If I Could Only Take One

My desert island tune by Los Lobos

It’s Wednesday and time again for another imaginary trip to a desert island. And that also means I have to pick a song I would take with me by an artist or band I like but haven’t written about or only rarely covered. Thank goodness I don’t have to do this in real life – I’d go nuts with one song only and the other “rules”.

I’m doing this little exercise in alphabetic order and I’m up to “l”. Artists/ bands in my music library, who start with that letter, include Larkin Poe, Cindy Lauper, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others. And my pick are Los Lobos and Kiko and the Lavender Moon, a really cool tune I wouldn’t have picked without the above restrictions. Frankly, this was a tough decision for me, since I still don’t know the band from East L.A. very well.

Kiko and the Lavender Moon appeared on the band’s sixth studio album Kiko released in May 1992. The tune was written by co-founding members David Hildago (guitars, accordion, violin, banjo, piano, percussion, vocals) and Louie Pérez (drums, vocals, guitars, percussion). Both remain part of the group’s present line-up. I dig the vibe of this tune, though it’s tricky to characterize. I can hear some retro jazz and a dose of Latin groove. If it doesn’t speak to you the first time, I’d encourage you to give it at least one more listen!

Los Lobos, who blend rock & roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues and soul with traditional Spanish music like cumbia, bolero and norteño, were founded by Hildago and Pérez in East Los Angeles in 1973. When they met in high school, they realized they liked the same artists, such as Fairport ConventionRandy Newman and Ry Cooder. Subsequently, they asked their fellow students Frank Gonzalez (vocals, mandolin, arpa jarocha), Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, bajo sexto) and Conrad Lozano (bass, guitarron, vocals) to join them, completing band’s first line-up. Rosas and Lozano are also still around.

In early 1978, the band, then still known as Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, self-released their eponymous debut album in Spanish. By the time of sophomore album How Will the Wolf Survive?, their first major-label release from October 1984, the band had shortened their name to Los Lobos and started to write songs in English. In 1987, Los Lobos recorded some covers of Ritchie Valens tunes for the soundtrack of the motion picture La Bamba, including the title track, which became their biggest hit. While it’s a great cover, I deliberately avoided it. Los Lobos are much more than a one-hit wonder! To date, they have released more than 20 albums, including three compilations and four live records. 

Here’s how Kiko and the Lavender Moon and Los Lobos sound in 2022:

Following are some additional insights from Songfacts:

This song is about a magical, albeit lonely character called Kiko, who comes out at night to “dance and dance.” In our interview, Los Lobos’ drummer and songwriter, Louie Pérez, told us he reflected upon his childhood when writing the lyrics: “I took this remembrance of the little house that I grew up in and Mom’s dresser-top altar, and was able to fold that into a song.”

In 1993, Los Lobos performed this on Sesame Street, changing the lyrics to “Elmo and the Lavender Moon.”

Kiko saw Los Lobos adopt a more experimental sound, that mixed blues, rock, folk and psychedelic influences. Perez spoke to us about the spiritual experience that was the making of Kiko, which is his favorite Los Lobos album: “There’s a point when all songwriters fall into this vacuum where it seems so amorphic and almost surreal… all of us were on this crazy trip. It was like a canoe into the fog, all of us were right there paddling away, and knowing we just have to paddle. We don’t know where we’re going, but we just trusted it. And it was amazing.”

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube; Songfacts

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The Hump Day Picker-Upper

Cheering you up for a dreadful Wednesday, one song at a time

For those of us taking care of business during the regular workweek, I guess it’s safe to assume we’ve all felt that dreadful Wednesday blues. Sometimes, that middle point of the workweek can be a true drag. But help is on the way!

Today, the music doctor prescribes sunshine. A good dose of sun can do miracles. Of course, like with most things, the caveat here is everything in moderation – the doctor does not want to get you a sunburn!

So let’s embrace the sun, real or imagined, with Good Day Sunshine. The Beatles song was mostly written by Paul McCartney and credited to him and John Lennon. It appeared on the group’s 1966 studio album Revolver, a favorite among many fans of The Fab Four.

McCartney wrote Good Day Sunshine on John Lennon’s piano at Lennon’s house in Surrey, South East England. It was inspired by The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Daydream, which had become an international hit for the American band, topping the charts in Canada and New Zealand, and reaching no. 2 in the UK and U.S.

