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WKRP in Cincinnati Theme Song – Extended Version

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Hey, did anyone know that the classic theme song from WKRP in Cincinnati had an extended version? (Apologies – it’s one of those YouTube videos that has “Embedding disabled by request.” Who’s request, I wonder?)

At any rate, there are three verses and an extended guitar solo!

Who knew?

Categories: Primetime TV, Words about Music | 1 Comment »

Danny Kaye does Louis Armstrong…

Monday, August 18th, 2008

For my money, they just don’t make musicians like this anymore:

My only complaint is watching Satchmo hold that trumpet & never once put it to his chops & blow…

These were (are) the grand masters. If your foot’s not tapping when this song is over, call your doctor. There’s a good chance you’re missing a pulse…

Categories: Words about Music | 1 Comment »

Billy Joel Confirms Location of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” Restaurant

Friday, August 8th, 2008

There was a fantastic Italian restaurant on 57th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan called La Fontana di Trevi  (i.e., “The Trevi Fountain”). I went there many times for business lunches when I worked for Accenture on 54th Street and 6th Avenue, and my wife and I would go there for dinner frequently when we lived on 56th Street and Broadway. The place was across the street from Carnegie Hall, the Russian Tea Room, several retail piano stores (e.g., Yamaha), and Sony’s New York offices.

The wait staff at Fontana di Trevi would always claim that a) they served the best Caesar salad in New York, and b) the restaurant was the inspiration for Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” I definitely believed them about the Caesar Salad (made table-side and with a touch of Worcestershire sauce, the closing of this restaurant was a big blow to Caesar Salads everywhere…), but I was always a bit suspect about the Billy Joel thing.

Granted, the Sony offices and the piano stores were across the street, so it made sense that Billy Joel would spend a lot of time in the area.  I always thought it could be true, but I never really heard confirmation of it. Also, I kind of suspected that the restaurant in question would be in Little Italy, since Joel has talked and written about that part of Manhattan frequently (e.g., “Big Man on Mulberry Street.”)

Well, the newly redesigned BillyJoel.com contains a new video section, and the top video on the list right now is a retrospective of The Stranger album, which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year.  In the video, Joel confirms that Fontana di Trevi is truly the location he was writing about.  Apparently, when people were lined up around Carnegie Hall to see Joel’s 1975 concert there, the owner of Fontana di Trevi recognized him from the concert poster, and from then on would get him and his band a good table whenever they wanted one.  In the video, Joel says:

There’s a restaurant right across the street from Carnegie Hall – it’s not there anymore – called Fontana di Trevi, but sometimes you’d have a hard time getting a table, and the owner of the restaurant sees a line going around the block, and there’s a poster of me in front of Carnegie Hall.  And he was looking at the poster and he looks at me and goes, “Hey – you’re datta guy!” and from then on, I was always able to get a good spot.  People wonder where “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” was, well that was the place.

The picture above is a screen shot from the video, and I recognize it as having been taken in the restaurant.

Another one of life’s little mysteries revealed…

Categories: New York, New York, Words about Music | 3 Comments »

Another step toward iPod gold…

Monday, July 21st, 2008

I’ve been saying for many years now that the killer app on the iPod has not yet been written.  However, with the release of iPhone 3G (and, more specifically, the App Store), Apple has moved one step closer to that holy grail.  But not quite all the way.

Allow me to explain myself.  The killer app for the iPod, I believe, is one that will allow me to listen to Internet radio (or even broadcast radio) on my iPod, hear a song I like, and push a button to purchase that song for $0.99 and download it to my iTunes music library.  I call this the killer app, because it opens up something that ITMS doesn’t really provide today – the awesome power of the impulse buy.  When you have a product that sells for $0.99, you want, nay, you NEED your customers to be able to go from “want” to “have” in less than a second.  Make them think about for any longer than that, and most of them will move on to something else, never to return to that fertile moment.

