Category Archives: Music on Mondays

Music on Mondays (12-15-14)—Boléro

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

When people find out how large my music collection is (it takes me 6 months to listen to everything at 11 hours of listening per day), I always get asked one of three questions:

What’s your favorite song?
What’s your favorite album?
Who’s your favorite group?

I have never really had an answer for any of those questions because my musical taste is so varied. I do know that The Beatles rank high in all three categories. However, it’s difficult to compare classical music to rock music to country music, and I have a lot of all three genres.

One of my favorite compositions is “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel (1876-1937). Having grown up as a pianist, violinist, and vocalist, I was familiar with “Boléro” from a very early age. Ravel composed it in 1928; it premiered at the Paris Opéra on November 28, 1928.

I’m not familiar with any big name classical music composer in today’s world, so most classical music is a rehash of the same thing by different orchestras with different conductors. That often results in music that is played too fast, too slow, or just right, depending on what one grew up listening to.

In my opinion, “Boléro” doesn’t sound good if it’s played too fast or Quarter notestoo slow. So in my research for this Music on Mondays post, I discovered that Ravel’s original score had the pace set at 76 beats per quarter, but that was crossed out and 66 was written in. Thus, printed scores usually compromise with a stated pace of 72 beats per quarter. “Beats per quarter” means that a quarter note gets the beat, so there would be 72 quarter notes per minute.

Ravel’s own recording of “Boléro” lasts 15’50”. However, in a 1930 interview, he stated that “Boléro” lasts 17 minutes. Thus, I went to YouTube to find a recording that is somewhere between 15’50” and 17 minutes or so. I found a version that is 15’49” by the London Symphony Orchestra, one of my all-time favorite orchestras. Leave it to them to be so precise.

The London Symphony Orchestra has been conducted by Valery Gergiev since January 1, 2007, so this is a fairly recent recording, although I don’t know what year specifically.

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“Boléro” was background music for the 1979 movie “10” starring Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, and Brian Dennehy. In the movie, “Boléro” was identified as the ideal piece of background music for making love. Sales of “Boléro” spiked after the movie was released; no surprise there.

Bolero, starring Bo DerekBo Derek starred in a 1984 movie titled “Bolero” but I have not seen it, and Wikipedia wasn’t much help other than telling me that it was a bad, bad movie, winning Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. In 1990 it also was nominated for Worst Movie of the Decade. I did not find out whether or not the “Bolero” movie uses the “Bolero” music in it.

Now I’m going to take you to another favorite version of “Boléro,” this one by the classical/progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Keith Emerson was classically trained as a youth but eventually developed his own style by combining classical, jazz, and rock music. He is widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the rock era, and he shows it with “Abaddon’s Bolero.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (12-8-14)—Mama’s gonna look so great

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Someone told me that the Christmas season is here. Maybe it was one of the online news sites that was showing me the Spirit of Christmas as people fight to get in the traffic lane that seems to be going fastest, fight for a parking space if they ever get to where they want to go, fight to buy stuff at the lowest price…. So much fighting, and in the midst of it all, we seem to forget the real fighting.

I feel it is my Christmas duty to help put an end to all the fighting by not participating in the Christmas spirit as defined by big business. I wish them all the luck in the world at making enough money to pay their employees a living wage and having some left over to buy that fourth vacation home or that thirtieth car for their collection….

I was going to post some of the bad Christmas songs by my favorite artists, things like “Happy Xmas, War Is Over” by John Lennon, “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” by The Ramones, “Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan, or “Little Saint Nick” by The Beach Boys.

I must admit that I really don’t like any of those. I think they are pretty bad songs. So I went searching for the worst Christmas songs ever. Some of those showed up on the list. No surprise.

I found one list, titled “Stupid Christmas Songs.” It had some songs that I had never heard before, including this one:

“The Christmas Shoes” by Newsong

It was almost Christmas time,
There I stood in another line
Trying to buy that last gift or two,
not really in the Christmas mood

Standing right in front of me
Was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing ’round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

And his clothes were worn and old,
He was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn’t believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, “Son, there’s not enough here”
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I’ve got to buy her these Christmas shoes

So I laid the money down,
I just had to help him out
And I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama’s gonna look so great

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me what Christmas is all about

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (12-1-14)—That one guitar felt good in his hands

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I grew up in a musical family. My mom’s dad played the violin, her step-mom played the flute, and she played the piano and organ.

I started playing the piano at age 2 and the violin at age 6, and I started singing at age 10.

When I was a freshman at Texas A&M University in 1973, one of my second-semester housemates played the guitar. I was so jealous of him because he could take his guitar anywhere with him and play and sing. I couldn’t take a piano anywhere, although pianos are in many places, and I certainly wasn’t going to take my violin to some of the places that Dale—we’ll call him Dale since that’s his name—took his guitar.

I have always dreamed of playing the guitar but never took it up. Life got in the way of doing too many new things, and the new things that I chose to do usually helped pay the bills. No time for new hobbies and such.

Here is one of my favorite songs about guitars and the art of playing them:

“Juke Box Hero” by Foreigner, 1981

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (11-24-14)—Me & You & A Dog Named….

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Some of my favorite songs about dogs:

“Me & You & A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo

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“I Love My Dog” by Cat Stevens

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“Walking The Dog” by Aerosmith

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“Martha My Dear” by The Beatles

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“I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges

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“My Dog & Me” by John Hiatt

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“Old Blue” by The Byrds

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“Shannon” by Henry Gross

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“Old Shep” by Elvis Presley

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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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