Which Legendary Guitarist’s Father Thought his Left-Handed Playing was the “Sign of the Devil”?

Jimi Hendrix, arguably the world’s greatest ever guitar hero, would’ve been 74 years old today. When he died, he was just twenty-seven-years-old, but in just a few years he expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar to reach areas that no musician had ever ventured to before. So much has been written about Hendrix that there is little that has not been already told.  However, I thought I would honor the man by putting together some facts for the uninitiated.  (Is there Anyone?!)
jimi-mother                                    jimi-dad

Born in Seattle, USA, on November 27th 1942, his mother named him John Allen Hendrix and raised him while his father, James “Al” Hendrix, was fighting in World War II. When his father returned from Europe in 1945 he took Jimi home, divorced his wife, and renamed him James Marshall. He didn’t become Jimi Hendrix until he arrived in London in 1966. The Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler, who became his manager, suggested he swap James for Jimi.

jimi-army

Jimi in Army

 He dropped out of High School and enlisted in the Army in May 1959, becoming a member of ‘The Screaming Eagles’ 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a trainee paratrooper. Fortunately for music fans everywhere, less than a year later he received a medical discharge after breaking an ankle on his twenty-sixth parachute jump.

jimi-first-guitar

His father encouraged his musical talents, buying Jimi his first $5 acoustic guitar when he was fifteen-years-old and setting him on the path to his future vocation. A year later Al purchased his first electric guitar, a Supro Ozark 1560S.

jimi-isley  Jimi with The Isley Brothersjimi-wilson

Jimi with “Wicked Pickett”

Jimi worked as a session guitarist under the moniker Jimmy James. By the end of 1965 he had played with several acts, including Ike And Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, The Isley Brothers, and Little Richard. His shows with Little Richard became caught up in a dispute over Jimi’s flashy garb – Richard felt nothing should distract attention away from his star power and so Jimi parted ways to form Jimmy James And The Blue Flames, shedding the role of back-line guitarist for the spotlight of lead guitar.
jimi-chaz   Jimi & Chaz  Chandler      jimi-eric Jimi & Eric Clapton

Desperate to follow in the footsteps of his own British guitar idols, Jimi touched down on British soil on Saturday 24th September, 1966. He arrived at Heathrow at 9am, carrying a small bag with his guitar, a change of clothes, pink plastic hair curlers and a jar of Valderma cream for his acne. Escorting Jimi was Chas Chandler, with whom Jimi had agreed to follow to England only if he promised to introduce him to Eric Clapton, who was at that time with Cream. Within forty-eight hours he would take to the stage for an unprecedented onstage jam with Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.

jimi-guitar      jimi-l

Hendrix’s more outrageous guitar techniques, such as playing with his teeth, behind his back, and without touching the strings, amazed his audiences and contributed to his reputation as a showman. A more subtle unorthodox technique of his, however, was that he played his Fender Stratocaster upside down to accommodate his left-handedness. His left-handed skills were much to the chagrin of his father who believed it was a sign of the Devil.

jimi-v

Jimi’s weapon of choice tended to be a Fender Stratocaster, but he would occasionally play the Gibson SG, Flying V, and Les Paul. On rare occasions, he played the Fender Jazzmaster and the Fender Duo-Sonic.

seattle-experience    jimi-guitar-tower
He called his music “electric church” because he believed music was his religion. His belief is put into practice at Seattle’s Experience Music Project, where one room is simply called the Sky Church, a great hall inspired by Jimi’s concept of a place where people of all ages, interests and backgrounds could come together to experience music.
Microsoft co-founder and fellow Seattle native Paul Allen is one of Hendrix’s biggest modern day fans. Disappointed Seattle had no Hendrix shrine, Allen proposed a Hendrix museum at Seattle Center in 1992. Al Hendrix enthusiastically supported the idea, but Allen and the Hendrix family later had a falling out and the museum evolved into the much larger, costlier and more innovative Experience Music Project, designed by Frank Gehry.

jimi-miles   Jimi & Miles Davis

jimi-buddy  Jimi & Buddy Miles
Hendrix and Miles Davis struck up a friendship that was believed to be fraught with “personal issues” in Jimi’s final months. However, Davis agreed to studio time for an advance of $50,000, but the dream duo never came to fruition. Critics believe Jimi became the final inspiration for Miles to renounce the classical forms of jazz, as witnessed in records such as ‘Bitches Brew’ and ‘On The Corner’.
jimi-monika    Jimi & Monika Dannemann

Jimi died on September 18th, 1970. The hours leading up to his untimely death are subject to numerous conspiracy theories due to the confused statements of his partner at the time, Monika Dannemann. A twenty-five-year-old German ice-skater whom he barely knew, the post-mortem revealed that he had vomited in his sleep and choked to death having overdosed on Monika’s sleeping tablets. In search of a full night’s sleep, Jimi asked Monika for some of her powerful German sedatives, Vesparax. Unaware of the half-tablet dosage, Jimi took nine. His reckless mixing of drugs and alcohol had become so commonplace the previous year that his girlfriends regularly woke up to hear him gasping and had to clear his windpipe. Sadly there was no angelic rescue and, aged twenty-seven, he died, six days short of the fourth anniversary of his arrival in London.

His iconic performance of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock in 1969 was not a symbol of national pride, rather an attack on America’s continued occupation of Vietnam. Seconds before going onstage, Jimi debated whether or not to perform the anthem, as his manager Mike Jeffrey feared it could spark a riot. Jimi ignored his concerns, deciding with the world watching that there was no greater stage to display his disgust and contempt about the war and its reverberations, than with a performance that has become an integral part of American history.

How“Sympathy For The Devil” Broke All the Rule and Still Became a Timeless Hit

The Rolling Stones’ classic hit “Sympathy for the Devil” is one of my all-time favorite songs — it’s unique in almost every way. The material it mines is fairly unexplored in popular music, particularly with the lyrics from the perspective of the Devil (which led to the perception of Mick Jagger and his gang as Devil worshippers for a few years). One of the interesting things about this song is that it breaks almost every rule of songwriting and yet it still managed to become one of the most beloved Stones songs of all time, so much so that it was released as a single twice, not counting remixes and covers. But what’s actually “wrong” with it, and what factors contributed to its anthemic longevity? Let’s find out!

