Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cover of the Week 77

Sorry for those of you who actually follow this thing regularly. I have been nutsy busy lately and have not been able to keep up as promptly as I like. Speaking of which gig 2 of 3 at the Precinct in Somerville with Bill Janovitz + Crown Victoria, and Jenny Dee and the Deelinquints TONIGHT at 9:30, one set each.

This week I chose an old favorite of mine, performed famously by the Ink Spots, "I'll Get By."

I first learned about the song from the record you see here, which I have framed in my "listening room," i.e. basement. It is on very cool gold vinyl, from 1959 (originally released in 1957), and was my dad's. This is a great record, but probably unsatisfying for purists. By this point, the Ink Spots had been around for almost 20 years. This was probably one fronted by original honey-voiced tenor, Bill Kenny, but with few, if any original members aside from him.

I have since gone and collected many of the older Ink Spots recordings, but this record is just great and warm and recorded so well, that it is one of those "who cares about the purists" records. And it looks cool as well. Plus, it was my dad's.

My wife and I so loved this song that we chose it as our wedding song and had none other than my father sing the song at the reception. He used to sing second tenor in group called the Fabulaires around this same time (1958-62). They were an a capella quartet in New York, highly influenced by the Platters, Ink Spots, and other doo wop precursors like the Orioles. They cut an acetate, which I have somewhere. I am currently trying to find out which brothers of us, if any, have it digitalized somewhere.

I can't believe, actually, that this is the first I am writing about this. My father never took his singing seriously, and he never learned an instrument, nor did my mother. But they were pretty big music fans. Not real rock & rollers, though. They were on the straighter side of the cultural divide depicted so well in Mad Men. They were both the oldest of two children in their families, unusual for Irish and Italians, and their younger siblings were a bit more caught up in the shifts of the 1960s, while my parents were already starting a family by 1966. Elvis and the Beatles was about as edgy as they got. They preferred the smoother stylings of Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, jazz guitar, and Bossa Nova.

My wife and I were all about embracing the best of that era when we got married. When I would go down to Cape May, NJ (her hometown) with her to visit her mom and Ed, her mom's beau at the time, we would revel in the seaside kitsch in Wildwood, the next town over, that seemed pleasingly trapped in another era: '50s diners; the crooner Johnny Ray at a cabaret; and all sorts of lounge-y jazz acts everywhere. There was even a real low budget Vegas-style floor show with transvestites at an off-the-beaten-path (literally) joint called the Fun Spot (the neon was out on the "F" and the "T," resulting in the sign reading the "un Spo." The ladies wore extravagant costumes, with huge headdress plumes that would bend over on the venue's low dropped ceiling.

And Ed, "Fast Eddy," as he was known, was a connoisseur of the cocktail, a raconteur who told stories of pitching pennies with Dizzy Gillespie, and of cutting out of Philly Catholic school to go catch burlesque shows at the old Trocadero (where Buff Tom later played), was well connected to the local jazz musicians around the South Jersey shore. So he brought us to see these cats in Cape May called the Capers (also the nickname of the HS teams). They were a pretty versatile trio who were schooled in jazz but were GB (general business) vets as well. They played passable variants of bop and standards. The sax player did the whole "two horns at once" trick. They could sing a bit. In short, they seemed like a good and cheap option to play our wedding.

I didn't want some standard wedding band. But I really should have given it more thought and time. Tom Maginnis got married a year later and had the Holmes Brothers play his wedding, a way cooler option. The Brothers are booked by Chris Colbourn, who now is 1/3 partner of the booking agency he has worked at since college. I should have done something cooler, like that. But I thought the Capers would be semi-cheesy fun. And they were. But...

But (and I think I have told this story before in this space) they asked for a list of songs. I gave them a lot of rope, telling them to play the sort of stuff I had seen them playing in the cocktail lounge. I also sent them a list of songs I would like to hear, as well as specific wedding songs, like "I'll Get By," and songs to dance with the parents, etc.

But more importantly, I gave them a "do not play" list. Chief among these songs was "Old Time Rock & Roll," as well as "the Chicken Dance" and so on. For most of the night, the band lived up to their low expectations and served pretty well as a wedding band. But when it came time for my father to sing, they seemed way too cool for school. They seemed to have to suffer to do this, at least that was my observation, but I might have been overly sensitive. My dad can sing, and I think once they realized this, they perked up a little. But there was nothing but a cursory discussion of key or arrangement, never mind rehearsal. So the arrangement was meandering, with no one taking charge, and the song went on a bit. But my dad was great and it was a sweet moment. We have a picture of us dancing with my dad at the microphone in the background. It was taken by my old buddy, Jay.

The day went on, everyone getting a little loopy, the band playing fine, until I hear, "This one is for Bill, by request." And they launch into "Old Time Rock & Roll."

I hate Bob Seeger. Hate that shit. But this song, of all of his songs, makes my skin crawl. I was pissed. This was my wedding. I was paying these Capers. I tell them to play pretty much whatever they want EXCEPT for this song and they throw it in my face.

Does this sort of thing happen to anyone else? What sort of vibe to I project that requires this level of disrespect?

"Well, Bill, come on, take it easy. Your parents' friends requested it. We told them you wouldn't want it."

"So why did you play it?" I asked.

"They really wanted to hear it. We didn't think you'd mind"

"How much did they pay you?"

I'll never know. But I am still pissed about it to this day. I shoulda kicked their collective Caper ass and sent them to the curb without their fee.

Bob f-in' Seeger. Like a rock, my ass.

I'll Get By mp3


qwerty said...

I'm right with you on Bob Seger. I'm not a fan of Springsteen (I know, I"m a horrible person), but I respect him. He's authentic, even if I don't like his music.

But it always seemed to me that Seger was some kind of failed corporate copy of Springsteen -- a soulless, factory approved, focus group tested, manufactured version of Bruce.

Greg W said...

Like the vinyl pops.

My parents owed a piece of a restaurant down in S. Fla it had a piano bar and the guy they hired to sing said he was in the Ink Spots...had a sign with pictures and everything.

It was almost twenty years ago, wish I could remember his name.

JohnnyHank said...

"Old Time Rock and Roll" is right at the top of my hated song list too! I violently turn the radio off whenever it comes on. In fact, I think the very existence of that song and the possibility that it might be played is the main reason I rarely listen to the radio.

Apart from it just being a terrible song, I always resented the fact that the oldies stations would play it in the 80's. That song is from 19 fucking 79! You don't put a song on the oldies station because it's ABOUT old music. In high school ('84-'88), I was tempted to call the oldies station and request The Clash. Hell, if 1979 was fair game, why not play something good?

I was in a cover band my senior year. We had a weird little gig for a pharmacist convention at the local country club (singer's dad was a pharmacist). We were set up on a 2-lane bowling alley--yes, ON it. We played your standard "alternative" music of the time: R.E.M., Cure, U2, Violent Femmes... Probably not what these guys in their 50's and 60's were hoping to hear, but they hired The Chives, they were getting The Chives!

Part way through the show, our sound guy handed the drummer a note and said, "Play something they know!" the note said, "Old Time Rock and Roll." Sigh. We dutifully retreated to the late '70's and played "You Belong to Me!"

chris yackoboski said...

That would be the song I never want to hear again, along with Paradise by the Dashboard Light. By the way, little blog post about yer blog here, hope that's cool:

Whirling House said...

Let it go, dude. It's just a song and someone at your reception probably enjoyed it (which is the real shame, isn't it). Be happy that you're still married.

bradleyjdor said...

Bill, You have changed the way i listen to music many times. I have been a fan for awhile and heard about you blog from Vinylsidings Show. I have started a fun vinly music blog. I may be green but i know what i like. hope to hear from you soon. I am following you now. check out my blog

Keep up the cool covers
Bradley J. Dorenkamp

Anonymous said...

Well, I can totally relate to the wedding band thing. We hired a band for our wedding and gave strict orders of about three songs we didn't want played no matter how much they were bribed....halfway through the reception they start playing Hot Hot Hot which turns into a congo line of all these friends of our parents. The band thinks its great and plays what feels like a 20 minute version...while we watch in dismay...when we get the video back from the wedding the video guy had cut down the reception to ten minutes of congo wife and I were so beside ourself all we could do was laugh.

Dan said...

We had a DJ at our wedding (on the Central Jersey shore) and gave him a "do not play list," which also included the Chicken Dance. One of my father-in-law's friends went up to request a song on that list, and the DJ refused to play it. You were right to be pissed, especially since you were paying the band. At the very least, they should've checked with you first.

Earthdog70 said...

Bill-I have to agree with you on the wedding band issue. We had a DJ at our wedding in Natick in 2000and he did not play one single song we requested on a list. If only my wife had let me hire Tommy Keene for the event!

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