Posts Tagged ‘Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’

‘Another Shipment’

Friday, November 18th, 2016

One of the things I didn’t mention earlier this week about last weekend’s cabaret performances was my voice: As Friday and early Saturday passed, I had a persistent frog in my throat. The only thing that seemed to keep it at bay was a decongestant, and even then, my voice felt rough.

As showtime approached Saturday, my voice was raspy, and a new package of decongestant – a different brand than my usual – wasn’t working well. So on my way to StudioJeff, I stopped at the nearby grocery store and wandered over to the cough drops. I was looking for the store brand to save a few dimes, but every package of the store brand contained menthol, which I dislike at least a little.

So I went to the brand names, and there were the Luden’s wild cherry flavored drops. I bought a bag, and in the car, I popped one of the drops in my mouth. And the flavor took me back more than fifty years.

At Lincoln Elementary School in the mid-1960s, neither chewing gum nor candy was allowed in class. (The same would hold true when we headed off to South Junior High, although at St. Cloud Tech High School, students could chew gum. I have no idea what’s restricted or allowed these days.) There were, however, what one could call medical exceptions. A student with a sore throat was allowed to chew Aspergum, an orange-flavored gum that contained aspirin and actually did soothe the soreness. It wasn’t much of a treat, however, as the orange flavor did not last long, and the gum quickly became a grainy glob in one’s mouth. Another exception was cough drops; whether cough drops had any medicinal value, I don’t know, but they did tend to soothe raspy throats.

And some of them tasted pretty good. Cherry was the preferred flavor among the twenty or so students in my sixth grade class during the 1964-65 school year, but there was some dispute about brand preference: Some of the kids preferred the Smith Brothers brand, while others held to Luden’s. One of the Luden’s fans in my class was a kid named Mike.

And one morning when he had a nagging cough from a cold, Mike ran out of cough drops. Knowing that I walked home for lunch each day and knowing as well that my five-block route took me right past the little grocery store on Fifth Avenue Southeast, Mike asked if I could pick up a box of cough drops for him on the way. The drops cost fifteen cents, or about a penny each, if I recall correctly (as opposed to the $2.50 or so I paid for a bag of thirty last weekend), and Mike gave me a quarter. He said I could keep the dime.

And from then on for about a month, I was Mike’s cough drop runner. Two or three times a week, he’d hand me a quarter during morning recess and say, “I need another shipment,” and shortly before one o’clock that afternoon, I’d hand him a box of Luden’s cherry cough drops. It didn’t take long before Miss Hulteen – our sixth grade teacher and the principal of Lincoln Elementary – figured out that Mike’s cold and resulting cough had gone away and he no longer needed his cough drops. And after a little further observation on her part, we were busted.

I don’t think the disciplinary outcomes were too severe. I imagine our parents were called, but I truly don’t remember, which tells me that there were no major penalties. I just stopped buying cough drops for Mike. And I had to quit buying whatever it was that I bought with the ten cents I’d netted from each shipment (most likely Sour Grapes bubble gum, one of my favorites of the time).

And just to throw some music out there that has a temporal (and flavorful) connection to my tale, here’s “Up Cherry Street” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. It’s from the 1964 album South of the Border, and it wound up as the B-side of the “South of the Border” single in 1965. The single didn’t hit the Billboard charts, but the album went to No. 6.

More Chart Digging, August 1969

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Yesterday, as we dug in the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100 released August 23, 1969, we pulled out Henry Mancini’s truncated version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” At the same time, we ran across five other records in that Bubbling Under section that seemed worth notice, if not exactly deserving of more attention than they got forty-five years ago.

The New Colony Six kind of baffles me. They had two medium-sized hits – “I Will Always Think About You” (No. 22) and “Things I’d Like To Say” (No. 16) – in 1968, but I have no recollection from the time of having ever heard the records or having even heard of the group. Admittedly, I wasn’t listening to Top 40 very avidly in 1968, but it was all around me, and most records of the time were familiar to me in later years when I finally was catching up. So I was a little taken aback in the early 1970s when a couple of college friends sang the praises of the group and I had no clue what they were talking about. Ah, well, I’ve been clueless plenty of other times in this life, too, so we’ll just note that the New Colony Six’s “I Want You To Know” was parked at No. 105 during this week in August 1969; it would eventually climb to No. 65.

