Category Archives: Music on Mondays

Music on Mondays (1-18-2016)—”Sounds of Silence” celebrates its Golden Anniversary this month

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

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I started listening to rock music in late 1965 when I was in the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, Utah. I was in the troubled youth ward, either because my mom and stepdad put me there, or the State of Utah put me there. I’ll never know because mom and stepdad are dead, and the State of Utah records, as well as the Dee hospital records were destroyed long ago.

Nonetheless, I thought 2016 would be a great time to check out some of the albums which are celebrating their golden anniversary this year, so each month for one of my Music on Monday series, I’ll be highlighting an album from 1966. I’ll only be highlighting those which I own, which reside in my non-classical digital music collection.

First up is “Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, released on January 17, 1966. I didn’t buy this album until 1971 when Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” beat out The Beatles’ “Let It Be” for the Song of the Year. As a Beatles fan, I vehemently disagreed with that choice. But it was a great song so I went off to explore other Simon & Garfunkel songs.

Following is the complete album, but if you only have time to listen to a couple of songs, listen to “The Sounds of Silence” (peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart) and “I Am A Rock” (peaked at #3).

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Music on Mondays (11-30-15)—Smart man….

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As I listen to music in my collection, certain songs remind me of certain people from my past. I thought it would be interesting to feature some of those songs for today’s Music on Mondays.

“Help” by The Beatles, released in 1965, reminds me of Barbara.

I met Barbara at the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in late 1965 when I had been placed in their “troubled youth” program. Barbara was from Bakersfield, California, also a troubled youth. She was near 18 whereas I was 10. She introduced me to The Beatles, and “Help” was my favorite song. Still is near the top of my list of favorite Beatles songs.

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“Something’s Wrong With Me” by Austin Roberts was a hit in October 1972. Reminds me of Mark.

Mark was the first guy that I had a crush on. I as 17 and supposed to be interested in girls. Wasn’t working. Something was wrong with me….

Mark worked at the Exxon station across from the railroad yards, and since my granddad worked on the railroad, I had no problem hanging around the railroad to watch Mark across the street. I went to Mark’s wedding in 1984 or so…. a bittersweet event.

It took until 1993 before I realized that absolutely nothing was wrong with me. I simply had different interests….

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“Pieces Of April” by Three Dog Night was a big hit in November 1972.

“Pieces Of April” reminds me of Sarita, one of my closest female friends from high school. She lived not far from me whereas Mark lived on the other side of town. One day Sarita walked to my house and the two of us walked to Mark’s house. As we were walking down one of the city’s major thoroughfares, I was singing songs. Sarita asked if I knew “Pieces Of April.” I did (of course; I knew all the hits!), so I sang it for her.

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“In My Life” by The Beatles reminds me of Lynda.

Lynda was the second girl I dated, and I sang “In My Life” to her in high school on Valentine’s Day 1972. In December 1973 I asked her to marry me. Her dad, a Southern Baptist preacher, said no. Smart man………

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Music on Mondays (11-9-15)—Only a boy

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

One of my favorite activities on Facebook is reading the memes. Here is one of my favorites from last week:

War is rich old menPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I first realized that truth sometime in 1973 while I was in college at Texas A&M University. In my freshman history class I chose to write my term paper on the Vietnam War. That was when I discovered that the children of the rich and the privileged don’t go off to war except in the most dire circumstances. Maybe that’s why I like Prince Harry so much—a rich, privileged dude who actually wanted to go to war with the lower class children.

In February 2007 when it was announced that his regiment was being deployed to Iraq, many wanted to keep Prince Harry safe at home, to which he replied: “There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.”

Sadly, “boys” is true about the armed services. In 2014, 44 percent of Army recruits enlisted during high school or right afterward. That’s down from a high of 65 percent in 1992. The other military branches are similar.

Following is a relevant song, “Only A Boy” by Jan & Dean, that I discovered this past week. Released in 1968, it’s now part of my vast music collection.

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Makes one wonder why the rich and privileged don’t go to war themselves. Are they worried that no one would take their place at home in the rich and privileged world? Hmmm. Somehow I suspect that someone would step forward to do their job at home. Maybe we need term limits on the rich and privileged. Maximum ten years. Then you have to work with the lower class until your next rich and privileged years roll around.

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Music on Mondays (11-2-15)—Don’t go walkin’ in the woods alone

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Music always has been a significant part of my life since my mom played the piano and organ, her parents played the violin and flute, and I played the piano and violin, as well as sang. Although I have an appreciation for classical music, I prefer full orchestra over solos, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, and octets.

When I was introduced to The Beatles in late 1965, I fell in love with pop music. After I graduated from Texas A&M University, I set out to own all of the singles and albums that had made it to #1 on the Billboard charts during the rock ‘n’ roll era, generally said to have started in 1955, the same year I was born. That led me to Casey Kasem (1932-2014) and his American Top 40 weekly broadcast, as well as books by Joel Whitburn documenting the Billboard charts.

