Baker Street

I woke up with this song in my head recently. If you were around in the 70s, you definitely heard this one on the radio. “Baker Street” was written and recorded by Gerry Rafferty. To my ears, it’s a unique piece of music. The saxophone plays the main melody/riff, but there’s also a great guitar solo in it as well.

I would describe this song as “musically patient” — the song sort of cascades into the catchy main riff as opposed to the intro of most Ramones songs. I can appreciate both. If I were trying to describe the “vibe” of the 70s, I would use “Baker Street” as an example. I’ve looked at YouTube for various versions and discussions on this song which brings me to the Foo Fighters’ version.

One of the discussions pointed out the Dave Grohl & Co. version doesn’t feature the sax, but instead has the main riff played on electric guitar. The point being you could play this melody on your instrument of choice. Foo Fighters weren’t the first to do this.

When I was looking at some of the mechanics on how this song is played, I searched for acoustic versions and came across a version by… Waylon Jennings?

I love this version because it’s a seemingly odd coupling of song and performer. Other musicians who have covered “Baker Street” include everyone from Rick Springfield to Ann Wilson. Hopefully, you can find a version you like.

Incidentally, the sax riff was played by Raphael Ravenscroft and the guitar solo was played by Hugh Burns. As a side note, I used to frequent a store called Record Reunion which had a painting of Gerry Rafferty’s “City to City” album cover hanging on the wall. (I believe the album cover was painted by John Byrne.) I wonder if it’s still there?

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Terry Fox & Times Tables

When I was in 4th or 5th grade, class had just started, but I was sent on some sort of errand by a teacher. As I found myself walking down the now-empty hallway, this girl in my grade randomly walked up to me. The exchange went something like this:

Girl: Nine times six.

Author: Uhhh….what??

Girl: Nine times six.

Author: Ummm….

Girl: The teacher says you have to practice your times tables all of the time.

Author: Uhh…forty something?

Girl: Fifty-four.

Author: Yeah…so…I have to go the office to pick up something for this afternoon. (Maybe I’ll buy a calculator at the nurse’s office. ) I gotta go.

Basically, that unidentified girl is normally how I feel about “The Google Doodle.” You know, that random picture you see when you’re actually Googling something. However, there are exceptions. Today, said doodle is about a guy named Terry Fox.

Unlike many of the other doodles, I think Terry Fox is noteworthy. The short version is he had one of his legs amputated following a cancer diagnosis and this dude ran across six of his native-Canada’s provinces. He racked up like 26 miles per day for several months before the cancer put a halt to it. I’m speaking in generalities, but there is more info here:

https://terryfox.org/terrys-story/journal-map/

I could try to tell you more about where he started and was forced to finish, but I’m even worse geography than I am at math. (As an American, I’m lucky to be able to identify forty or more of the states. One time, when tested, I identified the entire state of Louisiana as “New Orleans” or “Baton Rouge”. I digress, but I will also say one of my buddies and fellow native Missourians asked if some of the puny East Coast areas should even count as states. “They’re too small. That doesn’t count.”)

Getting back to Terry Fox, this dude was tenacious. Prior to his cancer diagnosis, he was involved in numerous sports and he didn’t let cancer slow him down a bit. Apparently, he planned to become a P.E. teacher. He raised a lot of money for cancer research before and after his death by raising awareness. He also inspired Ian Thomas to write the song “Runner.”

The song was popularized by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

I had completely forgotten about this song prior to researching Terry Fox today. In conclusion, I’m grateful to the Google Doodle for today’s entry. I also give them credit for the interactive World Cup soccer game from a few years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t cloud my mind with a lot of their other things….who created the first vaccine for this or that, who was the first cartoonist of this sort, etc. To me, it’s just times tables and New Orleans.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Futuristic Groceries & Delivery

Have the machines taken over? “The Terminator” film series may have hinted at things to come. It portrays a world where, basically, machines/robots/artificial intelligence start to think for themselves and run things their way. “They have assumed control” to paraphrase the finale of Rush’s 2112 album.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to study this issue, but it does make me think about “the big picture”. For example, years ago, grocery store “baggers ” used to manually corral and round up the shopping carts from the parking lot. Some still do, but many stores use a machine to assist with this process now. I call it the “The Cart Droid”, but have no idea what it’s actually called. I assume the droid is an efficient way to get the job done. Another “innovation” is the use of walkie talkies in grocery and department stores. Does that seem like a bit much to anyone else or is it just me? Who had the idea to implement Secret Service tactics into your average big box discount store? “Clean up in Aisle Seven. This is not a drill. I repeat: this is NOT a drill!” Nowadays, there’s also some sort of inventory robot you might see roaming the aisles from time to time. (It looks sort of light Kmart’s original blue light special on steroids.)

