not. That’s why I’m here. Gather up the kids and enjoy.
Okay, I’ll admit we’ve got a post here that is way out of left field.
I stumbled across some videos of talented organists playing movie themes on ginormous pipe organs in church cathedrals. Specifically, John Williams’ majestic scores from Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars. You wouldn’t think the congregations would be down with such secular (gasp!) music being played during their services, but they all seem to love this.
If you’ve never heard these iconic marches played in such a manner, check out these videos. Very cool.
JOHN WILLIAMS’ SUPERMAN MAIN TITLE MARCH Played by Sean Jackson at Trinity Church Wall Street
JOHN WILLIAMS’ RAIDERS MARCH played by Cameron Carpenter at Trinity Church Wall Street
JOHN WILLIAMS’ STAR WARS MARCH played by Jonas Nordwall at The Sanfillipo Victorian Palace shot from balcony but sounds great
I love rockabilly. Always have, always will. I also think Brian Setzer is the most underrated guitar-slinger around. I have posted before about my affection for the Stray Cats — click that link for some of their hottest licks. In the years (sigh, decades) since their formation, the pompadoured one has gone on to carve his own unique path along the melodic frontier.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra doesn’t get a lot of radio play, but that doesn’t mean their fans aren’t legion. They are and I count myself among their number. Over recent years, Brian has also reunited with Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker — their Stray Cats Farewell Tour is expected to run into 2009 (check their Official Site for tour dates).
I recently got hold of a disc that Brian released in 2005, which is one of the best things he’s ever done: Rockabilly Riot! Volume One – A Tribute to Sun Records.
Covering 23 songs from the Sun catalog, this stripped-down album was obviously a labor of love for Brian. Songs include many well-known favorites (Red Hot, Rock ‘N Roll Ruby, Get Rhythm), as well as some obscure gems (Tennessee Zip and a wildly different take on Mona Lisa). For a complete play list with audio samples, click here.
I scoured YouTube looking for anything from this album. The closest I came was a video shot in 1993, in a Japanese guitar shop where Brian was getting some repairs done. Somehow, they talked him into sitting down and playing a few songs and managed to record it all. The picture quality is not great, but the sound is — especially considering it’s just Brian and his guitar. Of the songs he played, only one would later be included on Rockabilly Riot. A song that Elvis once recorded, called Just Because.
Have a listen — this hep-cat just flat out rocks.
Oh, and so does this album. Highly recommended.
BRIAN SETZER – JUST BECAUSE (solo bootleg)
If you’ll excuse my indulgence (again), the audio on these bootleg sessions is so good and such a showcase for Brian’s skills, I’d like to post two more. Neither are included on Rockabilly Riot, but God knows they should have been. Especially this first one. Here you go.
BRIAN SETZER – MYSTERY TRAIN (solo bootleg) The quintessential rockabilly song
BRIAN SETZER – TOO HIP, GOTTA GO (solo bootleg) Stray Cats original
WORDSLINGER’S NOTE:Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days. I am closing in on the tail end of the book edit and that has consumed all my time. When that is finished next week, I will devote much more of my time posting on this blog. Thanks for your patience. In the meantime, I thought I’d put up an easy one …
I’m an Elvis fan. I’ve made no bones about that here. Or here. I’ve also argued that if any contemporary music artist comes close to matching the beauty, talent and charisma of Elvis Presley, it is (my longtime crush), Shania Twain.
This was never more evident than in 2003 when Shania produced two concerts for NBC. The first was a full-blown arena show, Shania Twain UP! Live in Chicago. The second was a much smaller, more intimate one, Shania Twain UP! Close & Personal LIVE!, where, backed up by Allison Krauss and Union Station, she performed in the round, decked out in a form-fitting, black-leather jumpsuit, obviously paying homage to Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special.
The Elvis comparison is even more obvious when she sings, I’m Holdin’ On To Love (To Save My Life). I hear lots of Presley influence in Shania’s songs, but never more so than in this one. From my first listen to the hiccuping chorus of this faux-rockabilly song, I could easily imagine The King belting it out in all his curled-lip, nostril-flaring glory.
Check out this video and let me know what you think.
SHANIA TWAIN – UP! CLOSE & PERSONAL I’M HOLDIN’ ON TO LOVE (TO SAVE MY LIFE)
Thought I’d throw in an extra video here. Shania closed this show with a bluegrass cover of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long (originally produced by her now-ex-husband, Mutt Lange). This absolutely should not have worked and yet … I think it’s pretty darn cool.
By the by, message to Mutt Lange regarding your infidelity: WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!
SHANIA TWAIN – UP! CLOSE & PERSONAL YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG
Okay … one more. You know, for comparison sake.
ELVIS: ’68 COMEBACK SPECIAL – TRYIN’ TO GET TO YOU
I like to think I’ve got pretty eclectic tastes in music. I can go from AC/DC to Frank Sinatra to Hank Williams without batting an eye. But I’ve recently rediscovered an artist who I grew up listening to and who I kind of forgot — hard to believe since his name is almost the same as mine. Of those three aforementioned artists, he is probably closet in style to Frank Sinatra, but he was never part of the Rat Pack. I’m speaking, of course, about Andy Williams.
This living legend has recorded 18 gold and 3 platinum albums, had a hit variety show from 1962-71, won three Emmys, hosted the Grammys for seven consecutive years, discovered the Osmonds, fought the Nixon administration’s attempt at deporting John Lennon, owns his own theater (the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri) and was honored by President Reagan, who declared Andy’s voice to be “a national treasure.”
You don’t hear a lot about the 80-year-old singer these days — his annual Christmas specials are remembered only by those of us who grew up in the seventies — and yet Andy is still knocking ’em dead at his theater in Branson.
Now that I’m “rediscovering” him, does that mean I’m getting old? Or hopelessly sentimental? I swear this guy’s voice is more relaxing than a couple of Valium … I mean that in a good way.
I scoured YouTube to find a sample of some of my favorites. Have a listen and let me know what you think.
ANDY WILLIAMS – THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES
ANDY WILLIAMS – A SUMMER PLACE
ANDY WILLIAMS – MOON RIVER
ANDY WILLIAMS – A TIME FOR US (THEME FROM ROMEO AND JULIET) fan edit
While I was searching YouTube to replace the theatrical trailer for my write up about Cool Hand Luke, I came across a video of Harry Dean Stanton singing Just A Closer Walk With Thee from that movie. The picture quality was horrendous (a video camera pointed at a TV) but the song was just as good as ever.
From there I started listening to a few other takes on this old gospel standard — there are scores of them on that video channel — and now that it’s good and stuck in my head, I thought I’d pass it around.
This is one of my favorite gospel songs. Here are three of the best I found.
JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE – THE VENICE BEACH BOYS Opening scene of the movie White Men Can’t Jump — I love this version!