Just as an example, imagine a school bus full of teenagers, all with iPods (attached to their parents’ credit cards), and all dishing to each other about the awesome new song that Bon Jovi (or whoever) just put out.  Now, imagine that song comes on the radio, and one kid says, “Ooh…I’m buying it right now!”  <Click>.  What happens next?  That’s right:  <Click>, <Click>, <Clickety-click-click-click-click>.  Ca-Ching!

Obviously, there are (or were?) several technical issues standing in the way of my killer app scenario.  But, reports are out today that Apple’s new App Store is rife with several music-related applications(costing between $0.00 and $9.99) that bring iPod functionality into that wonderful, WiFi-enabled, 3G world of theirs.

First, there’s Last.FM, which isn’t really radio, but still lets you listen to large quantities of streaming music for free (just like radio).  The iPhone app gives you a link that will let you purchase the song you’re listening to via ITMS on a WiFi connection.  It’s close, but it’s only relegated to the Last.FM userbase, so the social network atmosphere I describe above doesn’t really get to fully spread its wings.

Then there are Shazam and Midomi Mobile.  Shazam allows you to hold your iPhone’s microphone up to a music source (e.g., a radio), at which point it will pattern-match to figure out the song it’s hearing, and then provide you a link to purchase the song via ITMS.  Midomi Mobile is even cooler, in that it let’s you sing/hum a few bars of a song, and then plays a hi-tech version of “Name That Tune.”  If it’s right (and, I suppose, even if it’s wrong), you can buy the song you just hummed with a single click.  Once again, very close, but you still need someone else’s radio (or a good singing voice) to make it work.

That said, if they can do that, then they can do this.  I think it’s only a matter of time now…


Categories: Tech Talk, Words about Music | 1 Comment »

Pictures from Billy Joel’s Shea Stadium Concert

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

I’ve posted a series of pictures that I took during Billy Joel’s “Last Play at Shea” on July 16, 2008. Click the picture to the left to see them (or check out my “Featured Photos” in the left-hand margin!)

Also, for those who haven’t heard yet, the guest stars in the second show (July 18, 2008 – the true“Last Play at Shea” were somewhat different than the show I saw. Tony Bennett reprised his appearance, but John Mayer, Don Henley and John Mellencamp were replaced by Steven Tyler (“Walk This Way”), Roger Daltry (“My Generation”) and the Sir Paul McCartney (“I Saw Her Standing There” and “Let it Be”).

From what I’ve read, the Who song was punctuated by Billy Joel smashing a guitar on stage – a nice throwback to that signature move by The Who. But it was the McCartney appearance that really tells a story: The Beatles were the first rock show to perform at Shea Stadium, and in doing so, they changed the face of American Rock & Roll forever. It was more than fitting that Sir Paul came out to sing in this, the stadium’s last rock show. Even more fitting was the way in which Billy Joel gave up his stage (and his piano) after the vaulted Piano Man, and allowed Sir Paul to close out the stadium with the classic Let It Be.

Billy Joel has always had a lot of class. That finale not only showed his class, but also his deep respect for the history of that great institution that is Rock & Roll.

Bravo, Billy! Bravo, Sir Paul!

Categories: Words about Music | 1 Comment »

ISBS Review: Billy Joel at Shea Stadium – The “Last Play at Shea”

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Billy Joel brought the house down last night. Or, at least, he played to a house that someone else is bringing down later this year.

It what can only be described as an amazing display of talent, guts, and stamina, Billy Joel rocked Shea Stadium last night for more than three hours, steamrolling through his unparalleled music catalog with the determination of a prize fighter in a championship bout. The show had everything, including selections from Joel’s well-known “Greatest Hits” albums, several obscure tracks that he rarely plays live, and a host of other musical surprises that sent the crowd reeling over and over again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

The stage at Shea Stadium was a bit of a departure from Joel’s standard arrangement. The grand piano was still front and center, of course, but the lack of audience members behind him meant the absence of the typical keyboards and runways that allow him to move about the stage during the show. In their place was a full string section at backstage right, and what has evolved over the last few years into a full-strength horn section at backstage left, complete with trumpet/flugelhorn, trombone, and several saxophones. All of this was flanked by several large viewing screens, designed in the shape of the New York skyline, so folks in the upper deck would have a chance to see Joel at more than a microscopic scale.