Just below that, at No. 106, the Isley Brothers were offering the world the notion that “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” The thundering, almost lumbering “Black Berries – Pt. 1” was ostensibly about life in the berry patch as the Isleys grew up in Cincinnati, but the just-naughty-enough tagline was perfect for an era during which racial attitudes and sexual mores were changing rapidly and becoming suitable topics for (slyly coded) pieces of pop culture. The record made it to No. 79, one of more than fifty records the Isleys – in various combinations – put in or near the Hot 100 between 1959 and 2004.

As I noted a couple of years ago, Marva Whitney was a soul/R&B singer from Kansas City, Kansas, who toured between 1967 and 1970 as a featured performer in the James Brown Review. She recorded a fair number of singles during that time and on into the 1970s, with most of them released on the King label. Earlier in 1969, the Brown-produced “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To),” an answer record to the Isleys’ “It’s Your Thing,” went to No. 82 (No. 19, R&B). In late August, “Things Got To Get Better (Get Together)” – also a Brown production – was sitting at No. 112; it would move up only two more spots, but it would get to No. 22 on the R&B chart.

By August 1969, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass had not had a Top 40 hit since “A Banda” went to No. 35 in September 1967. (“This Guy’s In Love With You,” which went to No. 1 in the spring of 1968, was credited to Alpert alone.) And a summer 1969 cover of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” didn’t do it for Alpert and his men. The record, which was sitting at No. 118 forty-five years ago this week, isn’t all that great and actually seems kind of joyless, which to me is the antithesis of the best TJB records. It would spend one more week at No. 118 and then go away for good.

In the spring of 1969, long-time band leader and arranger Dick Hyman had a mild hit (No. 38) with “The Minotaur,” a synthesizer piece credited to “Dick Hyman & His Electric Eclectics.” The record was three minutes of the kind of noodling that ends Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1970 single, “Lucky Man.” Hyman stayed with the synthesizer as the summer came on, releasing the album The Age Of Electronicus, from which he offered “Aquarius” as a single, which was okay, if you like a healthy dose of R2-D2 with your music. Forty-five years ago this week, Hyman’s “Aquarius” was at No. 126. It got no higher.

‘Lips As Bright As Flame . . .’

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been listening to various versions of the tune “Tangerine,” a song that came to the attention of my generation via the 1975 version by the Salsoul Orchestra. Pulled from the orchestra’s first, self-titled album, a single of the tune went to No. 18 in early 1976.

The song came to mind earlier this week when I followed a link to that YouTube video provided by jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. As I listened, I nodded in recognition, knowing that I most likely heard the single by the Salsoul Orchestra in early 1976, but I had an inkling that I’d heard the song before that, in a much slower tempo. So I went digging.

The song, as I also noted yesterday, was written by Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger for a 1942 movie. In that movie, The Fleet’s In, the song was performed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra with vocals by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell.

(I don’t care much for Eberly’s crooning, but among at least some singers, that was the style in vogue at the time. On the other hand, given the aesthetic of the times, I thought O’Connell nailed it. And although this arrangement didn’t give him much room to work with, Dorsey could play.)

Since then, “Tangerine” has been covered frequently. The listings at Second Hand Songs and at ASCAP show more than 140 performers and groups who have recorded the song. The listing at ASCAP isn’t searchable by year, but the earliest version of “Tangerine” listed at Second Hand Songs is the 1941 recording by Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra; the most recent recording listed is the 2007 version by saxophonists Harry Allen and Joe Temperley with John Bunch, Greg Cohen and Jake Hanna on the album Cocktails for Two. Among the performers whose names I recognized were Ferrante & Teicher, Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck , Harry Connick Jr., Al Caiola, Dr. John (who covered the tune on Mercernary, his 2006 album of songs by Johnny Mercer), Stéphane Grappelli, George Shearing, Lawrence Welk, Bobby Troup, Peter Nero and Toots Thielemans.

I’ve heard a few of those. I like Bennett’s version, but I don’t care for Connick’s. What I heard of Dr. John’s take on the tune (and Mercernary has gone on my want list) was good. Brubeck released numerous live versions of “Tangerine,” and I think the one I heard was from a 1958 performance in Copenhagen, Denmark. I wasn’t blown away, but that says more about me and my relationship with 1950s jazz than about anything else. I do like Grapelli’s 1971 version and, of course, I like the version I posted yesterday by Eliane Elias. And one of the best among the covers I found is the version that Frank Sinatra did for his 1962 album, Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass.

Still, I knew that none of those was the version of “Tangerine” that I’d heard first, and I kept scanning the lists at Second Hand Songs and ASCAP until I finally noticed a name that made sense. And that brought me back to the languid, tropical version of “Tangerine” that I first heard in 1965 or so when I listened to my copy of Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.

Video by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass replaced November 11, 2013.