240: The Staves, ‘No Me, No You, No More’

Posted by jeff on Jul 8, 2016 in Rock, Song Of the week

web_thestaves_p9a7383-1No Me, No You, No More


For several weeks now I’ve been listening to and watching little other than The Staves. My wife corrects me – doing little else.

Three young sisters from Watford, Hertfordshire. At first glance, they’re a folkie trio, three pleasant girls warbling. Oh, but they’re so much more.

They’re young. They’re funny and funky, sexy and sincere, prolific and precise. They warm up in the corridor backstage in stunning, genetically-matching perfect harmony – beer bottle in hand. They sing lyrics likeYou were right, and I’ve been wrong/To tarry here for far too long/Pick me up, wish me luck/Fare thee well/I don’t give a fuck anymore.” ‘Tarry’ and ‘give a fuck’ in the same verse. And they carry it off. This ain’t The Kingston Trio.

the-staves-eventThe Staves covering Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’, oh, so convincingly.

For three weeks I’ve been going at them, and I still haven’t encompassed or grasped it all. They have a veritable myriad of material – thirty or so songs, with countless fine video performances – festival performances, taking refuge from the rain on a Cornwall beach, walking in the woods, in hotel rooms, radio and TV studios, soundtracks for video art, acting in mini- drama clips.

IMG_0656Three gems from the first album, home candids (in the finest sense):

Facing West

In the Long Run


A couple of video art ventures, also from the first album:

Tongue Behind My Teeth’, a High Noon spoof in which The Girls wreak Revenge on The Bad Guy

Winter Trees’—an animated fairy tale

thestavesAnd a few from the second album:

Steady’ – even good girls have dark dreams

Blood I Bled’, a parable of something. Please, explain it to me.

Black & White’—in which a 1960’s newscaster couple’s relationship disintegrates on air

Nature/nurture. What happens when you have both? Not only a blending of timbre. A blending of blood, of eyes and ears and mouths and throats. And minds. And life experience.

337698_1They can sing together perfectly. But they have enough trust and confidence in each other and in themselves to go beyond blend.

Want to see them singing perfection?

Want to see them soulful?

Want to see them being artistically bold?

I happened to see recently a clip of the very young Everly Brothers. Don and Phil match. They’ve vocally Siamese twins from Kentucky.

The Everly Bros face each other, careful to match perfectly. The Staves face outwards, having each other’s backs, if you will, each projecting her own unique persona. Three young women who come from the same place. Literally.

I first tripped over The Staves backing Bon Iver in their new performances. Hey, any friend of Justin Vernon is a friend of mine.

maxresdefaultI just gotta digress here (that might be a fitting epitaph for my gravestone: “He Digressed”). A few months ago I wrote a posting about Bon Iver, Justin Vernon’s band, especially their performance on Austin City Limits. I’ve been watching that show over and over and over, and you know what? My appreciation just keeps growing.

These millenials are weird. Just as Justin Vernon’s band got really popular, he took a hiatus of performing for three years. I guess he had better stuff to do. As if there’s something more important than fame and fortune. Pshaw.

The-Staves-by-Graham-Tolbert-1“I became familiar with The Staves [in 2012] from an EP that was given to me by a friend. I asked them to support us on a tour and when I heard them singing it’s really like physiological; their sisterhood and their relation. The combination of their voices is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.”

Bon Iver recently returned to activity. Just a couple of shows, with The Staves in support.  I’m watching closely. And there’s this new ‘Heavenly Father’—the five band members with The Staves, standing in a circle around one mike, facing each other rather than playing to the audience – no matter that it’s not Vernon’s finest achievement musically. Bon Iver, with three lovely young women, singing a cappella? I’m hooked, lined and sinkered.

At the time, The Staves, sisters Emily (lighter hair), Jessica (black hair and guitar) and Camilla (long hair) Staveley-Taylor, had one really fine album under their belts, “Dead & Born & Grown & Live”, including songs like ‘Mexico’, ‘Eagle Song’, ‘Wisely and Slow’.

In-ear monitor + 2 earrings

In-ear monitor + 2 earrings

The sisters grew up on their parents’ American records – Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell. We’re talking second or even third generation children of The Woodstock Generation. There’ll be one child born to carry on. Hell, three children. Every time the keyboard on my cellphone gets too small, I remind myself: They’re still singing our music. It’s no nostalgia trip. They’re talented young, vibrant DIY artists standing on the shoulders of us when we were young. And they ain’t heavy, they’re our legacy and our future.