The show began with the Shea Stadium announcer asking the crowd to “please rise for our national anthem” in true baseball style. Joel has performed the national anthem at various recent World Series and Superbowl games with, shall we say, “mixed success.” This time, though, on his “home turf” with his very own grand piano and his very own sound system, he delivered a rich, full performance of the song. My hopes were high.

Then the video screens came on. Joel looked completely exhausted. His face was flushed and dripping with sweat, and he was rubbing down his entire head with a towel while frequently drinking out of a coffee mug and spritzing his tongue with artificial saliva to stay hydrated. The first few songs, which included Miami 2017,
Angry Young Man and My Life were separated by conversations with the audience, during which Joel was obviously catching his breath and towelling down for the next song. While his voice was still rich and strong, his body language on stage made me wonder whether he’d survive the evening, let alone put on a lengthy, energetic show.

But then, to quote some of his lyrics, Joel seemed to “get his second wind.” He launched into a few rarely performed songs – Everybody Loves You Now,
The Entertainer, and Zanzibar, featuring the absolutely mind-boggling trumpet/flugelhorn talents of Carl Fischer. I don’t know if it was the fact that the sun had set at that point and the night had cooled off a bit, or maybe the energy from the Shea Stadium crowd boosted his adrenaline, but from that point on, Joel seemed to get younger and more energetic with every song. By the time he got to
It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me and You May Be Right, he was standing on the piano and shadow-boxing with the mike stand like he did back in the ’80s (OK, that’s too generous – how about like he did in the early ’00s?).

The hits kept coming, and Joel took special care to make each one a showstopper. He turned Innocent Man into a church spiritual, and Captain Jack into an all-out gospel celebration. The video work behind We Didn’t Start the Fire, showing all of the various historical people and events mentioned in the lyrics, enhanced the song tremendously. Goodnight Saigon was extremely poignant, given the presence of a dozen or more veterans from various branches of the military who joined him on stage to sing, “We said we’d all go down together.” That song ended with chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd, a la the 1980 Lake Placid Hockey Team’s heroics. The aforementioned string orchestra put an amazing shine on songs like
Goodnight, My Angel and The Ballad of Billy the Kid, and the horn section turned
Big Man on Mulberry Street into a romping, big band jazz number.

In my January, 2006 review of his Madison Square Garden Concert, I said, “There were far fewer piano riffs/solos than there had been in years past, but what he did play sounded great, even if it wasn’t as dramatic as it used to be.” Not anymore. Joel’s keyboard was on fire last night, especially on songs like River of Dreams,
Root Beer Rag, and Don’t Ask Me Why. All told, Joel performed a whopping thirty-four songs over a period of three hours and fifteen minutes, including at least one cut from each of his twelve studio albums. The full set list is here.

But none of that is what everyone is going to be talking about.

Song #10 was New York State of Mind, an obvious choice for a hometown concert. Halfway through, Joel surprised the crowd by introducing fellow New Yorker, Tony Bennett, who joined him on stage to reprise the duet from Bennett’s 2006 album, “Duets: An American Classic.” Bennett, who will turn 82 years old in three weeks, hit the ball out of the park (sorry…). His voice was booming, and his enthusiasm sent the already excited crowd around the moon. When he yelled “New York! The Greatest City in the World!”, one could imagine the stadium coming down several months ahead of schedule.

But Joel wasn’t finished. The show contained three more guest stars, including John Mayer, who played the guitar solo on the rarely-performed This is the Time, Don Henley, who played his hit, Boys of Summer, in honor of Shea’s last season of baseball, and John Mellencamp, who played his hit, Pink Houses.