What brought some of this to mind is a recent article about Amazon getting approval for using delivery drones. I’m just thinking it’s basically impossible to regulate drones to begin with, let alone when they are delivering boxes to every other house on the block. The next question is, will the thieving porch pirates have to register their drones as well or will they just use “stealth drones” to pillage and plunder. Arrrrghh, matey! Maybe there are drones with battle rams on them already or a supersized drone which will just swallow the smaller delivery drone in its jaws? Will the drones have cameras? (I don’t want give anyone unnecessary ideas, but I’m thinking a teenager with a Roman Candle could throw a pretty big monkey wrench into the whole concept of drone delivery. ) Which is worse? Delivery drones with or without cameras? It’s a tough call.

Just to clarify, I’m really not opposed to technology, but it’s hard to keep up. Another thing…much of these technological advances are all being fueled by our disdain for grocery shopping (myself included.) That raises other questions….Will Aldi participate? Because if they do, will you still have to put a quarter in the slot to release the delivery drone? I’m picturing this…in the next ten years, grocery carts will be replaced by something similar to the light cycles from the film Tron.

Maybe someone will invent light cycle roller skates? That would offer the familiarity of actually going down the aisles with the futuristic technology as well. There HAS to be a combination high tech roller derby arena and grocery store for this scenario, right?

My only request is, whatever scenario plays out in my favorite big box stores, please make sure to include GPS with it. I’d be lost without it.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Season of the Witch

If memory serves me correctly, I was at a jam in Lawrence, KS the first time I can consciously remember hearing this 1966 song by Donovan. It is a great jam song — it’s not too fast, it’s not too complicated, and you can play the A minor pentatonic scale over it.

I like the lyrics…it’s kind of a funky, 60s vibe to it. Great for altering/improvising your own lyrics as well. I like to refer to the tune as “Season of the Wee-otch.” While researching the many different covers of this one, I found a great one by Richard Thompson.

You can hear Thompson’s unique vocal stamp on this one and, around the 4 minute mark, his unique guitar stamp as well. I counted at least fifty different versions of this song. I thought it was interesting to hear a version by Lou Rawls as well.

In recent years, a less-jammy yet still groovy version was released by Lana Del Ray.

If you have a favorite band, chances are, they’ve played this if not recorded as well. Just a few other musicians who have recorded it include Joan Jett, Vanilla Fudge, Stephen Stills/Al Kooper, Dr. John and The Blues Brothers. Somewhere along the way I read that Led Zeppelin used to play this a lot during their pre-show soundchecks.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Celebrity Twins/Doppelgangers?

I’m sure this has happened to you, right? You’re watching a film or TV program. One character looks familiar to you, but you just can’t figure out what other projects they’ve done. Prior to the advent of the Internet Movie DataBase (or imdb.com), it could be challenging. Even with it, you’re still not guaranteed to figure it out.

For example, I was told I was “way off” on this one, but I have mixed up the actors Adam Scott and Wes Bentley. To clarify, I think the facial hair adds to my confusion.

I think the issue of actually recognizing that they’re not the same dude came up when I watched the film “The Aviator.” One of them plays a guy named Johnny Meyer — don’t ask me which one. One of them also had a futuristic beard and played a character named Seneca Crane in the first “Hunger Games” film. The solution? Both should be required to wear the freaky, futuristic beards all of the time and start going by the name “Adam Bent” a la J-Lo, etc.

The next example goes back to the 80s for me: actresses Allison Janney and Christine Lahti. They’ve both appeared in a lot of TV shows like The West Wing, Chicago Hope, A Hawaii 5-0 reboot, Mom, and I’m going to guess some made for TV movies.

I haven’t seen it yet, but one of them played Tonya Harding’s mother in the film “I, Tonya”. Again, don’t ask me which one. I think most people would describe the two as tall and attractive. Do you think they look alike? The solution is they should both go by the stage name “Jan Lahti” and leave it at that. It would make my life much easier.

What about you? Have you ever been told you look like a celebrity? At various times, I’ve been told I look like everyone from longtime Queen bass player John Deacon (their Greatest Hits cover in particular) to U2’s guitarist The Edge to Canadian actor Alan Thicke. Naturally, there’s little to no commonality among any of them.

By the way, doppelganger apparently means “double walker” in German. Till next time, keep your eyes out for your doppelganger and keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Wizard of Blaaahs

Picture this. It’s mid-nineties, yours truly is browsing the vinyl selection at Record Reunion….then some guy (who looks like Jay or Silent Bob with long hair and resplendent backwards baseball cap) strikes up a random conversation.

Unidentified Dude: Hey, dude, did you hear about that new Pink Floyd thing?

Author: Ummm….no?

UD.: Dude, where have you been? It’s all over the news!

Author: What is?

UD: Get this…Dark Side of the Moon, man….it’s a secret soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz!

Author: Yeah, right – – and the album Wish You Were Here is one for Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

UD: (staring coldly) Whoa….seriously??

Smart ass comment aside, there really was an urban legend that surfaced about syncing The Floyd’s epic, mega-platinum-album and the film with the flying monkeys. Supposedly, you started the album at the MGM lion’s third roar and there were all of these crazy coincidences that took place between the music and the movie. I watched about 20 minutes of this today (thanks, COVID!) and was pretty underwhelmed. Maybe being sober while watching it was my mistake.

It’s a pretty wild idea. Apparently a newspaper writer in Indiana gets credit for this urban legend. Supposedly the song “Brain Damage” goes nicely with Dorothy’s chance meeting with the Scarecrow.

According to Wikipedia, this Floyd-Oz sync is referred to as “Dark Side of the Rainbow – also known as Dark Side of Oz or The Wizard of Floyd.” The whole idea is kind of crazy if you ask me, but that’s what makes it an interesting topic of discussion. Apparently, a guy named Griffin McElRoy spoofed the whole thing by supposedly doing a sync between the album and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. Give the guy some credit!

Oz or no-Oz, my favorite cut on Dark Side of the Moon is “Time.” I think the lyrics are great and the guitar playing of David Gilmour is great. The bass intro is fantastic as well. It’s epic.

I think the alarm clock beginning to the song is pretty clever/unique, but it seems to overshadow the song itself. One time I heard a guitar player say “That’s a special effects song”. Is it, really? I think an acoustic or more stripped down version would still work.

Back to the whole Oz thing…is this what happens when your art reaches THAT LEVEL of mainstream popularity? If that’s the case, then the Paul Blart guy may be onto something. How come none of the five-thousand Star Wars films have made the list? Surely, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” has to sync with Princess Leia and Han Solo, right? Or what about Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara? I’d like to say more, but I’ve got to sync The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” with Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Gladys Knight Feels Alright

I can’t tell you exactly where or when I first heard the song “Feelin’ Alright”, but it was probably on a rock station in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I stumbled across this version by Gladys Knight, which has some killer lead vocals.

I would guess I was exposed to the Joe Cocker version first, but it was written by Traffic’s Dave Mason for the band’s self-titled debut.

Lyrically, this song strikes me as a stream-of-consciousness thing so it’s appropriate I don’t know where or when I first heard it. It just has that kind of feel or vibe to it. It’s been recorded by at least sixty different bands and musicians. That’s the beauty of a song like this one — you can pick the version which suits your taste. I enjoy this one by Rare Earth.

If there isn’t enough guitar in the Rare Earth version for you, check out this live cut by Badfinger.

Which other version would you like to explore? Grand Funk Railroad, Lulu, Jr. Walker & The All Stars, Lou Rawls, David Ruffin. I even found a live version by The Jackson 5 and one by Isaac Hayes. Even Dave Mason re-released the track at some point.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Foto-Mack

Today, the Seventies have been on my mind. For those of us who lived through that post-groovy decade, I have a few random memories and things I miss about it. (Obviously, some of Paul McCartney’s solo music makes the list.) I mean you had your bean bag chairs and bell bottom jeans, but those aren’t at the top of my list.