Well, first, if you need to jog your memory of this classic bluesy barn-burner, listen below:

The hook is buried.

Every song has got to have a hook — preferably the title of the song — somewhere in the chorus. Repeatedly, if at all possible. If you have any aspirations at all of becoming  a mainstream songwriter, this is driven into your head in every book, interview, and seminar you can get your hands on. It’s pretty much the number one, unbreakable rule. Closely tied to this is another rule: The hook has to stand out. There are a variety of methods for doing this — high points in the melody, repetition, changes in arrangement, etc. There are exceptions, of course, but generally, you want people to be able to sing your hook right back to you, and to themselves, and it needs to stick in their heads for that to be possible.

The Stones  broke both of these rules, right off the bat. The actual hook (in my opinion) is “Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name” but it’s presented in such an offhand way that you could almost miss it. It shows up once per chorus, as the first line. Only at the very end, when Mick Jagger is riffing on it, does it really start to hit home that this may well be the lyrical take away from the song. The backing vocal vamp (“Woo, woo? Woo, woo?”), arguably a more singable hook in and of itself, lend credence to that theory. This is likely deliberate on the part of the band, and it’s insidiously clever. There are no large, flashing neon lights saying “This is a song from the devil’s point of view!” All the pieces of the puzzle are there, but you need to put them together.

At the original recording at London’s Olympic Studios, the chant of “woo-woo” started in the control room, kicked off by producer Jimmy Miller and a group including Anita Pallenburg, Marianne Faithful and a coterie of “elite film crowd” who’d turn up at the studio to sing along to whatever the Stones were recording that day. Producer Jimmy Miller put a mike in the control room to record them, but their takes were scrapped and re-recorded by Jagger, Richards, and Miller in LA.

Where’s the title?

The title appears nowhere in the song — not in any of the verses, not in a bridge, and certainly not the chorus. Generally, this tends to be another big “no no” in the industry. If the repeated lines are not the same as the title, how would listeners know what to call it? How could they request it on the radio, or at karaoke nights?

From a label’s perspective, this causes undue confusion. Yet somehow, through the buildup of a very passive form of tension, it works so darn well here. The whole song is a sly wink, and the title alludes to that. To truly get the meaning behind the song, you’ve got to listen closely to the lyrics. You either get it or you don’t. More often than not, that would be too much to ask of all but your most diehard of listeners. But The Stones rolled the dice and won.

stones-from-goddard-film

It was too long for a hit song from that era.

The generally accepted “pop” wisdom is that songs should be right around three minutes and thirty seconds long to maximize radio playability. But “Sympathy for the Devil” clocks in at a hefty six minutes and eighteen seconds — almost twice the recommended length.  It wasn’t unheard of for rock tunes at the time to run long, Zeppelin‘s “Stairway to Heaven” is 8 minutes, The Doors’ “The End” is nearly 12, and Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” totals out at like 26 minutes, but all those tracks are somewhat progressive, meandering compositions, while “Sympathy” is constructed more like a typical rock song. It feels long, where the others feel like a journey. But again, this is not actually a typical rock single.

It’s exceedingly rare for a song to buck this rule and become a smash. This is even more true now, with attention spans even shorter than they were in decades past. Artists are lucky if radio listeners make it to the first chorus before channel surfing.

So what makes it work?

An old songwriting mentor used to tell me you need to learn the rules before you can break them. With several albums under their belt, The Stones were already seasoned songwriters and musicians at this point, and that makes a world of difference. Let’s take the example of food — say an amateur chef wants to create a new dish. He may only have a tenuous grasp on basic skills, but he’s trying to do something new and totally different. Maybe he’ll pull it off, maybe he won’t. But what if a top shelf professional chef were to try it? The odds are much, much better that he could make this new concoction work, because the fundamentals offer a strong platform for experimentation, and the seasoned chef might be able to avoid pitfalls the amateur couldn’t. Similarly, since they already had a growing following, The Stones could try new things out on their audiences. If this had been their very first release, it may not have caught on.

New writers (and artists) are told all the time “you can’t write that,” or “you can’t sing that.” Some are able to push through, shrug off the rules, or just plain ignore them and hit it big. Creativity wins, time and time again! Yet the reality of being involved with a major label with worldwide distribution and money invested in a band is that the farther a song is from the mainstream, the less likely it is to get attention. The Stones gambled, and they won, this song is incredibly well-loved and speaks to people all over the world.

And how did it wind up lasting the way it has?

The biggest factor in the song’s success is perhaps the most elusive and esoteric — it was the right song, for the right artist, at the right time, which is a magical confluence of events, or sorts. But most pop songs don’t experience the staying power of “Sympathy for the Devil.” To understand that, we need to look at the mythology and events surrounding the song that helped it become not just famous, but notorious.

The song’s working title was ‘The Devil Is My Name’, which would have rather undermined the mystery of the whole thing, I suspect.

satanic

The release of this song created (or solidified) a burgeoning conspiracy theory that The Stones, were in fact, actual “Devil Worshippers” (not helped by their previous album’s title, Their Satanic Majesties Request). What better way to stir the pot and get people talking than to sing a song from the perspective of the Devil himself?

Mick Jagger further exacerbated the rumor by appearing on  The Rolling Stone’s Magic Circus TV Show shirtless and with Devil tattoos visible on his body.

In 1968, Mick Jagger came out to his friends, parents and adoring public as an antichrist. He did it with style, declaring his Beelzebub a demon “of wealth and taste” before recounting his famous misdeeds throughout history – leading the Nazi blitzkrieg, sparking the Russian revolution, shooting JFK and getting Jesus crucified – before a backing choir of “woo-woo”ers who seemed to think all this was a right old lark.

BTW-The line “who killed the Kennedys” originally went “who killed Kennedy”, but was changed when Robert Kennedy was shot and killed while the recording was underway.

The first time Charlie Watts heard the song was when Jagger turned up on his doorstep and played it, solo and acoustic, at his front door at sunset. Considering the lyrical content, Watts was a brave man indeed to let him back into the house!