Listen to the very young Staves do a very respectable live cover of ‘Helplessly Hoping’.

But wait.

Listen to them warming up backstage in 2015 on Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’. Could CS&N have done it better, even back then?

And if you want to glimpse the outer limits of Nostalgia meets Aesthetic Beauty meets Existential Validation – remember 15-year old Little Peggy March’s #1 hit from 1963, ‘I Will Follow Him’? Check out the Staveley-Taylor sisters warming up on it. Those smiles aren’t for the cameras. They’re for the utter beauty of the moment they’re creating. Magic, just pure magic.

Vernon, 2015: “Because I care about them so much, I wanted to invite them here [to his hideaway studio in Wisconsin] which seems like such a safe place to them, to sprawl out all their ideas, give them the runway and tools and watch them grow into making a record. It’s undeniable, when you hear those voices… That comes from a well of family, and history and something that you just can’t get. That is the magic of The Staves.”

In Justin Vernon's studio

In Justin Vernon’s studio

He encamped them in his hideaway, together with core members of his gang of musical cronies, resulting in their second album, “If I Was”, including ‘Horizons’, ‘Teeth White’, and our SoTW, ‘No Me, No You, No More’.

Jessica: “It’s very much an album that’s been born from being away from home a lot and being on tour. We wanted the first album to be an honest representation of what we were on stage, but since then I think ideas and ambitions have grown. This feels like the most natural and honest we’ve been able to be in front of a microphone. So I think we feel like this is us, at the moment at least.”

Here’s ‘Make It Holy’, right from the studio, illustrating just that. And beautiful it is.

She also says, “I’m so lucky, to be touring with my family.”

Ukelele and bottle

Ukelele and bottle

If you care to really delve into The Staves, I recommend their performance at Glastonbury in 2015. I think that’s the definitive performance of where they are today.

Are they really that laid-back? Or is that a look, an attitude, a veneer, a cool? For two whole weeks I’ve been to grasp if their homey image is before or beyond the sheen of stardom. I’ve been knocking my head against that question for several weeks now, so I guess it’s a secret locked securely in the nether depths of the female psche, a Xanadu I’m resigned never to see.

After excessively long deliberations, we picked a Song of The Week to represent these very talented young ladies. We went for a slow, introspective song of unrequited love featuring their stunning vocal harmonies, ‘No Me, No You, No More’.

There are imperfections here in the Glastonbury version which you don’t hear in the studio version. This is as it should be. In the studio, the fine tuning of the blend is a goal. That’s their choice—they strive for, and achieve, perfect accord. But they also go out there, where it’s dangerous. With the wind and the rain and the mud and the real world. Where they need guts, not just vocal cords.

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070: Buddy Holly, ‘That’ll Be the Day’

Posted by jeff on Jun 29, 2016 in Personal, Rock, Rock and Roll, Song Of the week

Last week’s SoTW aroused so many responses from dormant Deadheads out there that we thought we’d continue that string and share with you the story about the night I sang with The Dead. Yes, boys and girls, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh on acoustic guitars and backing vocals behind lead singer Jeff Meshel.

The Infamous Bathtub Brothers: Mitty, Bill, Rod (photo), Mike, Jeff

It was 1969, good old 1969—”There was music in the cafes at night, and revolution in the air,” as Dylan put it in ‘Tangled Up in Blue’. Bill and Mike and Me (aka The Infamous Bathtub Brothers) were very active in the nascent underground hippie scene in reactionary Cincinnati. Bill had recently moved out, leaving me alone in the MacMillan apartment building with 89-year old Mrs. Alice(“I shore wouldn’t want to be one of them Rolling Stones”) Wilson. Bill moved into a bizarre 3-floor, unnumerably-roomed home. To get to it, you turned into an alleyway, drove through several blocks of hard-core slum, into a forest, and then walked down a hill 50 steps to get to the back door. The front door was accessible by climbing several hundred steps from some other street, but in those years I knew no one who had the energy to try that. Bill was living there with his Great Pyrenees Mitty and a very long string of transient female friends. So when The Dead came to town to play a gig at the university, it was only logical that they stay at his place.

While you’re reading, here’s the great Buddy Holly original hit:

And here’s Buddy’s first, inferior version of the song:

And here he is singing it live.

Understand that ‘The Dead coming to town’ in those days meant the band and their various roadsters and courtiers, as well as a traveling circus of bestowers of good times, the Merry Pranksters. They traveled the land sowing LSD much as Johnny

Not Bill’s House–Too Many Intact Windows

Appleseed had done his apple seeds. I don’t know what kind of music Johnny liked, maybe Stephen Foster, but The Pranksters were the original Deadheads.


So, they all crashed at Bill’s Place, and a weekend-long good time ensued. A long time has passed, so that must be the reason my memories are a bit spotty. I do remember driving Jerry Garcia and the guys downtown to buy guitar strings in Maybelline, my VERY small Triumph Herald. I vaguely remember watching the concert from inside the PA system. Yes, actually sitting inside one of the very loud-speakers. But I very clearly remember one of the jam sessions, when Messrs Garcia, Weir and Lesh were sitting in one of Bill’s many living rooms, playing their acoustic guitars, just having a good time.

At one pause, I guess I felt comfortable enough with them to suggest a song. “How about ‘That’ll Be the Day’?” I asked.

“Oh, cool,” said Jerry.

“Cool,” said Bob.

Jerry Garcia (Photo by Rod Pennington)

“Cool,” said Phil.

“But I don’t know the words,” said Jerry, looking at Bob.

“I don’t know the words,” said Bob. “Do you?” he asked Phil.

“I don’t know the words either,” said Phil.


“I know the words,” said I.

And then ensued the legendary jam session, me singing lead, JerryBobandPhil accompanying me and singing backup. Well, it may be stretching the term ‘legendary’ a bit. I don’t know, can you have your own personal legends?

Yours Truly (Photo: Rod Pennington)

Unfortunately, this was before the day when everything the Dead played was pirated, so there’s no extant recording of this musical landmark. Just in my mind, my memory, and my heart. I’m fortunate enough to have one picture of Cherry Jerry from that weekend, courtesy of Rod Pennington. I can offer you one version of me performing it alone, but I sure would have preferred to have some former Warlocks playing guitar.

What was this song that Les Dead were so happy to play?

In June, 1956, 20-year old country-blues guitarist/singer Buddy Holly and his drummer friend Jerry Allison drove up from their native Lubbock, Texas, to Nashville to make some demo recordings. They recorded 5 tracks, one of which was a song Buddy and Jerry had written, ‘That’ll Be the Day’. The producer and the recording engineer called it ‘the worst song of the bunch, one of the worst they had ever heard.’ In the alley outside the studio, Buddy and Jerry cornered the kid who had been sweeping up the studio and asked him what he thought. He said ‘That’ll Be the Day’ was the best of the lot. But even Buddy realized that the recording session hadn’t gone too well. In June, 1957, they went to Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico to give the song another shot. Petty wanted a demo to take to New York, to try to interest The Suits in this new sound, to cash in on the burgeoning hillbilly/rhythm&blues amalgam making waves by such artists as Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. It was soon dubbed rock&roll.

Petty did just two takes of the song, and took it to New York. The demo recording caught fire, and in the summer of 1957, ‘That’ll Be the Day’ became Buddy Holly’s first hit, a #1 million-seller.

The song itself is one of the first and one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. The title came from the cynical catch-phrase of John Wayne’s character Ethan Edwards in the John Ford epic Western, “The Searchers”. It’s a movie I watch every few years, and it never fails to move me. It’s searing, terrifying, and profound, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here’s Scorcese and Speilberg talking about what that movie has meant to them. But it really doesn’t have anything to do with the song, which Rolling Stone magazine ranked as #39 on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. According to Jerry Allison, Buddy’s musical conception and playing on this cut was greatly inspired by a song by Lonnie Johnson (b. 1899), a prolific, brilliant, seminal bluesman, ‘Jelly Roll Baker‘. Indeed the impact is audible. While we’re here, here’s another really neat live clip of Mr Johnson.

Over the next year and a half until his death in a plane crash on February 3, 1959 (“the day the music died”), Buddy Holly recorded a string of hits that made him a pop star. They also comprise an oeuvre which over the next half century earned him the reputation as one of the finest artists ever to operate in the popular music idiom.

Buddy Holly’s reputation has never faded. He was a star in his lifetime and widely mourned at his death. In SoTW 002 (‘Learning the Game’, the undubbed acoustic version), I wrote “He’s a musician’s musician. Keith Richards credits him with inspiring the Stones to create original material. Bruce Springsteen said, ‘I play Buddy Holly every night before I go on–it keeps me honest!’ Paul McCartney made an excellent, adulatory documentary movie about him.”

The Quarrymen

The year after Buddy Holly died, two Liverpudlian kids named John Lennon and Paul McCartney took their band, The Quarrymen, into a recording studio to make their very first record. They understood that you learn your craft by copying the masters. Their recording of ‘That’ll Be the Day’ is an attempt at a note-by-note copy of the original. In 1979, Sir Paul bought the publishing rights to the Buddy Holly catalogue from Norman Petty.

Throughout the many 1960s, the Golden Age of rock&roll and rock music, Buddy Holly’s reputation continued to grow, albeit slowly. And it has continued to grow even more since then, exponentially.

But when I met The Dead, even though there were already a number of Holly covers floating around, he had not yet achieved panatheonic status, so I guess my suggestion was pretty cool for its day. The Beatles recorded ‘Words of Love’ in a carbon copy of Buddy’s original. Here’s the 1964-vintage Rolling Stones in an incredibly intense clip of the Holly rocker ‘Not Fade Away’, their first hit. You don’t want to miss this one, I promise you. Oh, and here’s Buddy’s sterling original.

It was only later that The Dead adopted ‘Not Fade Away’ into their permanent repertoire. They performed “Not Fade Away” 530 times over the course of their career, making it their seventh most-performed song. The song also appears on eight of their official live recording releases.

Here’s a recording of The Dead playing ‘Not Fade Away’ in 1973. It’s the earliest version of theirs I could find, and I’m not responsible for the visuals.

Here’s the very lovely Linda Ronstadt singing her hit version of ‘That’ll Be the Day’ live in 1978. I’ll tell you one thing—no matter what you say about her music, she’s a whole lot better looking than Buddy Holly, Mick Jagger and Jerry Garcia put together.

A sour postscript to this story. I once happened upon a discussion on a local radio show of two snotty Ma’arach-voting Dead experts. They had scoured the many data bases on the subject and were discussing how many Buddy Holly songs had been performed by The Dead. I called in and said, “You missed one,” and told them the story with which I began this epistle. Their response was, “Yeah, so?”

I guess maybe one’s private legends should be kept private. Still, maybe someone out there found this story entertaining or at least informative. For me, I’m just tickled to spend my Friday morning writing about Buddy Holly’s ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ paying homage to it, 53 years after it was recorded. And I sure am grateful that 41 years ago I had taken the trouble to learn the words to that song by heart:

Well, that’ll be the day – when you say goodbye;
Yeah, that’ll be the day – when you make me cry.
You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie,
‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die.

Well, you gave me all your loving and all your turtledoving,
All your hugs and kisses and your money, too.
You say you love me, baby, and still you tell me maybe
That someday, well I’ll be through.

Well, that’ll be the day – when you say goodbye;
Yeah, that’ll be the day – when you make me cry.
You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie,
‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die.

When cupid shot his dart he shot it at your heart,
So if we’ll ever part then I’ll leave you.
You say you’ll hold me, and you tell me boldly
That some day well I’ll be through.

Well, that’ll be the day – when you say goodbye;
Yeah, that’ll be the day – when you make me cry.
You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie,
‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

002: Buddy Holly, ‘Learning the Game’

046: James Taylor, ‘Never Die Young’

003: Garcia/Grisman, ‘So What’

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076: Roy Orbison, ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’

Posted by jeff on Jun 23, 2016 in Rock and Roll, Song Of the week

It’s our distinct pleasure this week to shed a tear, grin a big ‘I told you so’ grin, shiver a shudder, and then tip our pompadour coiffure, for one of the acknowledged greats of the rock and roll idiom, the guru of the Gothic groove, Mr. Roy Orbison (1936-1988).

Roy grew up with the same rockabilly roots as his Sun Records stablemates Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley; but he made his mark with a string of melodramatic, theatrical hits in the early 1960s, the only American to stave off the hegemony of the British Invasion.

Although he was a pleasant young man with a sense of humor, he suffered from acute stage fright, and developed a dark and brooding persona, clothed in black, hidden behind thick, dark glasses.

“I wasn’t trying to be weird, you know? I didn’t have a manager who told me how to dress or how to present myself or anything. But the image developed of a man of mystery and a quiet man in black somewhat of a recluse, although I never was, really.”

But the image was only the wrapping for Orbison’s real talent, his quavering quasi-operatic voice singing melodramatic narratives of unrequited love and yearning. In many of them, the protagonist is a loser, heartbroken, hopeless, who as often as not is rescued by fortune from his fickle fate.

He had his first minor hit in 1956 with ‘Ooby Dooby’ for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, but failed to capitalize on it. In 1958, his song ‘Claudette’ (written for his young wife, about whom we’ll hear a lot more later) was recorded by The Everly Brothers as the B-side of ‘All I Have to Do is Dream’.

He struggled for several years in poverty, writing songs in the car because his wife and infant son filled their small apartment in Hendersonville, Tennessee. In 1960 he was finally signed by Monument Records and had the great fortune to be coupled with a visionary producer, Fred Foster. He offered his song ‘Only the Lonely’ to pals Elvis Presley and the Everlies, but they turned it down. Roy and Foster recorded it, and it hit #2 in the US. When Presley heard ‘Only the Lonely‘ for the first time, he bought a box of copies to hand out to his friends.

Elvis, by the way, called Orbison “the greatest singer in the world”. Here’s a recording of Elvis introducing Roy and then singing ‘Running Scared’, followed by Roy singing ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and ‘Hound Dog’.

Orbison moved his family to Nashville, and there began the string of hits which would make his career and reputation. After a few minor hits, they went into the studio with ‘Running Scared,’ based loosely on the rhythm of Ravel’s ‘Boléro’. The session was full of problems. The orchestra was drowning out his soft voice. Foster put Orbison into the corner of the studio and surrounded him with coat racks, forming an improvised isolation booth. Orbison couldn’t hit the song’s highest note without his voice breaking. On the third take, he abandoned the idea of using falsetto and, to the astonishment of everyone present, sang the final high G# in a chest voice. Fred Foster later recalled, “Everybody looked around in amazement. Nobody had heard anything like it before.”

I owned this album

In the years 1960-65, Orbison and Foster had 15 Top 40 hits, including tough, swaggering cuts such as ‘Dream Baby’, my recent favorite ‘Candy Man‘ and the Ray Charles-inspired ‘Mean Woman Blues’, but most memorably by the wrenching operatic dramas of the perfect ‘Crying,’ ‘In Dreams‘ (here from David Lynch’s warped movie “Blue Velvet”), ‘The Crowd’, ‘Falling’, ‘It’s Over,’ ‘Love Hurts‘, ‘Blue Bayou‘, and culminating with our Song of The Week, ‘Pretty Woman’.

In May 1963, Roy accepted an invitation to tour England on a bill with The Beatles, who were unknown in the United States at that time. The tour was sold-out in one afternoon. On the first night, Roy did fourteen encores before The Beatles could get on stage.

(from L) John, Roy, unidentified, Ringo

An eye witness: “I remember the cries for the Beatles as Orbison stepped out on stage. I wondered how he could cope with it, but he simply whispered, “A candy-coloured clown they call the Sandman” and he was away. The audience loved him and forgot the Beatles for thirty minutes.”
Roy Orbison: “I remember Paul and John grabbing me by my arms and not letting me go back to take my curtain call. The audience was yelling, ‘We want Roy, we want Roy,’ and there I was, being held captive by the Beatles who were saying, ‘Yankee, go home.’ We had a great time.”

Roy: “I messed up the first day I got there. I walked out in this little theatre and they had Beatle placards everywhere, life-size ones. And I said, ‘what’s all this? What is a Beatle anyway?’ John Lennon said, ‘I’m one’. He was standing right behind me.” But Lennon and Orbison became quite friendly, although Roy’s relationship with George would prove more enduring.

Claudette and Roy Orbison

Roy and Claudette were building a home back in Hendersonville, but while he was out on the road, she began an affair with their contractor. Their marriage was on the rocks. One morning in 1964, Roy Orbison was sitting in the kitchen working with his songwriting partner Bill Dees when Claudette came in and said she was going to go into town to buy something. Orbison asked if she needed any money, and Dees cracked, “Pretty woman never needs any money.” Orbison started singing, “Pretty woman walking down the street.” Dees: “He sang it while I was banging my hand down on the table. By the time she got back from shopping, we had the song.”

According to Orbison, it took them half an hour.

Orbison: “I never analyzed the song; it was really just another form of girl-watching – the guy is coming on real macho, trying to pick her up, then he tries toning it down, and then he gets more sensitive, but nothing works, so he gives up. Then she decides to get caught. It’s a sort of mini-epic.”

Dees describes the song thus: “From the moment that the rhythm started, I could hear the heels clicking on the pavement, click, click, the pretty woman walking down the street, in a yellow skirt and red shoes. We wrote ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ on a Friday, the next Friday we recorded it, and the next Friday it was out. It was the fastest thing I ever saw. Actually, the “yeah, yeah, yeah” in ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ probably came from The Beatles.” It was recorded on August 1st, 1964. It was on the charts for 14 weeks, at #1 for three, and sold seven million copies in 1964 alone! Chet Atkins called it “best rock & roll record ever made”.

Fred Foster mentions that a tenor sax and a baritone sax are both ‘buried in the guitar mix’ in an effort to fill out the sound. One critic wrote: “This is one of the very few songs to have all six recognized hooks: great intro, catchy tune, a repeated phrase, interesting story, good rhythm, sound effects. The simple heavy beat here simulates the beat of his and her walk (2 to a bar), because when he stops and she stops, the beat dies away.” Hmm.

Roy and Claudette Orbison

‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ was almost Orbison’s last hit before his personal life became unraveled. In 1965, Claudette discovered he was cheating on her, and they were divorced. In 1966, they remarried. On June 6, Roy and Claudette were riding their motorcyles when a truck pulled out in front of her. She died in his arms an hour later, aged 25.

On September 14, 1968, while Orbison was on tour in England, he received a call that the Orbison family home at Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee had burned to the ground. His two older sons, Roy Jr. (b. 1958) and Anthony (b. 1962) died in the fire. His youngest son, Wesley, aged three, was saved by Orbison’s parents.

Orbison and Cash

Roy’s close friend and neighbor Johnny Cash bought the lot from him. Here’s Johnny Cash talking about Roy Orbison (“He was so meek and so shy, but he could really stand and deliver”), and here they are singing ‘Pretty Woman’ together. It’s a shame they didn’t rehearse it in order to be able to do it in harmony; it could have been stunning. Ten years later, the house that Cash built there burned down as well.

Over the next 20 years, Roy had his ups and downs. He remarried a German teenager he met a couple of days before the fire, and they had two sons together.

Musically, Roy languished in a few mediocre attempts to record. Here’s a clip from those doldrum years of Roy performing on Japanese TV. The scene pales “Lost In Translation” in its bizarre accidental Occidental hero-cultiness: “Radies and gentremen, Loy Olbison!” Truly, a clip that must be seen to be believed. And even then, you may think you’re nightmaring.

Then in 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the initiation speech, Bruce Springsteen said, “I wanted a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector ­– but, most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. Now everyone knows that no one sings like Roy Orbison.” Orbison said that he felt “validated” by the honor.

Orbison with Springsteen, Waits, Costello

A few months later, a tribute was organized for him in the form of a filmed concert at the Coconut Grove Ballroom in Los Angeles. The DVD, “Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night”, sold 50,000 copies. Orbison is backed by Elvis (Presley’s) band –  Glen Hardin on piano, Ron Tuttle on Drums, Jerry Scheff on bass, and James Burton on lead guitar. Also pitching in were Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, J.D. Souther, T-Bone Burnett, Bonnie Raitt, k.d. lang, and Jennifer Warnes. The performance there of ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ won the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

(from L) Dylan, Petty, Orbison, Harrison, Lynne

Orbison had been collaborating on a new album with Electric Light Orchestra frontman Jeff Lynne, who was producing George Harrison’s Cloud Nine. The three had lunch one day, and Harrison invited Orbison to sing on the album. They contacted Bob Dylan, who allowed them to use a recording studio in his home. Along the way, Harrison had to stop by Tom Petty’s house to pick up his guitar. By that evening, the group had written ‘Handle with Care’, which led to the concept of recording an entire album. They called themselves the Traveling Wilburys, and the resulting album stayed on the US charts for a full year.

Lynne: “Everybody just sat there going, ‘Wow, it’s Roy Orbison!’ Even though he’s become your pal and you’re hanging out and having a laugh and going to dinner, as soon as he gets behind that mike and he’s doing his business, suddenly it’s shudder time.”