Music trivia became a part of my life, so much so that I won several weekly happy hour music trivia contests in Houston and College Station during the ’80s.

Two areas of music trivia I always have found interesting: “one-hit wonders” and “most #2 hits without having a #1 hit.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival held (and probably still holds) the record for most #2 hits without having a #1 hit with five #2’s: Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, Green River, Travelin’ Band, and Lookin’ Out My Back Door. They also had a #3, #4, #6, and #8. I have a complete Creedence Clearwater Revival discography; I like their music since it’s easy to sing along.

Another group on the “most #2 hits without having a #1 hit” list is Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs, with two #2 hits: Wooly Bully and Lil’ Red Riding Hood. I always liked Lil’ Red Riding Hood and just discovered that it was not in my digital music collection. It is now.

This song, while building on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood,” is more about the man with concealed sexual intentions rather than the animal, although some might say that the man with ulterior sexual intentions is an animal….

The singer remarks on the “big eyes” and “full lips” that Red Riding Hood has. An added element is that he says to the song’s audience that he is disguised in a “sheep suit” until he can demonstrate his good intentions. Note that instead of a sheep’s baah the song uses a wolf call in the form of a howl.

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Music on Mondays (10-26-15)—On this day in 1881

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

On this date in 1881, Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, and Virgil Earp took on the Clanton-McLaury gang at the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, immortalized in many movies, arguably the best of which are Frontier Marshal (1939), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957), Tombstone (1993), and Wyatt Earp (1994).

Frankie Lane sang the title song for the 1957 movie:

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Tombstone had become one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest after silver was discovered nearby in 1877.

Despite its name, the gunfight did not take place in or near the O.K. Corral but in a narrow lot on the side of C. S. Fly’s Photographic Studio, six doors west of the O.K. Corral’s rear entrance.

It was the result of a long-simmering feud between Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and town Marshal Virgil Earp, Assistant Town Marshal Morgan Earp, and temporary deputy marshals Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed. Ike Clanton claimed he was unarmed and ran from the fight, along with Billy Claiborne. Virgil, Morgan, and Doc Holliday were wounded, but Wyatt Earp was unharmed.

The Earps represented law and order in Tombstone but they also had reputations as being power-hungry and ruthless. The Clantons and McLaurys were cowboys who lived on a ranch outside of town and worked on the side as cattle rustlers, thieves, and murderers.

The gunfight lasted all of 30 seconds and is regarded by some as the most famous shootout in the history of the wild, wild west. It’s still debated who fired the first shot but most reports say that the shootout began when Virgil Earp shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest while Doc Holliday fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury.

The gunfight was not the end of the conflict. On December 28, 1881, Virgil Earp was ambushed and maimed in a murder attempt by the outlaw cowboys. On March 18, 1882, cowboys fired from a dark alley through the glass door of a saloon and shot Morgan Earp, killing him. The suspects in both incidents had alibis supplied by fellow cowboys, resulting in no indictments.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corrall has come to represent a period in American Old West when the frontier was pretty much an open range for outlaws, largely unopposed by law enforcement spread thin over vast territories.

The gunfight did not get widespread coverage until 1931, two years after Wyatt Earp died, when author Stuart Lake published a biography about him, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. The book captured the American imagination during the Great Depression and was the basis for the 1946 film, “My Darling Clementine,” by director John Ford. The shootout became known as the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” in 1957 with the release of the movie that year by that name.

I remember watching “The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp” on television in the ’60s. The series originally ran from 1955 to 1961. Here’s the theme song:

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Music on Mondays (10-12-15)—Country boy or alien?

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

On this date in 1997, John Denver died when his experimental amateur aircraft crashed into Monterey Bay on the California coast.

Interestingly, Denver first hit the charts in 1969 not as a singer but as a songwriter when Peter, Paul & Mary hit the top of the charts “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” I guess flying was naturally in his blood.

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Denver was an accomplished private pilot with more than 2,700 hours on various single- and multi-engine aircraft, as well as having both an instrument and a Lear Jet rating. At the time of his death, he was flying an aircraft with which he was somewhat unfamiliar and, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation. Shortly after taking off from a Pacific Grove airfield under ideal flying conditions, Denver apparently lost control of his Long-EZ aircraft. The NTSB investigation also found that Denver had experienced control problems with the aircraft on previous occasions.

Denver made his own claim to fame as a singer in 1971 with his hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

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Not only did “Take Me Home, Country Roads” have an inauspicious debut at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart of April 10, 1971, it fell off the chart for two weeks before reappearing at #91 and continuing a slow rise to #2—86, 80, 73, 70, 62, 52, 48, 36, 30, 20, 12, 9, 8, 6, 3, 3, and 2, where it stayed for one week before dropping down the chart. It was kept out of the #1 spot by the Bee Gees with “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.”

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John Denver (1943-1997) was born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., in Roswell, New Mexico. Maybe he really wasn’t a country boy…. Maybe he was an alien! With all of his songs about Colorado, not to mention taking the last name Denver, I just presumed that he was born in Colorado….

