Friday, October 19, 2018

A Window Above: Father and Son

Title: "Father and Son"
Writer: Cat Stevens
Original Release: September 1970
B-side to "Moonshadow"

Twice now, Marvel movies have made me tear up.  The "Father and Son" scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the first.  The second was the "kid from Oakland" line in Black Panther - helps to know this movie to understand why.

I discovered Cat Stevens in high school.  "Father and Son" was one of the songs we covered in our garage band senior year.  For some in the group, it spoke to the very real tensions we were experiencing in our own families at that point in our lives.  In the original, Cat Stevens sings both parts (apart from the backing vocals) but we did it as a duet.  I played the drum machine on this one.

Stevens wrote it originally as part of a musical project with Nigel Hawthorne about the Russian Revolution.  The song was to be sung between a young revolutionary and his conservative farmer father.  The project was abandoned when Stevens contracted tuberculosis in 1969 but the song survived.  Naturally, Stevens has been asked in the years since if the song reflects his own autobiography but he says his own father was always supportive of him.

I found this wonderful reflection from Stevens in a Rolling Stones interview by Paul Gambaccini:

"Some people think that I was taking the son's side," its composer explained. "But how could I have sung the father's side if I couldn't have understood it, too? I was listening to that song recently and I heard one line and realized that that was my father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father speaking."

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Squid Mixes: Martini

Story time.  The first olive I ever ate was out of my grandmother's martini.  I have no idea how old I was.  9, maybe?  As a kid, I adored fruit of all kinds and her olive looked like a grape so I asked to try.  She agreed to let me, with an impish grin.  Blech!  Ruined me for both olives and gin for years!  Fortunately, I have since come around on both.

When taking on cocktails as a hobby, the martini is, of course, inevitable.  However, neither of us is an especially big fan of the king of cocktails.  I've had it on my list of possibilities for a while and on Sunday, my wife finally said "we might as well get this over with."  The classic recipe is gin and dry vermouth, 6 parts to 1, olive garnish.  You'd better really like gin in order to enjoy it!  I made mine from Robert Simonson's variation in 3-Ingredient Cocktails: 3:1 with a dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist.

The result was, I must say, quite nice.  With the orange bitters (seemingly a favorite of Simonson's), you don't really taste much of the gin.  The lemon's a good choice, too.  The following is a video of me, encouraging the lemon peel to express itself:

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Window Above: Eastside High School Alma Mater

Song: "Eastside High School Alma Mater"
Writer: Catherine Peragallo Miller
Original Release: March 3, 1989
Film: Lean on Me
Original Performers: Michael Best, Kenneth Kelly, Dwayne Jones, Anthony Fuller and Steven Capers, Jr., all credited in the film as "Songbirds", along with Jermaine Hopkins who played the part of Thomas Sams

As magical musical moments in film go, this one ranks high.  Context for anyone who hasn't seen the movie: Lean on Me is based on the true story of Joe Louis Clark, a hard-nosed principal who cleaned up an inner city high school in Paterson, New Jersey.  Among his many commandments, he ordered that every student be taught the school song.  Please watch the scene all the way to the end.  Those of you who know what I do for a living will understand why.

Chorus teacher life win!  Gets me every time.

For Hopkins, the movie was his acting debut.  His mother brought him to the open audition.  The rest of the Songbirds, brought together by the film, formed the vocal group Riff afterwards.  Three of them eventually left to join Men of Vizion.

A couple bonus clips below, the first because it includes a part of the song I'd never heard before and the other because it includes all of the original cast members, 25 years later:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Squid Mixes: Spanish Town Cocktail

A Spanish Town Cocktail combines light rum and triple sec.  My recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide has the two in 6:1 ratio.  I joked to my wife that I wasn't sure which Spanish town it's named for and she replied "an awfully clear one."  It seems likely, though, that it is named for Spanish Town, Jamaica given the rum.

It's a flavorful drink.  With the orangey triple sec, a little bit goes a long way and in this case, there's not quite enough to overpower the rum itself. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Window Above: Birdhouse in Your Soul

Song: "Birdhouse in Your Soul"
Writers: John Flansburgh and John Linnell
Original Release: 1989
Band: They Might Be Giants
Album: Flood

They Might Be Giants is the dorkiest rock band of all time and I love them for it.  What can I say?  It takes one to know one.  By the time I discovered them at college in the early '90s, they'd already built a significant underground following.  Flood, their third studio album, was certified platinum which undercuts any act's claim to "alternative" status.  So do the two Grammys they've won.  In the years since, they've found new audiences through television theme songs and outstanding children's music, the rare sort that condescends to no one and is equally enjoyable for both tots and their Yanni-suffering parents.  Through it all, they have remained delightfully true to themselves.

"Birdhouse in Your Soul" is still their best-selling single.  The lyrics are written from the perspective of a nightlight, portraying itself as a guardian angel - admittedly one with limits.  The song is sweet and unapologetically quirky, which really describes most of the band's music fairly well.

Filibuster vigilantly, my friends.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Squid Mixes: Kangaroo

A kangaroo is another, older name for a vodka martini, which combines vodka and vermouth, dry in this case.  Robert Simonson adds orange bitters for his recipe in 3-Ingredient Cocktails.  In his blurb for the drink, he advocates using the kangaroo name so as not to annoy the martini snobs who would argue it's not the real thing unless it's made with gin.

My wife likes the marsupial name but concedes that James Bond ordering a "kangaroo, shaken, not stirred" would sound kind of dumb.  The famous line first appears in Ian Fleming's fourth Bond novel, Diamonds Are Forever, though 007 is not the one who says it.

The kangaroo is really quite pleasant.  I like Simonson's book but it's quirky.  His measurements are frequently strange.  2.25 ounces of vodka?  It's like he's being deliberately difficult.  Fortunately, I have just the right measuring cups.  There are advantages to working in my wife's kitchen.  The right tool is nearly always on hand.  He also advocates "expressing" the lemon twist before adding it to the drink.  I know that just means to twist it but I can't help adding encouraging words as I do so:

"Express yourself, little lemon peel.  Don't let the other peels tell you who you should be."

And so forth.