First, I miss Fotomat. (It was a little drive-thru booth where you could drop off your non-digital photos to be developed.) As a kid, I was fascinated by how small the place was and thought would be super cool to work in one. Ironically, I think the first camera I ever owned was called “The Button” by Polaroid — it was so “advanced” that it spewed out and developed its own photos in a matter of seconds. No need for Fotomat. In honor of how “hi tech” that was, I’m including this link to the Paul McCartney song “Hi Hi Hi.”

I can remember a crush-worthy girl in my junior high class said she “thought it was cute how Paul and Linda always got busted for drugs together.” I guess that tune is appropriate then. I also associate a scene from a TV sitcom called “Hello, Larry” with post-Beatles Paul McCartney. Larry was a disc jockey (played by McLean Stevenson). In an episode, one of Larry’s daughters said something like, “Hey, Dad…did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?”. All I can say is, “Smile Away.”

I really enjoy the electric guitar and backing vocals in both of these songs as well as “Helen Wheels.”

Why “Helen Wheels”, you might ask? Well, another random thing I miss about the 70s is one I’m having a hard time finding. I think they were called Snow Cone-mobiles or something like that. If memory serves me correctly, they were little three wheeled trucks that carried the sweet, sugary remedy for a hot day in the back. They were sort of like a tricycle on steroids. So, basically, I’d like to drive one of those through the Fotomat drive thru while blasting all three of these songs. Grape Snow Cones are my favorite!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Sugaree Revisited

Have you ever heard of “Desert Island Discs”? Basically, it’s a game or radio program where you, hypothetically, get stranded on an island, but get to choose a handful songs to take with you. In other words, which songs will you never get sick of hearing day in and day out. If you’re a music fan, it is a TOUGH question to ponder. Today, I’m officially choosing the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter composition called “Sugaree.

How do I love thee, Sugaree? Let me count the ways. This song has a mellow, matter-of-fact vibe to it, but it isn’t boring to my ears. You can hear Jerry Garcia’s guitar from the beginning of the song, but it’s very subtle. The feel of the song changes around the 40 second mark, but it’s not overpowering. It’s just enough to keep it interesting. According to Wikipedia, Garcia played all of the instruments on this track except for drums. Credit there goes to Bill Kreutzmann.

If the original version is too mellow for you, check out this one by Phosphorescent along with Jenny Lewis & Friends.

Their take on “Sugaree” is a little more upbeat and organ intensive, but I really enjoy it. I also found a wailing guitar version by Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane).

There are other versions out there including John, Mayer, The Persuasions, Nick Barker, Chris Robinson, and Tedeschi Trucks Band. As you might expect, there are zillions of live versions by The Grateful Dead. For me, I will stick with Jerry Garcia’s original studio version as one of my Desert Island Discs.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

The B Side of Beatle George

If you mention the song title “Old Brown Shoe” by The Beatles, I think many people would say, “Huh? What?” I mean it’s not exactly as well known as “She Loves You”, but it is a fantastic song from the pen of the often overshadowed songwriter George Harrison. (To put things into perspective it was the B side of “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”) I found this early demo version on YouTube featuring more prominent vocals and piano.

Lyrically, the song is pretty interesting. The Wikipedia entry compares it to McCartney’s “Hello, Goodbye” in the sense there are themes of opposites and conflicts in both. In “Old Brown Shoe” Harrison sings about wanting “a short haired girl who sometimes wears it twice as long.” To me, the middle eight section is great both lyrically and musically. “When I grown up I’ll be a singer, wearing rings on every finger.” Give Paul McCartney credit for some interesting bass lines here.

Harrison later recorded this song on his 1992 album “Live in Japan.” If you don’t think this song is bluesy enough for you, check out the version by Leslie West (Mountain) on “Song from the Material World – A Tribute to George Harrison.” It’s also been played by Conan O’Brien and Gary Brooker (Procul Harum) at tribute concerts.

The first time I heard this song was on the cassette version of “The Beatles Greatest Hits 1967-1970.” I thoroughly enjoyed the song’s different texture then and still do now.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!