Sassy & The Fishmonger

 

Fishmonger
Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

In typical Liverpool fashion, our local fishmonger was known to one and all as Billy Fish. An affable bloke in his late twenties, he ran the shop alone, but whether he owned the place, or worked for someone else, I knew not, as there was no sign on the storefront. I was about fourteen when he took me on as a part-time helper.

Before school, I’d come in to help him dress the old-fashioned marble slabs with cracked ice and sprigs of parsley, and in the evenings I’d help him close up, swabbing and mopping up. Weekends, I’d spend longer hours for a little more money, although I seldom handled the merchandise.

Sarah_Vaughan_1955
Sarah Vaughan ~ Wikimedia Commons

Our chores were all done behind closed doors to the accompaniment of a portable Dansette record player, which he’d load with 45’s from his collection. His musical tastes were pretty sophisticated, particularly in the area of what he referred to as “the thrushes”, those classy chanteuses who were attaining post-war success on both sides of the Atlantic, and among them he held none in higher esteem than Sarah Vaughan, or “Sassy” as she was fondly nick-named.

It was the late ’50’s, and rock ‘n’ roll was already knockin’ on the door, but even as I was avid about the new music, my family’s musical background was such that I was already playing guitar in my Uncle Jack’s dance band , before my folks would let me anywhere near a beat group, and I was also working on piano and bass. Uncle Brian played violin and clarinet, and did some composition in the classical vein and my elder cousin John was a drummer. Therefore, I was no stranger to adult sophisticated music, and enjoyed a great deal of it. I loved Gershwin in particular.

Sarah Vaughan had recorded a song called “Broken Hearted Melody“, which had become popular on BBC in early 1959, so I knew her by name, but Billy was crazy about her recording of “Every Time We Say Goodbye“, a Cole Porter song (actually written in the “40’s) that had just come out in her version. He knew this record back to front, inside and out, and offered an amazingly detailed account of every nuance in the performance, which was remarkable in a fellow who played no instrument, and was basically a fan. I had no problem at all listening to the record on repeat as we did fishmongerly things and Billy pointed out musical highlights, including the exquisite melodic joke Porter makes on the line ” How strange the change from major to minor”, emphasized by Sassy’s gorgeous delivery.

My musical DNA had made me a lazy listener up to that point. I took it for granted that deciphering chord sequences and tempos, bass lines and the structural  building blocks, were just there….my gift. So, I could do a basic analysis of a composition really quickly, but I often missed the deeper nuances…..but, hey …I was fourteen! The fact that Billy could articulate such deeply sophisticated musical concepts in non-musical terms blew me away. This guy listened hard, and took nothing for granted….he worked for his musical  gratification. I picked up on that pretty quickly! By the time Ketty Lester’s epochal “Love Letters” arrived, with the Lincoln Mayorga piano part and production, I was so ready for it, thanks to Billy Fish!

As time went on, I followed what seems, in retrospect, to be a preordained path…50+ years in all aspects of the music world, but Billy Fish was an important part of my development. Ta! Billy….

Meeting Street Out / Transcontinental Recording In

Junior Jukebox Volume 4
Cd Release Party for Junior Jukebox Volume 4 – Meeting Street

 

Long time, no blog. Haven’t been lazing around, however…..Papa Snow Vol 4 “Meeting Street”, was released last month via EEG, and is performing amazingly well!

I’ve now embarked on an interesting “hands across the water” project involving Irish songstress and composer Elizabeth Reed (who I produced some years ago), and the great tin whistle virtuoso Davy Spillane ( of Moving Hearts fame).

It’s quite literally an Atlantic crossing; assembling tracks here in Nashville studios using great players with Celtic music connections ( Pat McInerney, Ron DeLaVega and John Mock) to adorn Elizabeth’s vocals and compositions, performed initially to my keyboard accompaniments. Then, due to the wonders of modern technology, my stalwart engineer/mixer Joe Funderburk wafts them off in the ether to Dublin, where Davy weaves his magic before returning his contributions by the same method.

We’re well beyond the half way mark, and the results to date have been very satisfying, and not in the least “techie” sounding….it’s all beautifully recorded, and beautifully acoustic….well, I couldn’t resist sneaking a taste of Wurlitzer electric piano in here and there-so shoot me !

We should be done and dusted by mid-August, so we’ll keep everyone posted on future news !

Have YOU listened to the latest copy of Junior Jukebox? How about reviewing it on Amazon? If NOT, how about getting a copy for the kiddies in your life:)

Take Me To Junior Jukebox Volume 4 – Meeting Street on Amazon!

The Skelly Suggests…Cherry Pickin’ Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker by Naaman Saar Stavy Creative Commons
Joe Cocker by Naaman Saar Stavy Creative Commons

 

The following cherry-pick through Joe’s discography includes the writing credits for each song.

  1. THE LETTER  ( Wayne Thompson)
  2. CRY ME A RIVER ( Arthur Hamilton)
  3. ONE NIGHT OF SIN ( Dave Bartholomew/ Pearl King )
  4. FUN TIME ( Allen Toussaint)
  5. MANY RIVERS TO CROSS ( Jimmy Cliff)
  6. YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR HAT ON (Randy Newman)
  7. I KEEP FORGETTIN’ ( Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller)
  8. FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN ( Leonard Cohen)
  9. I THINK IT’S GOING TO RAIN TODAY( Randy Newman)
  10. DARLING BE HOME SOON ( John Sebastian)

From the Desk…Writing vs Interpreting

Joe Cocker by Eddie Monosnaps (https://flic.kr/p/7ip44) Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode
Joe Cocker by Eddie Monosnaps (https://flic.kr/p/7ip44) Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Although Joe Cocker co-wrote many songs, mostly with long-time keyboard cohort Chris Stainton, it was his interpretive skills that, rightly, took him to the heights. Despite his ramshackle manner, he was a deeply informed student of song, as evidenced by his extremely wide range of source material, which covered most of the bases of popular and also eclectic songwriting.

His signature songs, ” A Little Help From My Friends” and “You Are So Beautiful” by Lennon & McCartney and Billy Preston, respectively, are among the best-known cover songs in modern musical history, and along with  his duet with Jennifer Warnes, the ubiquitous “Up Where We Belong” (Will Jennings, Jack Nitzche, Buffy Saint Marie ), are probably the most recognizable pillars of his reputation, but in his long career, there were so many writers who benefited from his way with a song.

Up front about his adoration for Ray Charles, he was visibly moved on a TV program when Ray complemented him on being a star pupil ” He may have begun taking it from me, but what you hear now is all Joe Cocker-it’s his soul you’re hearin’ “.

 He inhabited a song as completely as did Ray Charles, which is as fitting a tribute as he would ever have wanted, being the humble man he was.

The Skelly Suggests…Bacharach

 

 

Isley Meets Bacharach
Isley Meets Bacharach
Painted From Memory Costello/ Bacharach
Painted From Memory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A suggestion to any Bacharach freaks out there : take ” Isley meets Bacharach” and the fabulous Costello / Bacharach collaboration :

Start with track 1.of Isley, then play track 1 of Costello. Go through both albums in that order, and you will end up with the most glorious example of Bacharach’s art on one disc. I’ve already done it, and it’s sublime…

With love M.S.