Here’s what Macca told Barry Miles for the 1997 McCartney biography Many Years From Now, per The Beatles Bible: “It was really very much a nod to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Daydream’, the same traditional, almost trad-jazz feel. That was our favourite record of theirs. ‘Good Day Sunshine’ was me trying to write something similar to ‘Daydream’. John and I wrote it together at Kenwood, but it was basically mine, and he helped me with it.”

McCartney re-recorded Good Day Sunshine for his 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street, a musical drama picture directed by Peter Webb about a fictional day in the life of McCartney starring the ex-Beatle, Linda McCartney and Ringo Starr as themselves. The song also appeared on the accompanying soundtrack album of the same name.

According to Wikipedia, McCartney has regularly performed Good Day Sunshine during live concerts. This made the nerd in me curious, so I just checked Setlist.fm for the two Macca shows I’ve seen to date. It turns out he played Good Day Sunshine during his October 17, 1989 gig at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany, but the tune wasn’t part of the setlist on July 19, 2016 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa.

Good Day Sunshine has also been played in space. In November 2005, McCartney performed the song live for the crew of the International Space Station. The tune also served as the wake-up music during the final mission (STS-135) of the U.S. Space Shuttle program in July 2011.

Pretty much all Beatles songs have been covered by other music artists, and Good Day Sunshine is no exception. The first cover was by British beat group The Tremeloes in 1966. Scottish singer and actress Barbara Dickson performed the song in 1974 as part of the British stage musical John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert by Willy Russell. Good Day Sunshine was also featured during a 2016 episode of the same name of the animated children’s television series Beat Bugs, where it was performed by British artist Robbie Williams.

As announced yesterday, this installment of Hump Day Picker-Upper will be the last in the series. It’s been a pleasure serving as your doctor who hopefully helped chase some clouds away you may have experienced on a Wednesday over the past 20 weeks. To go out with a big bang, following is a Spotify playlist of all songs that were included in the feature. I hope they will cheer you up going forward, as needed.

Happy Hump Day, and always remember George Harrison’s wise words: All things must pass!

Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Setlist.fm; YouTube

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random songs at a time

It’s Sunday and we’ve made it through another week. This means the time has come for a new installment of The Sunday Six, my weekly recurring feature that randomly explores music, six tunes at a time.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio/Call You Mom

This week, I’d like to open the post with groovy instrumental music by Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. Featuring Hammond B-3 organist Delvon Lamarr, guitarist Jimmy James and drummer Dan Weiss, the group blends organ jazz with funk and soul. I “found” and first covered them in February this year. Here’s an excerpt from their website for additional color: Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio—or as it is sometimes referred to, DLO3—specialize in the lost art of “feel good music.” The ingredients of this intoxicating cocktail include a big helping of the 1960s organ jazz stylings of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette; a pinch of the snappy soul strut of Booker T. & The M.G.’s and The Meters; and sprinkles Motown, Stax Records, blues, and cosmic Jimi Hendrix-style guitar. It’s a soul-jazz concoction that goes straight to your heart and head makes your body break out in a sweat. To date, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio have released three albums. Call You Mom, co-written by Lamarr (credited as Delvon Dumas) and James (credited as Jabrille Williams), is a track from their most recent one, I Told You So, which came out on January 19, 2021.

Sting & Shaggy/Just One Lifetime

Let’s stay on the groovy side with a reggae tune by Sting and Jamaican pop reggae fusion artist Shaggy. When I learned three years ago the two had teamed up for a collaboration album, 44/876 released in April 2018, I was a bit surprised at first. But given Sting’s versatility and previous reggae groove-influenced Police tunes like Roxanne and Walking On The Moon, it quickly made sense to me. Here’s Just One Lifetime, co-written by Sting, Shaggy (credited as Orville Burrell), Shane Hoosong, Shaun Pizzonia and Rohan Rankine. This is one seductive song that’s perfect for summer.