In 1988, he recorded the album “Mystery Girl” with Lynne as producer and contributions from Bono, Elvis Costello, Orbison’s son Wesley, Lynne and Petty, and began touring again. During a break between tours, after spending the day flying model airplanes with his sons and having dinner at his mother’s home in Tennessee, he keeled over and died of massive heart failure. He was 52.

The Quintessential Pretty Woman

In 1990, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere starred in the mega-hit romanitic comedy “Pretty Woman”, which took its title and much of its spirit from the theme song. Here’s a clip demonstrating how Julia Roberts became the quintessential Pretty Woman, fulfilling exactly the image Orbison and Dees had when they wrote it 25 years earlier.

Here’s a nice live version from 1964.

Here’s a live version from 1982. He hasn’t aged much over the 20 years, only the growl has gotten longer. Can you imagine being able to walk down any street in the world, from Nashville to New York, from Tokyo to Rome, and you just growl that growl and the most beautiful women in the world will drop at your feet? Move over, Richard Gere.

To say that there were parallels between his musical dramas and his life would be too obvious. Let’s just say that Roy Orbison made some Monumental records, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to give him a bit of the credit due to him.

Pretty woman, walking down the street,
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet,
Pretty woman
I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth,
No one could look as good as you,

Pretty woman, won’t you pardon me?
Pretty woman, I couldn’t help see,
Pretty woman,
That you look lovely as can be.
Are you lonely just like me?

Pretty woman, stop a while.
Pretty woman, talk a while.
Pretty woman, give your smile to me.
Pretty woman, yeah yeah yeah.
Pretty woman, look my way.
Pretty woman, say you’ll stay with me.
‘Cause I need you, I’ll treat you right.
Come with me baby, be mine tonight.

Pretty woman, don’t walk on by,
Pretty woman, don’t make me cry,
Pretty woman, don’t walk away, hey…okay–
If that’s the way it must be, okay.
I guess I’ll go on home, it’s late.
There’ll be tomorrow night, but wait –
What do I see?
Is she walking back to me?
Yeah, she’s walking back to me!
Oh, oh, Pretty woman!

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002: Buddy Holly, ‘Learning the Game’

034: Dionne Warwick, ‘Walk On By’ (Burt Bacharach)

062: Martha and The Vandellas, ‘Heat Wave’



075: João Gilberto, ‘Chega De Saudade’ (Jobim)

Posted by jeff on Jun 15, 2016 in Brazilian, Song Of the week

I occasionally take advantage of this forum to wax rapturous about the lilting beauties of Brazil, Brazilians (both male and especially female), and Brazilian music, especially in SoTW 22, where I went completely overboard about Roberta Sá and Chico Buarke’s, ‘Mambembe’.

A friend recently stumbled over the Portuguese word ‘saudade’. So as we helped her up, we took a look at the word, which is a term, which is a concept, which is a whole emotional world. Wikipedia describes it thus:

…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one was fond of and which is lost. It often carries a fatalist tone and a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might really never return. …a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist…a deep longing or yearning for something which does not exist or is unattainable. Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” or “the love that stays” after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone

(e.g., one’s children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends) or something (e.g., places, pets, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. In Portuguese, ‘tenho saudades tuas’, translated as ‘I have saudades of you’ means ‘I miss you’, but carries a much stronger tone. In fact, you can have ‘saudades’ of someone you are with but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future.
In Brazil, the day of saudade is officially celebrated on January 30.

A national holiday of heartache. Oh, how I want to be there for that celebration.

If ‘saudade’ has a whole world of associations for Brazilians, for this Levantine transplant it conjures the song ‘Chega De Saudade’, and for good reason – it was the first Bossa Nova song. Let me try to make some sense out of this, for both you and myself.

Samba is a Brazilian musical and dance genre originating in Africa, typically arising from rural areas and slums, and frequently associated with football and the Carnival. Not surprisingly, I guess, it also has a national day (December 2). It includes a whole wealth of dances and musical styles. During the 1950s, a new style of music evolved from it, Bossa Nova, influenced by jazz and performed by students and artistes, more sophisticated and lyric-oriented, more personal and idiosyncratic musically, less percussive. Music to be listened to quietly, rather than danced to raucously.

Stan Getz (left corner); João Gilberto (back); Antônio Carlos Jobim (standing, center)

‘Chega De Saudade’ is credited as being the first bossa nova song. It was written in 1958 by composer Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes, and became a hit for singer/guitarist João Gilberto. We’ll return to the song in a moment, but let’s follow for a moment the bossa nova waves.

