My Top 10 Halloween Songs

Happy Halloween, everyone!!!

mantel

Courtesy of Pinterest & ehomedecors.com (original source unknown)

You know for me it is all about the music, so I could not let this holiday pass without honoring it with my favorite songs (in no particular order), which are guaranteed to put you in a  Halloween mood.

1.  “I Put A Spell On You” (1956, written by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins).

 

bette

(Original source unknown)

The songwriter’s own version from 1956 is a powerful number all on its own.  But, there are several unbelievably intense & stunning covers you cannot miss by Nina Simone (1965), Annie Lennox (2014), Them featuring Van Morrison (1966), Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968), Chaka Khan (2019) and of course, Winifred Sanderson a/k/a  Bette Midler (1993) from the film “Hocus Pocus”.

2.  “Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones (1968, written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards).

Rolling Stones

(Original source unknown)

From the opening beats of the congas combined with Jagger’s first scream, the Stones pull you into this masterpiece and refuse to let you go.  And honestly, you would not want to leave anyway.  There are several covers out there by respectable artists, but compared to the original they really are not even worth mentioning.

3.  “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – The Charlie Daniels Band (1979, written by the Charlie Daniels Band). 

charlie daniels

(Original source unknown)

A fantastically fun song.  But how can a song about the devil be fun, you ask?  Just include a contest with a human, a ,smoking hot fiddle player and lyrics like “Chicken in a bread pan pickin’ out dough, Granny, does your dog bite? No child, no!” and you are all set.  Personal note:  This song is featured in one of my favorite episodes of “The Drew Carey Show” (season 2, episode 5:  “The Devil, You Say”) guest starring Grant Shaud (“Murphy Brown’s” Miles Silverberg) convinced he is the prince of darkness in the living flesh.  Watch it if you can find it.  I couldn’t. 

4.  “Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon (1978, written by Warren Zevon, LeRoy Marinell & Waddy Wachtel).

warren zevon

(Original source unknown)

Zevon referred to this as a novelty song, and if that is so, it is undoubtedly one of the best of all time.  How could it not be with an opening line like “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand”.  Wouldn’t that make a great costume???!!!  Adam Sandler did a more than respectable cover of this song on the 2004 Zevon tribute album, “Eat Every Sandwich”.  And you thought Sandler only sang about Hanukah!!!

5.  “Spooky” –Atlanta Rhythm Section (1979, written by Mike Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks Jr,)

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(Original source unknown)

I adored this band from the first time I heard “So Into You” but fell in L-O-V-E with them thanks to “Imaginary Lover“.  It still makes me swoon.  But I digress.  Two members of the group, Dean Daughtry and James B. Cobb, Jr-who were previously members of the band which first recorded this song, the Classics IV-decided to record another version with their new group.  Two other versions you cannot miss are by Joan Osborne   (1998) and Dusty Springfield (1970).

6.  “Season of the Witch” – Donovan (1966, written by Donovan and Shawn Phillips).

scary stories

(Original source unknown)

I am not a fan of folk Donavan, but psychedelic rock Donavan is a different story.  The music is undeniably from the late 1960’s but his vocals transcend the era.  There is some weight and a whole lot of feeling behind them that keeps up with the music perfectly so as not to be outdone.  If you can forgive the one dated reference to beatniks, you can enjoy this song anytime, but it is perfect for this time of year.  Al Kooper & Stephen Stills’ cover is a guitar & brass spin on the original and is absolutely worth a listen.  And if you are planning to see the movie “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”  you will hear a new version of the song by Lana Del Ray which is very well done.

7.  “Black Magic Woman” – Fleetwood Mac (1968, written by Peter Green).