Elvis once said, “if people stop talking about you, you’re dead,” and he wasn’t wrong. Celebrities often go out of their way to grab headlines — whether saying something outlandish, shoplifting or having a crazy party — The Stones did it by implying that they were dabbling in the occult! Bolstering that perception is the story that while The Stones were recording “Sympathy” in June 1968, a lamp caught fire and destroyed a lot of the band’s equipment… but the tapes were magically saved.

beggars-b

Adding to the sinister aura already bubbling around this song and their forthcoming album, Beggar’s Banquet, was this subversive pseudo-documentary film by Jean-Luc Godard. The film, which was controversial in and of itself, featured studio footage from The Stones’ session at Olympic Studios in London while recording “Sympathy” and some other tracks, prominently juxtaposed with images of revolutionistas, Black Panthers, and pro-Marxist quotes. Godard’s stated intent was to “subvert, ruin and destroy all civilized values.”

To say this was anti-mainstream would be an understatement. The film totally tanked at the box office, and many segments of the population were rankled. This surely only served to encourage the rebellious rockers and their fans.

A year later, on December 6, 1969, The Rolling Stones performed their notorious concert at the Altamont Speedway. With the Hell’s Angels doing security and a ton of drug use among concert goers, the evening succumbed to increasingly violent crowds, overwhelming property damage, and three deaths. One of those deaths, that of Meredith Hunter, happened as a result of a scuffle during “Sympathy for the Devil.”

During the song, fights broke out. The Stones stopped playing briefly after the song ended to let the Angels restore order, as there was consistent brawling throughout. But when they picked up again with “Under My Thumb,” the increasingly aggravated Hunter pulled a pistol out, pointed it to the stage, and was then tackled to the ground by one of the Angels and stabbed repeatedly. Naturally, the song itself was popularly blamed for the deterioration of the event and subsequent death.

While tragic, the concert cemented the song’s place in popular culture and indeed made it legendary. Few other songs could be said to have quite the same memorable history surrounding them.

 

 

Which Guitar Legend & Inventor as a Child Would Play the Stairsteps Before Going to Bed?

Lester William Polsfuss, the given name of guitar maker Les Paul, was a legend. His technological innovations, as a result of a sheer addiction to tinkering, were vast. They include multi-track recording, overdubbing (which he famously called “sound on sound“), tape delay, reverb, phase effects, and “The Log,” more commonly known as the solid-body electric guitar. Yes, he actually had a hand in inventing all of these now essential facets of recording technology.

When Les was a young boy, he called the vertical planks of the banister on the staircase his “wooden xylophone,” because he would play them every night before bed. At some point, he realized one was out of tune so he cut it in order to “tune the staircase.”

Les Paul

And then there are his artistic accomplishments, which are also vast. They range from the 1930s all the way to his death in 2009. In the early ’30s, he met Art Tatum and released records both as a front and side man on Decca, usually under the pseudonyms Red Hot Red or Rhubarb Red. He formed a trio with Chet Atkins’ older half-brother Jim Atkins which took him back to New York, where his knack for tinkering on the body styles of the electric guitar really took off.

les-mary                      les-bing

Throughout the 1940s, Paul played with artists such as Bing Crosby, the Andrew Sisters, and even Nat King Cole. His extremely popular guitar duo with his then-wife, country-western singer Mary Ford, sold millions of records, with many hit songs going gold and topping the charts. Here’s one of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s classics.

However, Paul, himself, considered his best accomplishment to have happened back in the ‘30s, well before he even adopted the name “Les Paul.”

His self-proclaimed greatest achievement was as a “Radio Guy” with Booger Brothers Broadcasting System: an illegal radio station he set up in his Queens apartment building’s basement, near the furnace room. The big idea was to showcase all the ridiculously great musicians in the neighborhood at the time, including Benny Goodman’s band, Glenn Miller’s band, Artie Shaw, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Fred Waring’s band, Bobby Crosby’s band (Bing’s brother), and Lionel Hampton, among a “zillion others musicians.” How cool that must have been!

Before long, Paul’s tiny basement radio operation had started to jam up the communications of air-traffic controllers at Laguardia Airport. Planes flying over Queens would get scrambled signals of jazz music mixing with coordinates from the tower.

What’s even more fascinating was that when federal agents came to Paul’s apartment to shut him down, one of them ended up becoming one of the station’s bigger fans. Together, Paul and the agent whipped up something called a “wave trap,” essentially an equalizer that got rid of certain frequencies and harmonics that cluttered the airwaves, which solved the air traffic problem!

Booger Brothers’ Broadcasting was not Lester Polsfuss’ first radio station. In his autobiography, Les Paul: In His Own Words, he describes his initial infatuation with radio, as early as the mid-’20s, saying “[radio] was like the Internet today because it connected you with things that were going on all over the country. After I… discovered the best reception was late at night, I’d use the springs in my bed for an antenna and stay up all hours listening to whatever I could find.”     bed-springs

A few years later, he started his own radio station, broadcasting to his residential block in Waukesha, WI.  “I built my own little broadcasting station there in our home… I built a little one tube radio transmitter and lengthened the antenna up to the roof so you could hear it all over the block. People would listen to it around the neighborhood and then come over to the house and talk about it.”

Yet, before all these offshore radio pirates, fighting for their political right to broadcast to open-eared, on-shore audiences, there was the land-locked local tinkerer, Les Paul. Paul’s own pirate radio hijinks were legendary. He amplified his cat, Static, who became the unofficial spokescat of Booger Brothers Broadcasting and could often be heard meowing on air.

Paul also “invented” a fictional device called the “Les Paulverizer,” which multiplied anything sent through it — usually guitars or vocals — an effect created essentially by layering recordings on top of one another. On their radio shows, this became a comedic motif, as Paul would joke that his wife could get the house cleaned faster if she Paulverized herself and her vacuum cleaner! Later on, he actually invented it!

thin-red-vinyl

Perhaps the most characteristic legacy of Les Paul’s pirate radio operation was his foresight in recording broadcasts whenever someone special came through the studio. Not only that but these rare recordings are preserved on home-printed, ridiculously thin red vinyl.

static-cat

A few years later, he started his own radio station, broadcasting to his residential block in Waukesha, WI.  “I built my own little broadcasting station there in our home… I built a little one tube radio transmitter and lengthened the antenna up to the roof so you could hear it all over the block. People would listen to it around the neighborhood and then come over to the house and talk about it.”