Denver was one of the most successful recording artists of the ’70s, releasing 11 albums that were certified Platinum by the RIAA. He had 25 hits, nine of which made the Top 10, and four of which hit #1. Here are his #1 hits:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In my research for this post, I discovered the following. It’s not from a peer-reviewed journal and has no citations so I do not know whether or not it’s true:

“John Denver was a very talented artist and he produced some beautiful music, but people need to understand he was a very flawed man……very flawed. He cheated on his wife Annie not once but several times, the very same Annie that was the subject of his ode to love in ‘Annies Song.’ He lied about it to her and then fessed up in his song ‘I’m Sorry’, which, while beautiful, is really nothing more than a guy wallowing in self pity for the troubles he caused. He tried to strangle Annie once when he got pissed. He blew up when he got back from a trip and discovered she had cut down a tree on their property and proceeded to cut up some of their furniture (a bed or a dining table – not sure which) with a chain saw. He reeks of hypocrisy in ‘Rocky Mountain High when he sings of development as being ‘more people, more scars upon the land,’ basically saying ‘I got mine, now the rest of you stay away.’ “

Well, some of the most beautiful music is written in response to sad circumstances. Eric Clapton’s beautiful hit, “Tears In Heaven,” comes immediately to mind.

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My last stop was Wikipedia, usually my first stop. There I found that, at the time of his death, John Denver did not have a valid pilot’s license because of two previous drunk driving charges. Of course, one would not want an aircraft pilot to be drunk while flying….

Since I have personal experience with alcohol and its effects courtesy of my mom and step-dad, I’m leaning on the quoted text as probably being true.

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Music on Mondays (10-5-15)—Decades of music

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

My musical life seems to run by decades, give or take a year or two:

Decade 1—1955-1965: My mom played the piano and organ, and her parents played the flute and violin. My musical life began with me playing the piano and violin.

Here is a video of a young lady playing a Fritz Kreisler (1876-1962) variation of “Tambourin” by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). I include this piece because I won a solo medal for my performance of it in sixth grade Texas violin competition.

Decade 2—1965-1973: I discovered The Beatles, The Who, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys. These were my junior high and high school years, so I had only my allowance with which to buy music. Since there was so much music I wanted, I had to resort to stealing music. Remember that I have freely admitted that I was a juvenile delinquent!

This probably is my most important music decade because of the formative years. I cannot pick a favorite song from this decade although The Beatles definitely are my favorite group. So here’s one of my favorite Beatles songs which I sang to my girlfriend, Lynda, at school on Valentine’s Day in 1973:

Decade 3—1973-1983: My first decade after high school graduation, and I was flush with money, almost all of it being spent on music and music equipment. My college years were spent at Texas A&M University in College Station, and the years after that were spent in Houston. By the time I left Houston in 1983, I had over 5,000 vinyl albums and the best stereo system money could buy.

Following is “Photograph” by Ringo Starr, another song that I sang to the Lynda, this time at Thanksgiving 1973. The Beatles as solo artists were important to me during this decade.

Decade 4—1983-1993: This decade was spent back in College Station and the music collection continued to grow. By this time, though, CDs were in the marketplace, and CD players were in the home and in the car. I did a lot of driving during this decade, so I forsook the home music system in order to have a booming car music system. The vinyl album collection stagnated at about 5,500 but the CD collection grew by leaps and bounds.

The Police probably take top honors for favorite song from this decade with “Every Breath You Take.”

Decade 5—1993-2003: This is my lost music decade. My life pretty much was in limbo and without any direction or will to live, I didn’t see a need for acquiring more music. When I left College Station in 1993 with the intent on suicide in Canada, I left behind a vast vinyl and CD collection, taking only 100 CDs with me to listen to in the car as I drove to Canada. Only about 50 CDs were added to the 100 CDs during this time.

I have been adding music to this decade for the past couple of years so I’m not completely familiar with all it has to offer. Smash Mouth is one of the groups from this decade that I recently discovered. Here is their song, “Walking On The Sun.”

Decade 6—2003-2013: My life took on a new direction and, with that new direction, a new interest in music. Vinyl and CDs were losing favor with the public in preference for digital downloads, which made it very easy to sit at home and buy music. During this time I ripped all the CDs and sold them, so my music now is all digital.

I discovered that Sir Paul McCartney’s son, James, had grown up and was doing a little music here and there. Here is his song, “Angel”:

Decade 7—2013-present: My music collection is divided into classical and non-classical. I bought over 20 hours of non-classical music this weekend so that collection currently stands at 1,707 hours and 48 minutes of music and takes me about 170 days (almost 6 months at 10 hours a day) to listen to it all. I do listen to it all, in chronological order.

I have been following Black Sabbath ever since the beginning back in 1970. They released “13,” their nineteenth studio album, in 2013, their first ever to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Considering that back in the ’70s they were considered anti-religious, anti-Christ, anti-everything, I thought it interesting that one of their singles from “13” is titled “God Is Dead?”. Note the question mark at the end of the title. Here it is:

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