Peter Green

(Original source unknown)

If you are a fan of this band you know they formed years before Lindsay Buckingham & Stevie Nicks joined them.  Peter Green was one of the founding members of the group  and wrote and recorded this song with them in 1968.  Prior to Fleetwood Mac he was a member of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, joining them to fill the void left by Eric Clapton’s departure.  This song became more famous when it was covered by  Santana  in 1970 which featured Gregg Rolie on vocals.  He went on to join Journey, leading to him being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with each band.

8.  “Superstition” – Stevie Wonder (1972, written by Stevie Wonder).

stevie 1

(Original source unknown)

The lyrics may evoke fear and trepidation, but the music is nothing but mesmerizing, from the opening drum beats to the synthesizer bass to the tenor sax and more.  It is a banquet of sounds that, as the line goes, keeps you in a daydream.   For an equally funky version, give Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble’s version from 1986 a listen.  It does not disappoint.  Wonder even participated in the video for Vaughn’s version by appearing at the end and singing a line from the song……..with a black cat in his arms.  Fabulous.

9.  “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” – Denmark & Winter  (2016, written by Buck Dharma).

denmark

(Original source unknown)

Of course, Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 original version is a classic, and that was years before the SNL cowbell skit.  But the indie band’s evocative stripped down version with its slower pace brings this song to a whole new level of intensity and beauty.

10.   Monster Mash” – Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers (1962, written by Bobby Pickett & Lenny Capizzi). 

MonsterMash

(Original source unknown)

How can this not be on the list???  It is the embodiment of the holiday AND it has Darlene Love on backing vocals!!!  I grew up listening to this song every Halloween season thanks to my mom.  She would play it over and over again while we danced around the living room.  That is how I learned you are never too old for this holiday.  Two cover versions that are almost as popular as the original are by Vincent Price (1977) and Alvin & the Chipmunks ( 1994).     

Honorable mention:  “Psycho Killer” – The Talking Heads (1977, written by the Talking Heads).

Once the little hairs on the back of your neck relax after taking in the title of this song, the rest of your body becomes entranced by the remarkable baseline underscoring Byrne’s vocals in English and French punctuated by his fa-fa-fa’s.  Just genius.

What songs do you love for Halloween?

I hope your holiday is filled with more treats than tricks!!!

i got a rock.jpg(Courtesy of Charles M. Schulz/United Feature Syndicate)   

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing some things that I love with you  🙂

Until next time, happy listening!!!

 

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Goodbye To Late Night As I Knew It…..

Well Vixens, I am finally ready to address the end of “Late Night With David Letterman”.  Yes, I am aware his show ended almost a month ago, but since I am still processing his decision to retire it should be no surprise I cannot handle the finality of the situation.  😦

caption: LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman. 6/18/2002    copyright: Photo:JOHN P. FILO /CBS ©2003 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved

caption: LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman. 6/18/2002
copyright: Photo:JOHN P. FILO /CBS
©2003 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved

Here is a not so fun fact about me:  I get very attached to things and people and change is very difficult for me.  I am not sure why since I am as spontaneous as they come.  Perhaps it is part of my Pisces swimming in two different directions personality, if I believed in such things.

But Dave is a hard one for me to say goodbye to.  You see, he was my roommate (figuratively speaking)…..my first roommate by which the rest would be judged and fail to compare with.  When I moved out to my own place I had a job working 4-12 in a call center (say it with me:  EW!!!).  So I got home around 12:30am and I was totally alone.  No friends to see or even to call since they were asleep to accommodate their 9-5 lives.  I had my prime time shows taped on my VCR, but since it was the summer they were repeats.  I loved living in my own place but I had not counted on the loneliness my different schedule would bring.  I loved being up in the middle of the night when I lived at home and when I was in the dorm at college, so this was unfamiliar territory for me.  To coin a phrase, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

So I started off on my own yellow brick road.  In my world that meant turning to one of my consistence forms of comfort since I was a child:  the television (my version of Toto).  And there was David Letterman-my Scarecrow, from 12:30am to 2am.  These were the glorious days before infomercials, so there were actual programs on for the whole night.  Dave was followed by three episodes of one of the greatest shows ever-“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (the Tin Man)-from 2am-3:30am and two episodes of “The Bob Newhart Show” (the Lion in the Chicago show, not the Vermont show)-from 3:30am-4:30am, after which time I was ready for bed.

But I digress.

Dave was like that one friend in college who pulled all nighters with me and introduced me to a whole new world I not only loved, but one in which I belonged.  It was sarcastic (Question:  If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, what would he be doing?  Answer:  Clawing at the inside of his coffin trying to get out), and silly (Dave going into a “Lamps Only” store and asking if they sold t-shirts), had experiments with Chris Elliot and skits with Larry “Bud” Melman (a/k/a Calvert Grant DeForest), not to mention great music, courtesy of Paul Schaeffer and the Band and a slew of phenomenal musical guests.

The first part of Dave’s career-the NBC years- also brought:  Stupid Pet Tricks, Rocket Chair Races and of course, the Velcro wall, the Alka-Seltzer suit, the sponge suit, the Magnet suit and the Rice Krispies suit.  We also watched Dave throw things off the roof of a five story tower, crush things with a steamroller, play the “Will It Float” game and of course introduce us to many gifted comics as well as his nightly Top 10 list.

The move to CBS gave new life to his career (and to the legendary Ed Sullivan Theater) thanks to an 11:30pm time slot.  During these years we also saw the more poignant moments:  Dave’s first night back after the September 11 attacks with Dan Rather, Dave’s return after his open heart surgery with the Dr.’s and nurses who were at his side, talking to Warren Zevon about his impending death, Dave becoming a father and his subsequent marriage to his son’s mother and visiting his own mother’s home for periodic segments.  It was difficult to watch him try so hard to be Oprah’s friend (she already has Gayle & her dogs), but then he was right back to his zany self musing about the meaning of “sod busting” with Paul after he and the band played “Wildfire” during a commercial break.  And true to form, Dave finally brought on Michael Martin Murphy to perform the song as a great climax to the running joke.

One of my favorite memories was a joke by Pee Wee Herman.  It may not be your taste, but it made me roll!!!

My favorite guest:  Richard Simmons.  His interaction with Dave was too hilarious for words so watch for yourself here.

richard-simmons-tank-tops-body-oil-on-david-letterman-late-show7[1]

Photo courtesy of CBS.

Over the years my life and my schedule changed.  I lost the Tin Man and the Lion along the way, but Dave remained a constant in my life.  There were times I could only watch his monologues (or would only watch them, if only to avoid sitting through interviews with “reality stars”).  But except for his health related absences, Dave was a fixture in my life for decades.  I will and do miss him very much.  😦

It’s been a year of very sad TV goodbyes but I think I will miss Dave most of all.

Ciao, Scarecrow.

Valentine’s Day Music Countdown: Songs @ #7 & My Grammy Boycott

There are two songs tied for the #7 spot on the countdown, so we will look at them individually.  The first one comes from a man who is considered by some as not only the inventor of soul music, but the genre’s most distinctive voice as well:  Sam Cooke with “You Send Me“.

This song, penned by Cooke but credited to his brother LC Cook to keep record executives from taking the profits, hit #1 in December 1957,  ending Elvis Presley’s 7 week run in the top spot with “Jailhouse Rock”.

Crooning is what Cooke does throughout this song, using his smooth sophisticated voice’s range to lure the listener into his story of how his feelings came to be (and he even uses the M word):

“At first I thought it was infatuation
But oh, it’s lasted so long
Now I find myself wanting
To marry you and take you home

Cooke’s roots began in gospel music, but with the success of this song he became fully emerged in secular music. Then he used what he learned to help some other singers crossover from the gospel genre as well, including Lou Rawls who returned the favor by singing on Cooke’s song “Bring It On Home To Me“.

Singing, songwriting and producing records were not the only parts of the business Cooke was interested in. He was one of the first performers to take both artistic & financial control of his career and eventually started his own publishing company and record label.  He also has the distinction of writing a song that went on to become an anthem for the Civil Rights movement, “A Change Is Gonna Come“.  It has been covered by both black and white artists from Otis Redding, Al Green, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, who inspired Cooke with his song  “Blowin’ In The Wind“.

1964 started on a somber note with the country still mourning the assassination of President Kennedy.  Unfortunately, the year also ended the same way as the country mourned Cooke’s tragic death on Dec 11 at the age of 33 after being shot at a Los Angeles motel.  His murder was eventually ruled a justifiable homicide.  The events of that night have been revisited several times over the last five decades to bring his friends and family a better understanding as to what actually transpired the night Cooke was shot.  Whatever it was does not change the outcome because there was nothing justifiable about the loss of this soul music renegade.  It was a heartbreaking ending to a stellar career.

Sam Cooke was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at its first ceremony in 1986 and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 4th on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers”.  His music has been featured in several movies over the years, but is most recognizable from “Animal House” (who can forget John Belushi’s character Bluto eating his way down the cafeteria line to “(What A) Wonderful World“) and “Innerspace” (Martin Short & Dennis Quaid dancing to “Twistin’ The Night Away“).

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The other song sharing the #7 spot on the countdown is by a man referred to as one of the greatest singers of all time, and I cannot express it any better than that.  The singer is Van “The Man” Morrison with his song “Have I Told You Lately“.

If you cannot tell, I love words, and this song has some of the most beautiful ones ever set to music:

“Fill my heart with gladness
take away my sadness
ease my troubles
that’s what you do”

“You fill my heart with laughter
Somehow, you make it better
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do”

“There’s a love that’s divine
and it’s yours and it’s mine
and it shines like the sun”

Just stunning.  And the music and delivery are perfect, too completing the holy trinity hallmarks of a great song.

Even Rod Stewart became choked up with emotion and when he sang his cover of the song on “MTV’s Unplugged” in 1993.

There really is not a genre of music Morrison has not explored with his voice, and that coupled with his immense talent has influenced performers like the Counting Crows, Bob Seger, U2, Bruce Springsteen and The Band.  In fact, that was a bit of a mutual admiration thing as evidenced by Morrison’s part in their swan song movie, “The Last Waltz“.   My favorite performance of his in that movie?  Caravan.

It was one of the members of The Band, guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson, who inducted Morrison into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.  In his induction speech, Robertson said of Morrison:  “…in the tradition of the great Irish poets and the great soul singers, he is the Caruso of rock and roll”.  Compliments do not get much better than that.  And Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Morrison 24th  on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers”.

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SIDE BAR:  Today is the 2015 Grammy Awards and for the first time in more than three decades I will neither be watching the show nor saving it to my DVR.  The only performances I would want to see from the broadcast are Hozier’s with Annie Lennox or Tony Bennett’s, but I can just look them up on YouTube tomorrow.

But I am happy to see super-talented singer/songwriter/musician Ryan Adams up for best rock song (“Gimme Something Good”) and Best Rock Album (for his self-titled release).  Tom Petty and U2 are also nominated in the latter category but I do not think either of them will be there to accept if they win, if that award is even broadcast.

Same holds true for the Best American Roots Performance, which is usually announced before the telecast.  Gregg Allman & Taj Mahal are nominated for their collaboration on “Statesboro Blues”, from “All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs & Voice Of Gregg Allman”.  Keb’ Mo’ Featuring The California Feetwarmers is nominated in the same category for “The Old Me Better” from the album “BluesAmericana”, which is also up for Best Americana Album.

“Twenty Feet From Stardom” is nominated for Best Music Film, and if you like music, this is a must see.  If you never saw “Standing In The Shadows of Motown” either, add that to your Netflix queue NOW.  The history and performances are way too good to miss.

I do like Sam Smith-this decade’s Rick Ashley-who is up for a slew of awards including Record, Song & Album of the Year, but not enough to sit through the boring list of  performers (and speaking of boring, weren’t we all just forced to sit through a not-very-surprised-because-she-is-mostly-over-hyped-anyway lackluster Katy Perry half-time show?)  Shouldn’t she just limit her involvement tonight to presenter only?

Let’s make it a rule-rather, a law-that a bubble gum pop princess who is too busy with her make up commercials to learn how to sing well should only be allowed to play one event per month.  Same rule should apply to anything-but-reality people and hosts (yes, Adam Levine, this includes you and your face stubble.  Don Johnson called and said it’s over, move on already!!!).

I am actually refusing to watch this year (read:  BOYCOTT) because the industry is continuing to change for the worse. Between Miley Cyrus even being nominated (and for her entire album no less-UGH) to that irritating trite Meghan Trainor “Bass” song (that will be part of a new Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish in the not so distant future, I guarantee it.  How they got the rights to All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Take Me To The River in the past is beyond me).

I am a music purist so for me the rules are simple:  If you make bad music PLEASE STOP NOW before someone gets hurt (do you hear me Miley, Meghan, Gwen, Katy, Maroon 5 and the Black Eyed Peas, whether as a group or individually, for starters).  If you make good music please don’t sell out to hear it in a TV commercial.  It demeans us all.  I do not want nor do I expect to hear decent music used in commercials with the exception of car ads.  Those seem to leave the songs virtually intact with some redeeming qualities to them.

A good example from this year:  Bobby Day & the Satellites’ “Beep Beep Beep” used in a Kia Sorento spot.  Some bad examples:  The Who’s “I’m Free” in a local cable commercial ad & the Kinks selling yogurt with “All Day & All Of The Night”. The worst use of a phenomenal song to sell ANYTHING:  The Allman Brothers’ exquisite “Midnight Rider” as part of the Geico campaign (one more reason why I want to punch that dippy little gecko in his slithery neck!!!).

But to be honest, the biggest reason why I will not watch the Grammy Awards is because I prefer to remember Sir Paul McCartney, a freaking Beatle for God’s sake, the way he was…….when he had judgement.  That obviously is gone given his choice to collaborate with that no talent ego-maniacal hack, Kanye West (or did West kidnap McCartney and torture him until he said Uncle?  That would make this easier to swallow, not to mention understandable).

Whatever possessed Sir Paul to even appear at the same award show as West is belittling enough to us Beatles fans, but actually working with that irredeemably talent-less brat is so over the line it has now been eradicated.  I did not think anything could top the colossal lack of judgement U2 showed several years back when they decided to let no talent No Doubt open for them for a leg of the tour.  I am still wearing black and taking mood stabilizers from that debacle.  But this Sir Paul misstep may require me to go on a 72 hour suicide watch with round the clock doses of ECT treatments.

But it does make me profoundly sad that the longest tradition of my life is coming to an end after 30+ years.  Music is so important to me & continues to be that it is a part of me, like a dear old friend.  I have looked forward to the Grammy Awards ever since I was a kid.  I loved getting the chance to finally see my favorite singers on TV (as this was the pre-music video & pre-internet age-yes, I know I am old!!!) and the outfits they wore, what collaborations they would participate in and what songs they would perform.

My favorite Grammy moment ever?  Aretha Franklin’s performance of “Nessun Dorma” in 1998.  Unbelievably gorgeous. Some of my favorite collaborations (“London Calling”  with Bruce Springsteen & friends; “The A-Team” by Ed Sheeran & Elton John; “Across The Universe” introduced by the sinfully gorgeous Anthony Lapaglia) and salutes to some of those who died (Solomon Burke, Warren Zevon &  Levon Helm’s tributes).

Here’s to hoping the 2016 Grammy Awards are something worth tuning in for.

Enjoy!!!