Those amazing musicians in Jackson Heights could do whatever they wanted on the Booger Brothers airwaves. As Paul loves to mention, “they played their hearts out.” They could play as long as they wanted and could say whatever they wanted, which may have had an effect on the populist, punkish attitudes of future pirate radio pioneers to follow. Hey, if you’re an unregulated radio station, why censor yourself?

Perhaps it was Les Paul’s influence as a DIY tinkerer, or the virtuosic integrity of the 1940s jazz musicians that willingly holed up in his basement, or maybe even the harmonically scrambled signals soundtracking so many cockpits soaring overhead throughout that time, but something that Paul was doing as a pirate pioneer influenced everything else to come.

radio-caroline

Why did music permeate pirate radio from the 1950s through the era of Radio Caroline until today, as the medium representative of free expression? Could it be that music is and always has been the language of free people — something written and performed by and for free people anywhere? Les Paul, one of music’s greatest lovers and innovators, certainly seems to have thought so.

 

Which 60’s Pop Singer/Actress Wound Up Under a Piano with Sean Connery Drinking Gin & Cider Cocktails?

Last week, I was blown away by the fact that Petula Clark celebrated her 84th birthday. How could this be? Well, Here’s how…

Petula Clark was a star at the age of 11. She starred in the music halls and on BBC radio singing for the troops during WWII. She was a child star in a series of British films from the end of WWII through to the early 1950s, and by 1954 was having hit records. After a move to France in 1960, having fallen for a Frenchman, she had hit records all over Europe, and by 1966 with such hits as “Downtown” and “My Love” having topped the American charts, became a truly international star.

Petula Sally Olwen Clark was born in West Ewell Surrey, England on November 15, 1932. Petula made her first broadcast as a singer for the BBC Radio Overseas Service in October 1942, and became an overnight star on BBC National Radio in December 1942 at the age of 10. With her girl-next-door Englishness, she became known to the British public as ‘Our Pet’, and had a regular radio program with the accent on wartime, morale-building songs. In 1944,  she contracted with Britain’s most powerful film studio, The Rank Organization.

pet-dad

Her Welsh mother Doris, a gifted soprano, taught her pretty, confident daughter to sing as she grew up in Epsom, Surrey. Petula’s father Leslie had wanted to be an actor, but was discouraged by his parents. He became Petula’s manager, kept strict control of her life, and many felt he fulfilled his show business dreams through her.

Ms. Clark’s first public performance was in a department store called Bentalls in Kingston-upon-Thames, as she describes, “They had what they called the escalator hall, and in the middle, there was this platform and there was an orchestra playing. I’d never seen an orchestra before and I didn’t know an orchestra was made of people – I’d only heard it on the wireless. I was mesmerized by this. My dad went up to the conductor and said, “My daughter would like to sing with the band”, and so I did. I was paid with a tin of toffees, which I thought was pretty good. I was happy with the sweets.”

Petula says she treated it all as a great adventure. She recalls, ‘The first time I sang at the Albert Hall there was not a nerve in my body. I was reading a comic backstage when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Petula, you’re on.” “I dog-eared the comic, went on, pulled the place down, came off and went back to my comic as though nothing had happened. That wouldn’t happen now! You’d have to shove me out there. As one matures, you know things can go wrong and so much more is expected of you.”

young-patula

After many radio shows for the BBC during World War 2, Petula made her film debut in “Medal for the General” in 1945. Notable films include the classic Powell/Pressburger film “I know where I’m going” (1945), London Town (USA “My heart goes crazy”) (1946), Vice Versa (directed by Peter Ustinov) (1948), and the classic Huggett trio of family films which were to be the forerunner of television soap operas in the UK (1948-9). Her first leading role was in “Don’t ever leave me” (1949), and “The Card” (USA “The Promoter”) with Alec Guinness and Glynis Johns (1952). Petula was nominated for an award for best supporting actress in the hospital film drama “White Corridors” (1951) which even got shown in East Germany as well as New York. British film-goers voted her their 6th best actress in 1951 just behind Greer Garson and ahead of Jane Wyman.

teen-petula   Petula    shirley Shirley

More films followed, and, likened to another child star Shirley Temple, the teenage Petula was upset when she found Rank was reluctant to let her grow up. It tried to keep her looking as young as possible by having a band tied around her bust to flatten it (see above)

“It hurt physically and it hurt up here in my head,’ she recalls. ‘A child wants to grow up and act older than their age rather than younger. I was employed to be charming and cute though – so I learned how to be exactly that!”

As well as her film work, Petula was a regular on BBC radio and television and British stage variety shows, and from 1957 in France and other European territories. She acted in comedy radio shows such as “Life of Bliss” and radio series with her pianist and musical director Joe “Mr. Piano” Henderson. Petula was a recording star in the UK from 1949, with “The little shoemaker”(1954) being her first top 10 hit (also hitting #1 in Australia) and “With all my heart” which took her to France.

In 1957, after a string of hit records and films, she went to perform in Paris and then caused a stir by leaving the UK – and getting away from her father, who some believe had driven her to the point of breakdown.

petula-claude

The attraction was a handsome PR called Claude Wolff. ‘I was talking to the boss of my French record company when the light in his office went out. We were in the dark and a man came in to replace the bulb, and when the light came on again, I took one look at him and that was it.’ The pair married in 1961 and they have three children, Bara (1961), Kathy (1963) and Patrick (1972).

sean-2

Sean Connery in Mr. Universe 1953

Petula had always had an eye for a good-looking man. In the early 1950s she flirted with Sean Connery, then a chorus boy in the stage musical South Pacific. “I remember one particularly wild night when we ended up under a piano, drinking gin and cider cocktails.” She also had a long relationship with pianist Joe Henderson. But Claude was altogether different.

 “I wasn’t expecting anything like it to happen,” she says. ‘He was the man around Paris. He knew everyone. I fell in love immediately. I couldn’t speak a word of French and I didn’t especially like France. It seemed a bit smelly, particularly going back to that time, France was probably more French than it is now. The truth is I fell in love with a Frenchman and that was it. Claude couldn’t be in England, he couldn’t speak English. He had a career going with the record company, so it was decided I’d go to France and I built a new life there.’

In the 1980s,  she and Claude went their separate ways. ‘We didn’t decide to split up – we drifted apart. I don’t think Claude liked America but my career had opened up in the States so I was working there a lot. The real reason we split up is hard to define. I suppose we became different people.’ Why have they not bothered to divorce?

‘At the beginning, it was because of the children, then as time went by he was living his life, I was living mine. In some strange way, it seemed to work. We’d built a lot together and perhaps it just wasn’t in our education to divorce because there was still that bond between us.’

They often reunite with their children. Barbara, the eldest, is married to French interior designer Baron Robert de Cabrol, and they live in New York with their children Sebastian and Annabelle. Kate is a yoga professor and splits her time between Paris and Geneva. Patrick (Paddy) also lives in Geneva and is a golfer as well as the owner of a golf shop.

.By 1962 she became France’s top female singer with such big selling hits as “Chariot”, “Couer blesse” and “Ya ya twist”, securing her the prestigious Grand Prix National du Disques Francais. Her hits in four languages included “Monsieur” selling a million copies sung in German! Her song “Sailor” became her first of 2 #1 hits in the UK.

Although Petula had recorded an album in Hollywood in 1959 and some of her early songs had limited releases in the USA, it was not until 1965 that she became an “overnight” sensation with “Downtown” topping the charts, and the first of many appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. It made her the first British female singer to sell a million copies in the USA and with “My love” first to top the USA charts twice! Petula has three Grammy awards (two for “Downtown” and one for “I know a place”, and Cashbox in the USA voted her top female singer of 1966.

Petula also had success as a songwriter with the Top 5 USA hit covered by the Vogues “You’re the one” in 1965, and “Now that you’ve gone” covered by Connie Stevens. In Europe and Canada she had self-penned hits “Je chante doucement”, “Que fais-tu la Petula”, “You’re the one”, “Le agent secret”, and “Bleu blanc rouge”. Petula also appeared as herself and sang and wrote incidental film music for “A Couteaux Tires” (USA Daggers Drawn) in 1964.

By 1966, Petula was one of the most popular and best-selling female singers in the world with other hits including “I couldn’t live without your love”, “This is my song”, “Sign of the times”, “Don’t sleep in the subway” and “Kiss me goodbye”. In 1967 she was presented with the “International Award” by “Midem” (International music industry awards) alongside the Beatles and Tom Jones. Her many USA television appearances included duets with Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, Danny Kaye, Helen Reddy, Perry Como, Harry Belafonte, Glen Campbell, Carol Burnett, Richard Carpenter, The Everly Brothers, Peggy Lee, Tom Jones, and even Bob Hope!.

“I was doing a series of concerts at the Place des Arts in Montreal. I’d previously gone to Montreal as a French performer. But then Downtown became a huge hit everywhere and they asked me to go back to Montreal, so I thought I could do a bilingual show and do both French and English songs. I was wrong. I sang in French and the English-speaking audience was unhappy and quite vocal, and the French were particularly vocal when I sang in English. It was like open war. It was really very hard, and I was very hurt and I couldn’t understand it at all. I really didn’t know what to do and I needed to talk to somebody who I had no connection with, and John was in town with Yoko doing a bed-in for peace. So after the show one night I went over to the hotel – no security, of course, I just walked in – and said I wanted to see John Lennon. So up I went, and there they were sitting in bed and he was adorable. He could see I had a problem and he put his arms around me. I told him what it was all about and, well, he gave me some advice that I have always followed when such difficulties would arise: “Fuck ‘em!”

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“He said it didn’t matter, let them get over it, and he told me to go and have a glass of wine in the living room, and there were a lot of people in there. It was just chilling out, nothing weird. There was some music being piped in, a very simple little song, and we started singing along with it, and it was Give Peace a Chance. We were all being filmed and recorded, so I’m on “Give Peace a Chance.”

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As a dramatic actress on television, Petula starred in the 1957 ITV drama “Guest in the house”. In 1972 she appeared as herself in “Here’s Lucy” with the legendary Lucille Ball playing her secretary for the day! In 1981 in France, Petula had a major role in the French drama serial “Sans Famille”.

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Hollywood films included “Finian’s Rainbow” directed by Frances Ford Coppola with Fred Astaire (1968) giving Petula a Golden Globe nomination.

Finian’s Rainbow turned out to be the last movie Astaire danced in. ‘He was great. I don’t think snob is the word, but he hated mediocrity and vulgarity. He was such a classy guy he couldn’t bear being around anything that wasn’t. He didn’t like anything tacky. His home was like a tasteful movie set.

‘He was playing a down and out in the film and the poor wardrobe woman had a hard time making him look shabby. She’d tie a piece of string around him and it would look like it was the latest thing in fashion. He was such a perfectionist he’d stay in the studio at the weekend to rehearse over and over again. He was just as nervous about singing with me as I was about dancing with him.’

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As a stage actress her credits are “Sauce for the Goose” (UK 1950), “The constant Nymph” (UK 1954), “The Sound of Music” (breaking house records as Maria in London 1981-2), “Candida” (UK 1983), “Someone like you” (1989-90 UK tour and London, 1990) for which she wrote the music, “Blood Brothers” Broadway (1993-4) and USA tour (1994-5) with David Cassidy and “Sunset Boulevard” as Norma Desmond (London 1995-7) and USA tour 1998-2000).

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As a singing star, Petula has taken her one-woman show from London’s Royal Albert Hall to the Sydney Opera House and Washington’s Kennedy Center. Petula has given bilingual concerts at the Paris Olympia and Place des Arts in Montreal. She has been a Las Vegas headliner since 1966, with a million dollar contract to headline at Caesars Palace. In 2015 she made a triumphant return to Vegas this time at the renowned Las Vegas Hilton.

As a television star, Petula was one of, if not the first female singing star to have her own BBC TV series (1946) and since then has had TV specials and series around the world including one notable show which she hosted broadcast live to France from Liverpool’s famous Cavern club. Petula co-hosted the BAFTA awards from the Royal Albert Hall in 1974, and hosted episodes of the legendary American series “Hullabaloo”, Kraft music hall and “Hollywood Palace”. In 1972 David Frost featured her as sole guest on one of his legendary David Frost Shows live from New York, and in 1979 she hosted a “Golden Gala” from London’s Drury Lane celebrating the European Union and broadcast all over Europe. Petula’s three American television specials (1968-70) were shown internationally, and her 1974 BBC TV series “The Sound of Petula” won her the “Most exciting female singer on TV” award. She hosted French shows, notably the popular “Top” and “Numero Un” series which were broadcast live.

As well as her CBE presented by Queen Elizabeth in 1998, in 2012 Petula was awarded the honor of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in Paris, for her distinguished career in France. In 2013 at the age of 80 Petula was back with a new Top 30 album success in the UK (“Lost in you” Sony Records), and her new recording of “Cut copy me” became a remixed dance top 40 hit all over Europe. The song was also voted by the prestigious “Time” magazine into their Top 10 songs of 2013.

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Meanwhile, for several years she has had a new partner whose name she declines to divulge.

“It works and we’re both enjoying it. We were friends first and the romantic side happened later. Yes, he’s younger than me. I don’t want to elaborate. If I start getting into details it won’t work. It’s a delicate subject.

 “Of course he’s seen me perform. No, that’s not really a particular thrill. The thrill for me is performing to the audience, rather than stopping to think about somebody else out there. I’d rather not know.”

For now, the tour occupies all her thoughts. “I’ll probably be knackered by the end of it. It’s intensive, but that’s the job. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. And I’m not getting out of the kitchen for a long time yet.”

Songs For Your Thanksgiving Day

I’ve put together an eclectic list of songs to surround your family dinner culminating, of course, in Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.  Remember when you first heard it? It sounded so outrageous , so disrespectful, so GREAT!!  As the years go buy, it becomes rather boring and unctious. However, we can enjoy it by just thinking back to 1967 or 1968 0r whenever, when you first heard it.

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours!

 

Is Paul McCartney Dead?

For those who were not around for this episode in Beatles’ lore, you cannot imagine what a big deal it was. Everyone began playing their albums backward in search of finding additional clues the Paul McCartney had died in a car crash. Girls were sobbing, guys  were merely amused.

Turn me on dead man, indeed….

 

In 1969, the Northern Star newspaper of Northern Illinois University ran a story claiming that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash in 1966 and had been replaced by a look-alike. Russell Gibb of WKNR-FM in Detroit picked up on the claim and the story went worldwide.

Below is a great example of how much time and energy was used in proving and/or debunking Paul’s untimely demise:

On 21 October 1969, the Beatles’ press office issued statements denying the rumor, deeming it “a load of old rubbish”and saying that “the story has been circulating for about two years—we get letters from all sorts of nuts but Paul is still very much with us.” Rumors started to decline when, on 7 November 1969, McCartney came out of seclusion at his Scottish farm to deny the story. When McCartney was asked to comment by a reporter visiting Macca’s farm, he replied, “Do I look dead? I’m as fit as a fiddle.”Life magazine published a contemporary interview with McCartney in which he said,

Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days….

One of the greatest urban legends ever, this story just grew and grew. The more people talked about it the more believable it became. The Beatles themselves and especially McCartney must have been highly entertained! The myth had more legs in America than it did in the UK, for one simple reason. People had seen Paul leaving his house in St John’s Wood or arriving at Abbey Road. The Beatle would also be spotted out on the town, attending gigs and the theater.

We knew it was him. Paul wasn’t dead.

paul-is-dead

American college students had published articles claiming that clues to McCartney’s death could be found among the lyrics and artwork of The Beatles’ recordings. Clue hunting proved infectious and within a few weeks had become an international phenomenon.

faul-paul   william

But who was the imposter? To spare the public from grief, the Beatles replaced him with “William Campbell”, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest. Where and when did they hold that then?

abbey-road                       straw

Hundreds of supposed clues to McCartney’s death have been reported by fans and followers of the legend. These include messages perceived when listening to a song being played backward and symbolic interpretations of both lyrics and album cover imagery. One oft-cited example is the suggestion that the words “I buried Paul” are spoken by McCartney’s bandmate John Lennon in the final section of the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Lennon later explained that the words were actually “cranberry sauce”. Another is the interpretation of the Abbey Road album cover as symbolizing a funeral procession, where Lennon, dressed in white,  to symbolize the heavenly figure.Ringo Starr, dressed in black, symbolizes the undertaker, George Harrison, in denim, symbolizes the gravedigger, and McCartney, barefoot and out of step with the others and holding his cigarette in his right hand when he is left-handed. Imposter! Also, on the sleeve, you see a girl in a blue dress walk past. Some people felt that this represented “lovely Rita”, the hitchhiker Paul was supposed to have been with at the time of the accident., symbolizes the corpse. In the background, a car’s license plate reads “28IF” meaning that Paul would have been 28 years old if he had lived (although McCartney was 27 at that point in 1969, not 28).

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At this point, the rumor included numerous clues from recent Beatles albums, including the “turn me on, dead man” message heard when “Revolution 9” from The White Album was played backward.

You see, in this digital age you can’t do that, any hidden backward messages would be lost. That’s why I still listen to vinyl. I’m forever listening for hidden messages, and mysterious voices crying out from the grooves.

The Michigan Daily published a satirical review of Abbey Road by University of Michigan student Fred LaBour under the headline “McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light.”

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More clues were found in “You Never Give Me Your Money”. The words n”1,2,3,4,5,6,7, all good children go to Heaven” – is “go to Heaven” a reference to Paul being dead? Curiously, the numbers here add up to 28.

In November 1969, Capitol Records sales managers reported a significant increase in sales of Beatles catalog albums, attributed to the rumor. Rocco Catena, Capitol’s vice president of national merchandising, estimated that “this is going to be the biggest month in history in terms of Beatles sales.” The albums Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour had been off the charts since February, but both re-entered the Billboard Top LP’s chart.

The cover of a 1970 Batman comic book parodying the legendThe cover of a 1970 Batman comic book parodying the legend

Before the end of October 1969, several records were released on the subject, including “The Ballad of Paul” by the Mystery Tour, “Brother Paul” by Billy Shears and the All Americans, and “So Long Paul” by Werbley Finster, a pseudonym for José Feliciano.

Terry Knight, a singer on Capitol Records, had witnessed the Beatles’ White Album session during which drummer Ringo Starr had walked out and, in May 1969, released a song called “Saint Paul” about the impending break-up of the Beatles. The tune made its way to the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart at No. 114 in late June that year and was quickly forgotten until a few months later when it was picked up by radio stations as a tribute to “the late” Paul McCartney.

A television program was broadcast on WOR in New York on 30 November 1969, hosted by celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey, in which Bailey cross-examined LaBour and other “witnesses” about the rumor, but he left it to the viewer to determine conclusions. Before the recording, LaBour told Bailey that his article had been intended as a joke, and Bailey sighed and replied: “Well, we have an hour of television to do; you’re going to have to go along with this.”

 

Both Lennon and McCartney subsequently referred to the legend in their music, Lennon in his 1971 song “How Do You Sleep?” (describing as “freaks” those who had spread the rumor), and McCartney with his 1993 live album titled Paul Is Live (parodying the Abbey Road cover and its clues).

Well, I’ll tell you what – the remaining Beatles must have been exhausted keeping the secret about Paul’s death and on top of that, writing clues in songs. Clever sods, these Beatles.

Which Musician did Miles Davis once proclaim the “Eighth Wonder of the World?”

I absolutely love the sound of a Hammond B-3 Organ. It’s power and richness of sound just blow me away.  When hearing one live, it gives me goosebumps when I hear the Leslie rotating  speaker whirling in preparation for a huge blast.
 
No discussion of the instrument would be complete without a look at the great Jimmy Smith.
Jimmy Smith ignited a jazz revolution on an instrument associated at the time with ballparks, despite never playing one until the age of 28.
 Not a single album is listed among the 200 most important recordings in the book Essential Jazz Library by New York Times critic Ben Ratcliff. The Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD notes “it was disappointing… to hear how quickly Smith’s albums become formulaic.” Rolling Stone calls much of his late career work “substandard.”The joy in building a Smith collection is one can almost always count on his worthwhile albums being fun, fast, and spiritual blues romps with lots of his patented tonal color.

The drawback is… pretty much the same thing.

There’s a sameness to much of his work, and many of his “outside the box” efforts into genres such as fusion and soundtracks are less than stellar. Adding to this discouragement is a number of his best early albums are out of print.

Still, it’s hard to dispute the more than 100 albums in Smith’s discography feature not only a rich collection of commercially popular music, but works of exceptional artistry.

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Smith was born in 1928 in Norristown, Pa., near Philadelphia, to a musically inclined family that saw him playing piano and bass as a youth. This combination proved an essential element of his one-man-band approach on the organ. By the time he was 12, Smith was an accomplished stride piano player who won local talent contests, but when his father began having problems with his knee and gave up performing to work as a plasterer, Jimmy quit school after eighth grade and began working odd jobs to help support the family. At 15 He joined the Navy at a to escape his hometown and after World War II returned home, he attended music school on the GI Bill, studying at the Hamilton School of Music and the Ornstein School, both based in Philadelphia. He subsequently played piano for local R&B groups during the 1940s and 50s.

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                    rudy-van-gelder-and-alfred-lion
 Wild Bill Davis                                         RudyVan Gelder and Alfred Lion

In 1951, Smith began working with his father during the day, but after hearing pioneering organ player Wild Bill Davis, Smith was inspired to switch instruments. Smith bought a Hammond B-3 organ and set up a practice space in a warehouse where he and his father were working; Smith refined the rudiments of his style over the next year (informed more closely by horn players than other keyboard artists, and employing innovative use of the bass pedals and drawbars), and he began playing Philadelphia clubs in 1955. In early 1956, Smith made his New York debut at the legendary Harlem nightspot Small’s Paradise, and Smith was soon spotted by Alfred Lion, who ran the well-respected jazz label Blue Note Records. Lion signed Smith to a record deal, and between popular early albums such as The Incredible Jimmy Smith at Club Baby Grand and The Champ and legendary appearances at New York’s Birdland and the Newport Jazz Festival, Smith became the hottest new name in jazz.

He explains his development on the organ in an oft-quoted interview:

“I got my organ from a loan shark and had it shipped to the warehouse,” he said. “I stayed in that warehouse, I would say, six months to a year. I would do just like the guys do—take my lunch, then I’d go and set down at this beast. Nobody showed my anything, man, so I had to fiddle around with my stops.”

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 His association with Verve Records beginning in 1962 saw both an expansion and limitation of his work. Among the most successful were a pair of albums recorded with guitarist Wes Montgomery and 1962’s Bashin’: The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith, with “Walk On The Wild Side” from the latter album making pop charts as a single.

However, new formats such as big bands often featured something other than the lengthy blowing sessions best suited to his strength of building up passages over time. Many also sought crossover audiences—toying, for instance, with show tunes and hard rock—and are frequently considered weak points of his discography.

kb  Kenny Burrell

stStanley Turrentine

Smith’s struggles continued during the 1970s as synthesizers caused the B-3 to fall out of audience favor. He toured regularly until 1975, when he opened a Los Angeles jazz club with his wife, Lola. Recordings and appearances became infrequent and undistinguished until the early 1980s and, while many subsequent recordings are quality dates, the frequency of new albums continued to be sparse. Later-career highlights include two albums from a 1990 live reunion with Burrell and Turrentine (Fourmost and Fourmost Return), and the live 1999 Incredible! collaboration with DeFrancesco.

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Lennie DeFrancesco                      beastie-boys Beasty Boys
However, in the late ’80s, Smith began recording for the Milestone label, cutting several well-reviewed albums that reminded jazz fans Smith was still a master at his instrument, as did a number of live performances with fellow organ virtuoso Joey DeFrancesco. In 1987, producer Quincy Jones invited Smith to play on the sessions for Michael Jackson’s album “Bad”. And  found a new generation of fans when hip-hop DJs began sampling his’s funky organ grooves; the Beastie Boys famously used Smith’s “Root Down (And Get It)” for their song “Root Down,” and other Smith performances became the basis for tracks by Nas, Gang Starr, Kool G Rap, and DJ Shadow.
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The elder organist, who Miles Davis once proclaimed the “eighth wonder of the world,” also reemerged as a popular performer, including weekly jam sessions with DeFrancesco during the years preceding his death.

In 1995, Smith returned to Verve Records for the album Damn!, and on 2001’s Dot Com Blues, Smith teamed up with a variety of blues and R&B stars, including Etta James, B.B. King, Keb’ Mo’, and Dr. John. In 2004, Smith was honored as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts; that same year, Smith relocated from Los Angeles to Scottsdale, Arizona. Several months after settling in Scottsdale, Smith’s wife succumbed to cancer, and while he continued to perform and record, Jimmy Smith was found dead in his home less than a year later, on February 8, 2005. His final album, Legacy, was released several months after his passing.

“He had a spirit and a sound that comes across, and there was nothing like it,” DeFrancesco said in a newspaper interview. “He was full of fire and soul, just the complete musician.”

Below are some albums suggestions for the new listener and everyone else who loves the B-3 as much as I do.

Those looking for a good career retrospective might first consider the four-disc Retrospective featuring Blue Note highlights from the 1950s and ’60s. A supplemental, or less expensive alternative, is the two-disc Walk On The Wild Side: The Best Of The Verve Years. An in-depth career-spanning boxed set remains elusive.

groovinGroovin’ At Small’s Paradise (1957)

Perhaps the best of his initial albums currently in release, this live double-CD Blue Note collection with guitarist Eddie McFadden and drummer Donald Bailey plays heavily to Smith’s strengths. There’s a mix of standards, jazz and blues, mostly extended enough in length to allow the organist sufficient room for development. Some early pieces such as “My Funny Valentine” are more restrained than subsequent romps such as the widely acclaimed “After Hours.”

sermonThe Sermon (1958)

Another strong early effort in a relatively straight-ahead vein, especially for those looking to hear Smith with a variety of players outside his familiar trio format. Among those on the all-star list are trumpeter Lee Morgan, guitarists Kenny Burrell and Eddie McFadden, alto saxophonists George Coleman and Lou Donaldson, and drummer Art Blakey. A reissued disc adds five tracks to the original three extended-length songs.

crazyCrazy! Baby (1960)

 

There are two solid positives on this album: 1) he plays with his regular trio of guitarist Quentin Warren and drummer Donald Bailey instead of “name? players and 2) the opportunity, especially for newcomers to his music, to hear him play accessibly and yet with classic flair on familiar tunes such as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Makin’ Whoopie.” Not all agree: the Penguin guide calls it “discouragingly rational” and ranks it one of his two worst Blue Note recordings.

jimmy-wesJimmy And Wes: The Dynamic Duo (1966)
Interestingly, a number of critics refer to Smith’s best musical partners providing a subtle Ying to his intense Yang. This big band-aided collaboration is among his most notable, as he and guitarist Wes Montgomery are as mismatched and yet strangely compatible as The Odd Couple, although a few apparent “crowd pleasers” are real clunkers (“Baby It’s Cold Outside” is frequently cited). A second album from the session is The Further Adventures Of Jimmy And Wes.

root-downRoot Down (1972)This Verve release is perhaps best-known for the Beastie Boys’ cover of the title track in 1994, but also ranks as one of the strongest entries in Smith’s work for the label. This live performance in Los Angeles is heavy on funk, supported by younger players such as Steve Williams on harmonica, Arthur Adams on guitar and Wilton Felder on bass. Smith’s playing is generally raw and energetic—a refreshing change from arranged big band—especially on cuts such as “For Everyone Under The Sun.”

This Verve release is perhaps best-known for the Beastie Boys’ cover of the title track in 1994, but also ranks as one of the strongest entries in Smith’s work for the label. This live performance in Los Angeles is heavy on funk, supported by younger players such as Steve Williams on harmonica, Arthur Adams on guitar and Wilton Felder on bass. Smith’s playing is generally raw and energetic—a refreshing change from arranged big band—especially on cuts such as “For Everyone Under The Sun.”

chickenBack At The Chicken Shack (1960)

A stellar album, although its rank as the pinnacle of Smith’s discography can be disputed. Smith is in high form on the roaring title track as well as standards such as “On The Sunny Side Of The Street,” but his co-players score some of the most notable accomplishments. Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine delivers what many consider the breakthrough performance of his career and guitarist Kenny Burrell provides a smooth counter presence to the organist’s madness. Both would still be playing with him decades later on some of his best late-career work.


prayerPrayer Meetin’ (1963)

This was Smith’s final Blue Note recording until 1986. It was also the fourth album he recorded in a week as, eager to move to the Verve label, he put out a rush of albums to fulfill his existing contract. Even so, this is a quality work highlighted by Turrentine’s tenor. Items of note include the rare inclusion of a bassist (Sam Jones) and two bonus tracks from the Chicken Shack era (“Lonesome Road” and “Smith Walk”).

increIncredible! (1999)

This live performance is really more of a Joey DeFrancesco album, with Smith joining the younger organist for the final half of the hour-long set. But hearing the evolution of Smith’s influence through DeFrancesco is reason enough to make this worthwhile, and it’s intriguing to hear their two extended duets evolve into differing compositions (the titles, such as “Medley, No. 1: The Reverend/Yesterdays/ My Romance” are self-explanatory). The results may be audience-pleasing than artistic, but there’s no denying both sound like they’re having fun and generally complimenting each other well, while doing so.