The Lovin’ Spoonful/Summer in the City

Speaking of summer, here’s one of my favorite summer tunes from the ’60s: Summer in the City by The Lovin’ Spoonful. It must have been 30 or 40 years ago when I first heard this song on the radio in Germany – most likely on an oldies show that aired on Sunday nights on my favorite station SWF3 (now SWR3). While I can’t recall the year, what I surely remember is that I loved this tune right away. Co-written by band members John Sebastian and Steve Boone, together with John’s brother Mark Sebastian, Summer in the City first appeared in July 1966 as the lead single of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s fourth studio album Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful released in November of the same year. It became their biggest hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 and the charts in Canada, surging to no. 3 in New Zealand, and reaching no. 8 in the UK. After disbanding in 1969 and a short reunion in 1979, founding members Joe Butler and Steve Boone revived the band with a new line-up in 1991. The Lovin’ Spoonful exist to this day, with Butler and Boone still being part of the current incarnation.

Katrina and the Waves/Walking on Sunshine

And since we’re in the middle of summer, let’s throw in another great tune associated with the season: Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. Interestingly, the catchy song went unnoticed when it first appeared as the title track of their debut album in December 1983. Things changed dramatically with a re-recorded version that became the lead single of the band’s eponymous third studio album from March 1985. Walking on Sunshine turned out to be their biggest hit peaking at no. 9 and no. 8 in the U.S. and the UK, respectively. Chart success was even bigger in Ireland (no. 2), Canada (no. 3) and Australia (no. 4). I still remember the tune seemed everywhere on the radio in Germany at the time. Walking on Sunshine was written by Kimberley Rew, the group’s lead guitarist. After 10 albums Katrina and the Waves dissolved in 1999, following the departure of vocalist and rhythm guitarist Katrina Leskanich. This is one fun tune!

Yes/Roundabout

I’ve never gotten very much into prog rock, in part because I found some of it not very accessible. I can also get impatient with tracks that last six, seven or even more than eight minutes because of extended instrumental sections. One of the few exceptions are Yes. Initially, the British band entered my radar screen with Owner of a Lonely Heart, their hit single from October 1983, which of course sounds much more like ’80s pop rock than progressive rock. While I loved that tune right away, it took me some time to explore and fully warm to the band’s earlier output. And, to be fully transparent, my knowledge of their music is still quite spotty. Nowadays, one of my favorite Yes tunes is Roundabout, in all of its 8-minute-plus mighty! 🙂 Co-written by lead vocalist Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe, the track appeared on the band’s fourth studio album Fragile from November 1971. Yes, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2017, remain active to this day, with Howe as the only original member. In fact, just a few days ago, Yes announced a new studio album, The Quest, scheduled for October 1 – the first in seven years, as reported by Ultimate Classic Rock and other music news outlets.

Hurry/It’s Dangerous

Let’s wrap up things with some melodic contemporary indie rock by a band from Philadelphia I recently discovered as part of my Best of What’s New new music feature: It’s Dangerous by Hurry. The band originally started as a solo project by principal songwriter Matt Scottoline. Borrowing from my previous post, according to his Apple Music profile, Scottoline, the bassist of Philly EMO band Everyone Everywhere, spent his free time writing and recording songs on his own, delving further into power pop and ’90s guitar rock than his main band ever did…In 2012, he released an eight-song self-titled record under the Hurry name, playing all the instruments himself. When Everyone Everywhere began to cut back on their schedule in the early 2010s, Scottoline decided to form an actual band, recruiting drummer Rob DeCarolis and a rotating cadre of friends on bass to play live shows. In addition to Scottoline and DeCarolis, Hurry’s current line-up includes DeCarolis’ brother Joe DeCarolis (bass) and Justin Fox (guitar). It’s Dangerous, co-written by Scottoline and Chris Farren, is the opener of the band’s new album A Fake Idea released on June 25.

Sources: Wikipedia; Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio website; Ultimate Classic Rock; YouTube

What Would Summer Be Without Great Music?

A list of fun summer songs

Summer means many things – sun, swimming, beaches, outdoor barbecues, biking, vacation…the list goes on and on. All of these activities wouldn’t even be half as much fun without great music. So I thought I put together a list of tunes that capture summer associations.

Jan & Dean/Surf City (1963)

The Lovin’ Spoonful/Summer In the City (1966)

Eric Burdon & The Animals/San Franciscan Nights (1967)

The Who/Summertime Blues (1967)

Seals And Crofts/Summer Breeze (1972)

America/Ventura Highway (1972)

Bryan Adams/Summer of ’69 (1985)

The Beach Boys/Kokomo (1988)

Sheryl Crow/Soak Up the Sun (2002)

Kid Rock/All Summer Long (2008)

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube