Category Archives: Music on Mondays

Music on Mondays (11-17-14)—With a little help from my friends

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

A couple of days ago a friend posted on Facebook that he was at the beach alone “like a loser.” Fortunately, he deleted it within minutes. He doesn’t live far from me, so he could have come over and played a game of chess!

That reminded me of the time when I was 11 and wanted to go out with friends on a Saturday afternoon. My wise old grandmother said no; she had every reason to say no since she had just adopted a juvenile delinquent—me!

I had to spend the day alone, or as I thought at the time, “lonely.”

As I continued to complain about being lonely, she finally said to me, “There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. If you are lonely, turn that loneliness into an opportunity to be alone.”

I didn’t know what she meant then—I was 11 and wanted to be with my friends!—but I do now. Heck, there are times when I’m with a huge group of people and feel very lonely.

I thought for today’s Music on Mondays I’d look at some good songs about being alone and loneliness.

“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen

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“Circle of One” by Oleta Adams

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“Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol

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“Killing Loneliness” by HIM

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“Lonely People” by America

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“One” by Three Dog Night

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“Pretend That You’re Alone” by Keane

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“You’re Only Lonely” by J.D. Souther

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And that lets me end with this solution by The Beatles:

“With A Little Help From My Friends”

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Music on Mondays (11-10-14)—Just another manic Monday

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

When my wise old grandmother was helping me set up my typing business in 1966—I was 11—I asked her about working on Sundays. I had two reasons for that: (1) She was a devout Catholic, and (2) my typing business would be focused on Texas A&I University students. Students often have many papers due on Monday but they don’t start working on those papers until noon on Sunday.

She taught me that every day is an opportunity to earn money, take a vacation, and spend time with myself. In other words, she taught me how to schedule things. For 48 years, I have scheduled my life. Each day has opportunities to make money, a little vacation, and time to myself. I use Excel for all that scheduling in today’s world.

“Every day” includes weekend days and holidays, no exceptions. Such scheduling has allowed me to make myself available 24/7 to my Clients without getting burned out on anything. I have never felt a need to “look forward to the weekend,” wonder “when is Friday going to get here?” or be all sad and depressed because the holiday or weekend is coming to an end….

And I never had a Manic Monday.

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Music on Mondays (11-3-14)—Vote for me; I wanna be elected!

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Tomorrow is Election Day 2014, so I thought I’d give you some music to vote by for today’s Music on Mondays.

Although there are lots of political songs (see basically the whole Neil Young music catalog), I could only find two songs about voting.

If any readers know of others, please leave a comment.

“Elected” by Alice Cooper, 1973

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“Vote For Me” by Joe Walsh, 1992

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Music On Mondays (10-27-14)—Breaking yourself of singing with your eyes closed

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I have been collecting music since I was 11. My wise old grandmother gave me a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder for my birthday. She did not like it, though, when I was up at 3:00 in the morning recording songs off the radio. Forty-eight years later and I’m still up at 3:00 in the morning listening to music….

It should be no surprise, then, that music brings back memories. In fact, I define many events in my life by what music was playing at the time.

Even some friends are remembered whenever certain songs come on. For example, my first kiss was in the living room of my wise old grandmother’s house with “Hey Jude” by The Beatles playing on the radio.

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My first live rock ‘n’ roll concert occurred in Corpus Christi, Texas, when I went to see The Byrds and Dr. John. That also happens to be the first, last, and only time that I smoked a joint. Nasty stuff…. Because of that, every time I listen to “Eight Miles High” by The Byrds, I’m transported back in time to the Coliseum in Corpus Christi.

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My first college roommate, with whom I got along disastrously and moved out after one semester, will always be remembered when “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin is playing. He played that song endlessly, starting at 6:00 a.m. and ending at midnight. Never was I so happy as when either of us had to go to class. Such a sad time is remembered by such a great song.

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My first concert in Houston was at The Summit—Paul McCartney & Wings for their “Wings Over America” Tour. As usual with Paul McCartney—still—the concert was long and I had to get back to College Station for classes the next morning. I decided to leave during the clapping for an encore. However, the encore came as I was walking to the exit, and it was a song with which I was not familiar: “Soily.” “Soily” was the B side of the single “Maybe I’m Amazed” but I had quit collecting 45 singles by that time and did not know about the song. Here is the live version from the “Wings Over America” album:

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My last concert before graduating from Texas A&M University was Chicago and Jackson Browne. Three friends and I drove 90 miles from College Station to Houston listening to Chicago and Jackson Browne. I was unfamiliar with Jackson Browne but I liked what I was hearing. I asked who it was, and Richard Scruggs said, “Jackson Browne.” To which I responded, “Jackson who?” Richard’s still a good friend courtesy of Facebook, and whenever I listen to Jackson Browne, all I have to do is post on Facebook “Jackson who?” and Richard understands that I’m thinking of him. Here is “The Pretender,” title track from his classic 1976 album of the same name.

