November 28, 2009

"Sleigh Ride"

From the Wikipedia entry:

"Sleigh Ride" is a popular light orchestral piece composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946; he finished the work in February 1948. Lyrics, about a person who would like to ride in a sleigh on a winter's day with another person, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950. The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops Orchestra. The song was a hit record on RCA Victor Red Seal (78 rpm) and has become the equivalent of a signature song for the orchestra. The 45 rpm version was originally issued on red vinyl.

The Boston Pops, as lead by John Williams, although I far prefer the Fiedler version which was probably the first one I ever heard, and so it is therefore imprinted on my brain:

November 27, 2009

Impressions: Artesia, New Mexico

land of the sun theatre in the afternoon
I just recently drove through Artesia, New Mexico, during the afternoon, and then coming home (back to Tejas), as the day began.

land of the sun theatre in the morning
The 1947, Streamline Moderne Land of the Sun Theatre

neon sign in artesia
old gas station in artesia
starlite motel
starlite motel

November 26, 2009

The Elvis room

the elvis room
Antique store in Rockdale, Texas

On a related note, I heard on Elvis Radio yesterday that the nativity scene at Graceland is the same one used since 1969, and the Christmas lights out front are as they were in 1957.

November 18, 2009

Sinatra's Sinatra

Released on Sinatra's own Reprise Records label in 1963, recorded that same year over two April days in Hollywood, Sinatra's Sinatra is

an album inspired by economic rather than artistic necessity, it attempts to compete in record stores with earlier hits still controlled by Columbia and Capitol (Sinatra's previous two record labels). Yet Sinatra's Sinatra remians true to its concept of presenting new versions of Sinatra's personal favorite songs and not merely regurgitating the twelve titles that happened to sell the biggest for a higher royalty rate on his own label.
(from Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art by Will Friedwald, p. 259)

I put this post together primarily for myself (sometimes I think the only audience for these posts) because this seemed to be the best, quickest way to hear both versions of each song, back to back. If some distant soul, perhaps from this very planet, should stumble across this in some distant, future date, then good on you, mate.

I wasn't aware Sinatra had recorded "Second Time Around" or "Pocketful of Miracles" at any other label other than Reprise, and I couldn't find them if those versions existed anyway, so I don't include those two songs here. Likewise, I didn't include "Call Me Irresponsible" or "Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day)," either, because I could find only one label's version. The crooner recorded at least three different versions of "Put Your Dreams Away," one for each recording company.

  • "I've Got You Under My Skin"

    1956 (Capitol Records)


  • "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"

    1955 (Capitol Records)

    Perhaps the best "redo" from the album.
    The intro alone takes my breath away (so to speak).

  • "Nancy (with the Laughin' Face)"

    1945 (Columbia Records)


  • "Witchcraft"

    1957 (Capitol Records)


  • "Young at Heart"

    1953 (Capitol Records)


  • "All the Way"

    1957 (Capitol Records)


  • "(How Little It Matters) How Little We Know"

    1960 (Capitol Records)


  • "Oh! What It Seemed to Be"

    1945 (Columbia Records)


    A pretty good set of songs, any way you (me, myself and I) look at it!
  • November 16, 2009

    The mad, mad, mad, mad cola!

    Gotta dig this vintage groovy commercial in which Nancy Sinatra appears for a sponsor of her 1967 Movin' with Nancy television special, Royal Crown Cola. And by the way, it's the mad, mad, mad, mad cola.

    The mad, mad, mad, mad cola

    November 12, 2009

    Travels with Charley

    Seattle, 1961 (photograph by Hans Namuth)

    I'm trying to get reinspired to do some sort of photographically oriented road trip by among other things, rereading a favorite of mine, John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America. Basically, Steinbeck set out in the fall of 1960 to "rediscover America." He had spent the better portion of the previous decade living and travelling in England and France, and he felt he'd lost touch with the Joads, the "Docs," the Trasks, the George Miltons of America. Presumably, he felt this would hinder his ability to write authentically about them.

    Rocinante, National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California

    So he loaded up supplies, as well as the book's namesake, an "old gentlemen French poodle known as Charley" (p. 7), into a customized, modified camper truck he christened Rocinante.

