I saw a commercial for Time Life Romantic Classics. It’s an 8-disc set of oldies (plus 2 discs free if you buy now) for $120. It’s a long commercial and they have a lot of great old songs featured. Rather than spend that much money I got on their web site to see the complete list of songs, figuring I could buy what I liked off of iTunes and wind up getting maybe 30 songs or so.
I wound up spending a lot of time last weekend going through it, then going to www.allmusic.com, to iTunes, back to allmusic, and so on. I wrote down about 50 songs I thought would be pretty good to have. Then I pared that down to a shortlist of 25 or so and tried to buy them. iTunes doesn’t have everything (it turns out their selection of Engelbert Humperdinck is pretty pathetic, actually) but they had a good bit of stuff plus it gets you thinking of other stuff you might want.
Some of the songs are from the 50’s, but some are newer. One that I wound up getting is Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain and Tennille (allmusic says the Captain (whose real name is Daryl Dragon, why change that?) insists the group was never called *The* Captain and Tennille, though their variety show, which I remember watching during its one and only season, was called The Captain and Tennille Show). That’s just a great fun song and it sounds fantastic on the Tivoli Model Two that I use as my computer speakers. It was written by Neil Sedaka who started selling records when he was still in high school and had continuous success pretty much until the Beatles showed up. Even after that Sedaka would release albums and within months a number of acts, including Captain and Tennille, would release versions of his songs with success.
Also I got Judy Collins’ version of Send in the Clowns. It’s a very pretty song and she does a great job with it, but after listening to it I got to thinking What is this about, anyway? It’s part of a musical written by Stephen Sondheim called A Little Night Music. It’s one of the last songs in the play and is about an actress who has made poor choices about which parts to take in plays.
I also got Danke Schoen sung by Wayne Newton when he was 21 years old (though he sounds even younger). That’s the song that Ferris Bueller sings on the float in downtown Chicago (before singing Twist and Shout) and I love the song just for that.
Another song is Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin. This is the opening song in L.A. Story with Steve Martin but sung by someone else and in French. It’s a great song, but listening to the words made me think it would be a great song for a funeral (a really fun one!). Bobby Darin also sang Mack the Knife and Splish Splash I Was Taking a Bath. That’s a pretty good range, right there. He also let Wayne Newton have the song Danke Schoen. That makes me want to see the Kevin Spacey movie that’s out about him .
I got Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton too. It’s been a while since I saw David Lynch’s movie of the same name, but I always thought that was such a cool song (weird movie).
On the commercial they had The Girl from Ipanema with a girl singing (which is kind of odd if you think about it). I got on iTunes and their snippet of the song had a man singing in another language. So I decided it was the wrong version. But more research made me believe that it was the same version. Stan Getz, a jazz saxophonist, found the song on a trip to Brazil and wanted to make a recording of it with the writer, Joao Gilberto. They came back to New York to record it and someone decided that as great a song as it was, it still needed to be in English. But Joao didn’t speak English, so he had his wife, Astrud, sing part of the song, even though Joao still did the first verse in Portugese. That was the first time she had ever been recorded (and I can’t say I’ve heard much from her since). That album pretty much introduced the Bossa Nova to the United States and the song was a huge hit and still sounds great despite many lesser remakes since. But it was all just to give Stan Getz a chance to play saxophone.
I started putting a playlist of the songs together and added a couple of songs I already had like Bing Crosby singing Don’t Fence Me In with the Andrews Sisters, At Last by Etta James (and in a couple of movies, including Pleasantville), and Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man (in Pulp Fiction). I thought it would be a great mix for Mom and Dad because that was the music they used to listen to way back when. But some of the songs just didn’t fit. Most of the music was from the 50’s and 60’s (Bing from the 40’s) and it didn’t make much sense to have stuff from the late 60’s and 70’s (for Captain and Tennille). Plus Mom and Dad wouldn’t have probably listened to Dusty Springfield anyway. So I decided not to put that on a CD which put me well below the 70 minutes I was allowed. I decided to augment it with some Frank Sinatra. I had bought I’ve Got You Under My Skin from an album he did in 1956 (he did a *lot* of albums, my All Music book which leaves out a lot of albums and even artists has six entries for Sinatra in 1961 alone and on three different labels), but added The Way You Look Tonight from Jeb’s collection. I also felt like I should add some Louis Armstrong so I picked 3 songs from one of my favorite compilations he did.
At first I started out with a random list but I put Unforgettable by Nat King Cole first because I know Dad likes him. But you can’t start an album with such a slow song. So Bobby Darin opens it up now. Then it was really hard to get Patsy Cline who is pretty much country to get along with Louis Armstrong, say. But I thought Bobby Vinton had that same kind of beat and those two go together pretty well somehow. I put Unforgettable towards the end, but wanted something lively to close on. I picked Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, probably one of his best songs. All Music said that Rossalyn Cash helped write it and it wasn’t too long after Johnny had been convicted of setting a forest fire.
It’s an interesting mix, but also great listening. With a few exceptions the songs were recorded between 1955 and 1964. I avoided doo-wop sounding 50’s music, but there are elements of country, jazz, and blues represented. It’s hard to imagine that Day-O was recorded in 1957, but there it is. It’s also music that is pretty much removed from anything like rock (Ray Charles is getting there, I guess) and I think that’s one thing I really like about it. People like Frank Sinatra were still doing really well and selling huge numbers of records in 1964. And then, as luck would have it, The Beatles showed up and it was all over. Just like that.
Here’s the list:
- Bobby Darin – Beyond the Sea (1960)
- Harry Connick, Jr. It Had to Be You (1989)
- Bobby Vinton – Blue Velvet (1963)
- Patsy Cline – I Fall to Pieces (1960)
- Andy Williams – Moon River (1962)
- Louis Armstrong – Honeysucke Rose (1955)
- Etta James – At Last (1961)
- Frank Sinatra – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1956)
- Stan Getz – The Girl from Ipanema (1963)
- Louis Armstrong – Mack the Knife (1955)
- Harry Belafonte – Day-O (1957)
- Bing Crosby – Don’t Fence Me In (1944)
- Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight (1961)
- Wayne Newton – Danke Schoen (1963)
- Ray Charles (Night Time Is) The Right Time (1961)
- Johnny Mathis – Chances Are (1957)
- Louis Armstrong – Keeping Out of Mischief Now (1955)
- Nat King Cole – Unforgettable (1951)
- Frank Sinatra – Just the Way You Look Tonight (1964)
- Johnny Cash – Ring Of Fire (1964)