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While Jim and I were dating, I regularly sent him postcards and letters with snippets of songs by The Beatles. The song that most reminds me of my husband of 20½ years (our wedding anniversary is October 30!) is The Beatles’ “In My Life.”

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For the past six months, Julian Rey Saenz worked with me at Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos. He plays the guitar and sings, although he sings with his eyes closed. He claims that he doesn’t, but I now have proof from a performance a few days ago:

Julian Rey Saenz

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is more where that came from, including a 6:47 video which has eyes open for only 0:13. Julian, you can do better!

I used to sing with my eyes closed, too, when I was with a Beatles cover band in College Station in the mid-1980s…. Until a Houston friend, Bill Bammel, came to one of my performances with his video camera. He pointed it out to me, and told me how to break myself: Practice singing in front of a mirror because it’s virtually impossible to be in front of a mirror with your eyes closed. Thus you’ll sing and subconsciously keep your eyes open to watch yourself. Do it enough, and it becomes a habit that carries over to performances.

Julian Rey SaenzThe whole purpose of singing with your eyes open, especially in small, intimate settings, is to make eye contact with your audience, some of whom often are sitting just feet away from you. The more eye contact you make, the better the tips, and the more performances you’ll find yourself doing because people like eye contact in those small settings.

Practice makes perfect. Yes, tips and invitations to perform increased when I started singing with my eyes open. It worked for me, and I think it can work for Julian. Nonetheless….

I’m pretty sure Julian knows the guitar chords and words to every Beatles song ever, including some of the alternate stuff that showed up on the three Anthology CDs of the late 1990s. It won’t be a Beatles song by which I remember Julian, though. Instead, it will be a song by The White Stripes, a group that Julian introduced me to. Here’s my favorite:

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Music on Mondays (10-20-14)—All is now right with the world

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Music has been an integral part of my life since I was two years old.

My maternal grandmother played the flute, my maternal grandfather played the violin, and my mom played the piano and organ.

Mom started her children on piano lessons when they reached age two, with her as the teacher. When we entered first grade, we had to choose a second instrument. I chose the violin. That was in Brigham City, Utah, in 1962.

I took a greater interest in the violin; my last piano recital was at our neighborhood Mormon church in Brigham City, but I have no idea what pieces I played. Here’s the church, though, which I tracked down using Google Maps, Google Street View, and Google Images:

Mormon church in Brigham City Utah stamp

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Although I don’t remember my first violin recital, I do remember the first medal I won for my violin playing. The medal still hangs on my office bulletin board. Looks like this:

UIL violin solo medal

That was in the eighth grade in the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) competition. Sadly, when I went off to college at Texas A&M University, my wise old grandmother sold all of my personal belongings that I left behind, including my other medals from grades 9-12. This first medal, then, is the only one I have left because it has always stayed with me.

Of course, we got comments on our performance:

UIL violion solo comments

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“Stand up straight hold your violin up!
Leggiero means off the string (bounce)
You pay no attention to dots
d# in meas 68 also 92
This is just barely a I performance
make an effort to solve all the problems next year
You are on the right track”

The piece I played was “Tambourin” by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), one of the most important French composers and music theorists from the Baroque era. The comment sheet adds “Kreisler” to Rameau’s name, probably meaning that I played a variation by Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962).

Here is a performance of the piece that I found on YouTube:

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I searched for decades to find that piece, but all I could remember was Fritz Kreisler. I looked at hundreds of sheet music and listened to YouTube videos but could never find it, obviously because the composer was Rameau rather than Kreisler. Not until recently when I was exploring some of my old treasure chests did I find the comment sheet with the title and composer names. All is now right with the world….

