Posts Tagged ‘Chet Baker’

Saturday Single No. 410

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

I had a very pleasant birthday yesterday, marking sixty-one years on the planet with a couple of nice meals, lots of greetings on Facebook and a quiet evening at home. I lunched with my mom at Jimmy’s Pour House in Sauk Rapids, and after running a few errands with her, I headed home, and as I did, I recalled a long-ago birthday lunch.

During the years I was growing up, turning twenty-one was a big deal. It meant – as it does again now – that one can legally buy beer and liquor. As I approached twenty-one in September of 1974, that had changed. In the late spring of 1973, the legal drinking age in Minnesota changed to eighteen, leaving thousands of suddenly legal young folks who had anticipated their first drinks on their twenty-first birthdays vaguely dissatisfied (although they were allowed to legally mitigate their dissatisfactions with beer or margaritas or whatever). I was one of those vaguely dissatisfied folks, and my first legal drink – which I likely have mentioned before in this space – was a brandy and water recommended by my father one evening when we went for dinner. It’s a drink I shall never have again.

Thus, by the time my twenty-first birthday came along in 1974, I’d been drinking legally for something like fifteen months (with about half of that time spent happily quaffing European beers, mostly Danish, in their places of origin). But on that September 5 in 1974 – it was a Thursday – some of the folks at The Table in St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center decided that I needed to mark my twenty-first birthday with a celebration. So we squeezed into a couple of cars and headed to Little John’s Pub in the mall at the west end of town.

After some sandwiches and a couple of pitchers of Grain Belt Premium (a good, if basic, lager brewed in Minneapolis at the time), we wobbled back to campus and whatever else a Thursday afternoon would bring. It was a far more raucous lunch than my mom and I had yesterday at Jimmy’s, and far more raucous, too, than the dinner the Texas Gal and I had yesterday evening at the Ace Bar & Grill. But all three events were celebrating in their ways the same thing: the successful passage through another year on this blue planet and our wishes for similar success as the next stage of the voyage continues.

And it seems to me that the first full day of that next stage needs a September song. After considering Carole King’s “It Might As Well Rain Until September,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” Frank Sinatra’s “The September Of My Years” and a few others, I’ve decided to go instrumental and minimal this morning. Here’s Chet Baker’s 1959 take on the classic and somewhat melancholy “September Song.” Even though I am not at all melancholy this morning, it’s nevertheless today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 330

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

I don’t have anything more to say about “Tangerine” (discussed earlier this week here and here), but I came across one more version of the Johnny Mercer/Victor Schertzinger tune this week that I feel compelled to share. And as I’m a little short on energy this morning, that works out fine.

Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker included his version of the song on his 1974 album She Was Too Good to Me. Joining Baker on the track were Ron Carter on bass, Bob James on keyboards, Paul Desmond on alto saxophone and Steve Gadd on drums. I’m not altogether sure why this jazz version worked for me and the Dave Brubeck “Tangerine” cover I heard the other day didn’t.

Whatever the reason, Chet Baker’s take on the song talks to me, and that’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘I Need To Make You See . . .’

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

In working on a post about the early part of 1966, I checked out the Billboard Hot 100 for January 29 of that year, forty-seven years ago today, and I noticed that four covers of the Beatles’ “Michelle” were in the chart:

By David & Jonathan at No. 36
By Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra at No. 78
By Bud Shank (with Chet Baker) at No. 82
By the Spokesmen, bubbling under at No. 106

Three of them are pretty disposable although the version by the Spokesmen, which went no higher, is interesting because it has – to my ears – a little bit of the sound of Sonny & Cher to it. The Spokesmen, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, were from Philadelphia and in 1965, had gone to No. 36 with “The Dawn of Correction,” an answer record to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.” One of the group’s members, David White, had been a member of Danny & The Juniors, and another Spokesman, Johnny Medora, wrote “At the Hop,” Danny & The Juniors’ No. 1 hit from 1958.

David & Jonathan, a duo from England, aren’t nearly as interesting. Both wound up producing the studio group White Plains, and along the way, Jonathan (Roger Cook) founded the group Blue Mink and David (Roger Greenaway) was a member of the Pipkins. Their cover of “Michelle” did get to No. 18. Two other singles, “Speak Her Name” in 1966 and a 1967 cover of the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home,” bubbled under.

The very middle-of-the-road version by Billy Vaughn went one spot higher in the next week, peaking at No. 77. Vaughn’s “Michelle” is more notable for being the next-to-last of the forty records Vaughn got in or near the Hot 100 between 1954 and 1967; “Sweet Maria,” which bubbled under at No. 107 in 1967, was his last. Whitburn notes that Vaughn, a native of Kentucky, had more pop hits during the rock era than any other orchestra leader.

The best of the four “Michelle” covers was the version by saxophonist Bud Shank, with help from trumpeter Chet Baker. Pulled from Shank’s Michelle album, the record peaked at No. 65 and marked Shank’s only appearance in the Hot 100. It’s unique, it’s got saxophone, and it’s got trumpet, so my liking it should be no big surprise.

I’ll be back Thursday, with – I hope – that brief and puzzling tale from early 1966.