Joel also recognized Shea Stadium as the home of the iconic Beatles concerts of the mid-60′s. He wove Hard Day’s Night into his own River of Dreams, and ended the pre-encore show with Please, Please Me. During the encore, he said, “I’d like to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room! [They were] the greatest rock band that ever was and ever will be!” and then launched into She Loves You, as the video screens around the stage switched to black & white for the full effect. Given the cavalcade of stars we’d seen that evening, I was half-expecting Paul McCartney and/or Ringo Starr to join him on stage (and, in fact, I’m reading rumors this morning that they may be there at the second show on Friday night). Actual Beatles or not, I can tell you that while he was singing She Loves You, my eyes were transfixed on the pitcher’s mound, where the Beatles stood more than 30 years earlier, in front of a similarly screaming crowd. As a rule, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I could almost see the Fab Four appear on the mound, and the effect sent chills up my spine.

She Loves You was followed by Piano Man, which afforded us all the opportunity to hear 60,000 New Yorkers singing along (and sometimes instead of) Billy Joel on what has become his signature sign-off. As an extra bonus, he tossed in Souvenir after Piano Man, in what struck me as a nod to his advancing years, and the distinct possibility that this could be the last Billy Joel show any of us ever see. All I can say is, if that turns out to be the case, this was a hell of a way to go out.

A picture postcard
A folded stub
A program of the play
File away your photographs
Of your holiday

And your mementos
Will turn to dust
But that’s the price you pay
For every year’s a souvenir
That slowly fades away

Every year’s a souvenir
That slowly fades away

UPDATE: Pictures from the show now posted here.

Categories: ISBS Reviews, Words about Music | 6 Comments »

The Gaffe Machine claims its latest victim: Miley Cyrus

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

OK, seriously? I saw a passing headline on the train this morning about Miley Cyrus posing nude in a magazine, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the actual photo. This is considered a nude photo? This is even considered risque? Or even remotely inappropriate? I realize different people fall at different places on the prude-o-meter, and I mean no disrespect, but seriously – don’t we see more of Miley (and just about anyone else) when they’re wearing a swimsuit? On a public beach?

What we have here is another manufactured story, churned out by the Gaffe Machine, so reporters can fill their column inches or air time with another celebrity “Gotcha!” Everyone wants Miley to do something scandalous, so they can news catalog her with Brittney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

Don’t believe me? Every news article I read about this so-called scandal contained at least one paragraph that mentioned Brittney and Lindsay. Let’s think about this seriously for a minute, shall we? Between the two of them, Brittney and Lindsay have been drunk drivers, on drugs, married and divorced several times, in rehab, involved in legal and sometimes violent altercations with both family members and members of the press, and more. Miley Cyrus posed for a picture by a world-famous, well-respected photographer that exposed her bare back. On what planet is this considered even remotely similar?

The ultimate irony, though, was the quote from Disney Channel spokesperson, Patti McTeague:

Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines

<smacks forehead> Wow. The Disney Channel is criticizing someone for exploiting Miley Cyrus in order to make money. Wow. Just….Wow.

Categories: News and/or Media, Words about Music | 5 Comments »

More Song Graphs

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

This post about graphs that represent well known songs has quickly become one of my more popular posts, so I figured I’d pass along a link to a few more song graphs. These are cute, although there are not nearly as many as the first link


Categories: Words about Music | No Comments »

Bill Moffit Dies…

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Bill Moffit passed away on Wednesday in his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He was 82.

Most of you are probably thinking, “Who is Bill Moffit?” Then again, most of my regular readers have been in a marching band with me, so probably not.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’ve ever heard a marching band perform, particularly a high school marching band, then the odds are almost 100% that you’ve heard a Bill Moffit arrangement. He would arrange commonly used songs like The Star Spangled Banner in such a way that they sounded good but weren’t overly complicated, so a group of non-professional musicians could play them. As such, almost every high school and college did just that.

The above linked article says he arranged 450 songs for Marching Band, but I’m actually surprised it wasn’t more than that, given how often I’ve seen his name. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that he directed the fanfare trumpets at the Olympic Games in 1984 and the Pan American Games in 1986.

Good for him. Talk about a legacy that will live on forever…
(Hat tip: Kushol Gupta)


Categories: Words about Music | 1 Comment »

Song Graphs

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Here is an awesome Flickr slideshow that represents well known songs as charts and graphs. Go look at the whole thing, but here are a couple of my favorites:

(Hat tip: Willow Gross)


Categories: Words about Music | 2 Comments »

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