I continued to play violin until April 1993 when I moved to San Diego unexpectedly. My orchestra career including playing with the Texas A&I University Symphony while still in high school, the Corpus Christi Symphony in 12th grade, the Houston Symphony for six months in 1973-1974, and the Brazos Valley Symphony in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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Music on Mondays (10-13-14): The only thing you done was yesterday

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

If you’ve been around rock ‘n’ roll music as long as I have, you’re probably familiar with The Beatles, and if you’re familiar with The Beatles, you probably know that their breakup in 1970 was rather nasty, especially between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. That nastiness continued until Lennon took a break from music when Sean was born on October 9, 1975.

Lennon believed that McCartney’s song “Too Many People,” from 1971′s “Ram” album, reeled off a laundry list of complaints directed at him, including most specifically the line, “too many people preaching practices.” Lennon hit back, and he hit back hard with “How Do You Sleep?” from Lennon’s 1971 masterpiece album, “Imagine.”

Here are the lyrics to “How Do You Sleep?”

So Sgt. pepper took you by surprise
You better see right through that mother’s eyes
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was  in your head
How do you sleep?
Ah how do you sleep at night?
You live with straights who tell you, you was king
Jump when your mamma tell you anything
The only thing you done was yesterday
and since you’ve gone it’s just another day
How do you sleep?
Ah how do you sleep at night?
A pretty face may last a year or two
but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do
The sound you make is Muzak to my ears
You must have learned something all those years
How do you sleep?
Ah how do you sleep at night?

The whole song is one big dig at McCartney.

“Those freaks was right when they said you dead” is a reference to the “Paul is dead” hoax of 1967 (and onward).

“The only thing you done was yesterday [a reference to The Beatles' 1965 classic "Yesterday," written and sung by McCartney] and since you’ve gone it’s just another day [a reference to McCartney's 1971 classic "Another Day"]. Since McCartney’s “sound … is Muzak to my ears,” at least we know he liked “Another Day.”

Here are “Yesterday,” “Another Day,” “Too Many People,” and “How Do You Sleep?”.

“Yesterday” by The Beatles, 1965
One of the most covered songs in history
with over 2,200 cover versions so far.

“Another Day” by Paul McCartney, 1971

“Too Many People” by Paul & Linda McCartney, 1971

“How Do You Sleep?” by John Lennon, 1971

There is much more, with each artist getting in digs at the other up until Lennon’s sabbatical beginning in October 1975.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (10-5-14)—Once upon a time there was light in my life

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

When I was a freshman at Texas A&M University in 1973, I discovered Joel Whitburn. He has been publishing books since 1970 which detail the various Billboard music and video charts.

Through his research, I discovered that the rock ‘n’ roll generation was considered to have begun in 1955 with “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets.

Forty years later and there is some disagreement about when rock ‘n’ roll started, and which song started it, but I still like 1955 since that’s the same year I was born!

Up until around 2007, I had a vinyl, cassette, CD, or digital copy of every #1 single and #1 album since 1955. I gave up that enterprise when too many rap and hip hop songs and albums became #1. I dislike intensely so-called music that uses vulgarity and other crudity to (try to) entertain or (try to) get a message across. Just don’t like it.

This evening I was wondering what song was #1 on October 6 in 1955. That led me to a really cool web site where you can look up any #1 song on any date for the United States and Great Britain. How I love the Internet and Google, but I bet the sale of Joel Whitburn’s books has suffered. Anyways….

I plugged in October 6, 1955, and it gave me the #1 song on October 6 for every year.

In looking at the list, I have all the October 6 #1 songs from 1955 to 1985. After 1985, I only have two songs: “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake (1987) and “Candle in the Wind 1997/Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John (1997). The Beatles (my favorite group) have two songs on the list: “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude.”

The song that jumps out at me, though, is “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler (1983). That song was always playing on the radio in 1983 but none of the announcers would tell me the title of the song or the artist.

By the time it had faded into radio play history, I had forgotten about it, and I didn’t rediscover it until 1995. I had been in San Diego for two years but was visiting a friend in Huntsville, Texas, 45 miles north of Houston. The song came on the radio and I commented that I sure wish I knew the song title or artist. My friend—we’ll call him Eric Swanson since that’s his name—said, That’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. Fifteen minutes later and we stopped at Huntsville largest record store where I found, and bought, the CD, “Faster Than The Speed Of Light.”

There are several versions of the song, ranging from short for radio air play to the longer album version. Here’s the album version:

Bonnie Tyler is from Wales, and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is her biggest hit. It reached#1 in several countries, making her the first and only Welsh singer to reach the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. With sales in excess of nine million copies, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is one of the best-selling singles of all time.

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