In 1959, French director Marcel Camus made a Brazilian film called “Black Orpheus” (“Orfeu Negro“), an allegorical treatment of the Orpheus myth set during Carnival in a shanty town. The film featured music that ranged from samba to bossa nova, written mostly by Moraes (who also wrote the screenplay) and Jobim, and included a couple of songs by Luiz Bonfá, including the famous ‘Manhã de Carnaval’.

The movie was a big hit in Brazil, and even made some impact in North America. I bought (and devoured) the soundtrack in about 1964, when I was a mere lad of 16. Sometimes I impress myself in retrospect.

But the big impact occurred with two bossa-inspired American jazz LPs. The first was “Jazz Samba” (1962) by saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd. Its most famous tracks are ‘Desafinado’ (‘Slightly Out of Tune’) and ‘Samba de Uma Nota Só‘ (‘One Note Samba’). Then the LP that really took the world by storm, and still maintains a central role as progenitor of a legitimate, fruitful style half a century later, “Getz/Gilberto”. The music was Getz on sax, João Gilberto on guitar and vocals, and Tom Jobim (piano and composition of almost all the songs), helped out on vocals on a couple of songs (‘The Girl from Ipanema’, ‘Corcovado’) by Gilberto’s wife Astrud, who wasn’t really a singer but was the only one of the Brazilians present who knew enough English to get through the songs. Her recording sold several trillion records, and inspired her to divorce João and have an affair with Stan. Boy, what goes on behind that laid-back music!

Meanwhile, back at da fazenda. Success has many fathers, and we’ve tried to make some order in the beginnings of this very successful musical style. But it really has only one acknowledged father, Antonio Carlos Jobim. He is the one who is called the George Gershwin of Brazilian music. It is with him that singers such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald collaborated extensively. And it is after him that the Rio de Janeiro international airport is named. I’m sure we’ll pay him a dedicated visit in a future SoTW, so for right now we’ll just say ‘Muito obrigado, Tom’.

The song, ‘Chega De Saudade’ has had more treatments than a Beverly Hills facelift clinic. Here are a few native Brazilian versions worth getting to know better:

The Gilbertos, with Stan Getz in the middle

  • The legendary Caetano Velaso, including a peek at the song’s origin

Jon Hendricks wrote the well-known English lyrics for it, ‘No More Blues’. But they can’t hold a vela to the original. Trust me for two minutes—read the speak lyrics while you listen to the song. I speak no Portuguese, but the beauty of the lyrics speaks gently and clearly, right to my heart. It gives me great saudade for the Brazil that I hold in my imagination and in my heart. Apertado assim. Colado assim. Calado assim.

Chega De Saudade

Vai minha tristeza e diz a ela que sem ela não pode ser
(Go, my sadness, and tell her that without her it can’t be)
Diz-lhe numa prece
(Tell her in a prayer)
Que ela regresse, porque eu não posso mais sofrer
(To come back, because I can’t suffer anymore)
Chega de saudade
(Enough missing her)

João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim

A realidade é que sem ela não há paz, não há beleza
(The reality is that without her there’s no peace, there’s no beauty)
É só tristeza e a melancolia
(It’s only sadness and melancholy)
Que não sai de mim, não sai de mim, não sai…
(That won’t leave me, won’t leave me, won’t leave…)
Mas se ela voltar, se ela voltar,
(But if she comes back, if she comes back)
Que coisa linda, que coisa louca
(What a beautiful thing, what a crazy thing)
Pois há menos peixinhos a nadar no mar
(For there are fewer fish swimming in the sea)
Do que os beijinhos que eu darei na sua boca
(Than the kisses I’ll give you in your mouth)
Dentro dos meus braços os abraços hão de ser milhões de abraços
(Inside my arms, the hugs shall be millions of hugs)
Apertado assim, colado assim, calado assim
(Tight like this, united like this, silent like this)
Abraços e beijinhos e carinhos sem ter fim
(Infinite hugs and kisses and caressess)
Que é pra acabar com este negócio de você viver sem mim
(To end this “living-without-me” business)
Não quero mais esse negócio de você tão longe assim.
(Don’t want this “far-away” business)
Vamos deixar esse negócio de viver londe de mim.
(Let’s end this “living-away-from-me” business.)

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