    As far as doing any traveling of my own (mainly day tripping), I'm currently stuck in this mode, for the most part:

    In long-range planning for a trip, I think there is a private conviction that it won't happen. As the day approached, my warm bed and comfortable house grew increasingly give these up for three months for the terrors of the uncomfortable and unknown seemed crazy. I didn't want to go. (p. 17)

    Now, if I could drive through America circa 1960 armed with a 21st century digital camera (or really any camera for that matter), I wouldn't be sitting here typing this right now! The chance to photograph neon signs alone boggles the mind, not to mention the motor courts and gas stations. But alas, that America has vanished.

    Okay, I'm not a drinker, at all (the most alcohol consumption I was ever involved with was done, ironically, before I was of the legal drinking age), but I'm tickled by this passage:

    Because I was self-contained, I thought it might be nice if I could invite people I met along the way to my home for a drink, but I had neglected to lay in liquor. But there are pretty little bottle stores on the back roads of this state. I knew there were some dry states but had forgotten which they were, and it was just as well to stock up...You never know what people will want to drink. I ordered bourbon, scotch, gin, vermouth, vodka, a medium good brandy, aged applejack, and a case of beer. It seemed to me that those might take care of most situations. It was a big order for a little store. The owner was impressed.

    "Must be quite a party."
    "No--it's just traveling supplies." (p. 21)

    Now, let's visualize that, shall we:

    November 6, 2009

    "You Belong to Me"

    Written primarily by Chilton Price, "You Belong to Me" was published in 1952. That year saw two major artists of the Swing Era, Jo Stafford and Patti Page, sing hit versions. Can you imagine this happening today? The same exact song recorded and released by two different artists within a month of the other? I think that shows the strong appeal of the melody and lyrical message. According to the Wikipedia entry, Stafford's version is apparently the most popular. As well as being her greatest hit, it topped the charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom was the first song by a female singer to top the UK chart.

    Yet despite all of that, I still feel the song belongs to Patsy Cline. Her version seems more heartfelt and authentic. It has a melancholy to it the other versions rarely achieve. From her 1962 Sentimentally Yours album:

    I love the Egyptian/tropical imagery at the very beginning of this song. The first verse, lyrically, is definitely the best (in my humble onion). It sets the romantic/exotic tone which lasts for the duration of the recording. The way she pronounces "darlin'" gets me every time. There's something so quintessentially "Country" about her dialect (especially on that word), thus making it purely American.

    Dean's version is pretty cool, no doubt being heard on the radio along with the other versions, as it was released in early 1953:

    A later version of the song, by The Duprees, also made the Billboard Top 10, reaching #7 in 1962:

    On a somewhat related note. YIKES!:

    And then you have dreamy, little Johnny Sinatra from the 1940s:

    What a strange visual mix and aesthetic. Are they even in the same dimension? He is obviously a rehire for their lead singer. The three older, Jewish gentlemen, groomed as if it is the 1970s, are no doubt the original members of the group, i.e. the ones who kicked out the original lead singer because success, fame, drugs or personal issues had caused his ego to spiral out of control. And I know absolutely nothing about the Duprees other than they recorded "You Belong to Me," so that's all speculation.

    November 4, 2009

    Ben Milam

    The granddaughter of Ben Milam recently emailed me some scans of newspaper clippings and black and white photographs associated with her grandfather's architectural career. She granted me permission to post them. Milam was an architect of some acclaim who resided on Galveston Island. His period was the 1930s through early '50s, his most prevalent style appearing to have been Art Deco or Streamline Moderne.

     ben milam
    Stephen F Austin Jr High school in Galveston designed by Ben Milam
    Stephen F. Austin Junior High School, c.1939

    Newspaper article on Stephen F Austin school
    A 1939 Houston Post article about the school

    Orginal Hill's Rest. designed by Ben Milam
    The Original Hill's Restaurant, c. 1940

    I ate there a few times as a kid during the '70s. It is no longer there, I believe. Demolished by man, it once sat on Seawall Blvd.

    Coca Cola factory in Galveston
    I'd never realized this building was originally the Coca-Cola factory in Galveston. By my time, '70s/'80s, it was a series of restaurants, usually Mexican food.

    "Four Apartment Building" plans

    S.S Galveston
    The S.S. Galveston/U.S.S. Galveston/Mayflower Hotel

    S.S. Galveston designed by Ben Milam
    Drove or rode by this place many times. Such a shame it was demolished (2006)! It had become sort of seedy by my time ('70s, '80s). It was also up on the Seawall.

    Cotton Exchange designed by Ben Milam
    Galveston Cotton Exchange, c. 1940

    And a couple pictures of mine, of the 1950 circa, Pennington Buick Co.:
    pennington buick
    pennington buick detail