Monthly Archives: December 2015

Year 20

A few small changes between then and now.

Cuppla small changes between then and now.

That’s what we’re starting today, the Thriller and I. Nineteen years in the books. Crazy, man.

And he hasn’t run out of the house and into the street screaming yet. Imagine that. Life is not easy with the likes of me, what with shows taking me away from home regularly during the school year, my being the quintessential insecure artist train wreck, and generally functioning as his polar opposite in many ways:

  • I could leave the dishes in the sink overnight and not think about it for two more days. He has to have them taken care of.
  • I’d let the laundry pile up and do it once a week. He likes to keep at it so it’s always at a minimum.
  • I’m an avid reader; he’d rather watch TV for relaxation.
  • He likes to put up Christmas lights; I couldn’t care less about it.
  • Our politics are not quite aligned.
  • He likes ghostie and Bigfoot shows, while I think they’re ridiculous (and he likely thinks the same about all my crazy dramas on the DVR, but doesn’t feel the need to poke fun at them…hmmm…I need to work on that).
  • He’s a processor; a thinker. He’s good with numbers. I’m…well, everything that’s not that. :-D
  • Basically, he’s this and I’m this.

That said, we do share a lot of likes and dislikes:

  • We’re both picky eaters (he even more than I, if my family can imagine that)
  • We love to play video poker
  • Chocolate covered cherries are a food group, and so is anything drowning in hot fudge
  • Road trips are the best; the longer, the better
  • Camping is for the young, and for those who don’t mind mosquitoes, rock-hard sleeping surfaces, sweating and getting filthy — um, yeah
  • We adore our grandchildren
  • We aspire to the same retirement goals (new house, some more travel)
  • We both love dogs

Right now, we’re preparing for a stay-at-home celebration of ordering food in and watching a movie on PPV, maybe. Or perhaps we’ll have some fun chatting over dinner, then he’ll go watch the Blackhawks and I’ll do some reading or Dinner Theatre prep. It doesn’t have to be a crazy party to be a joyeaux célébration. Regardless, it’s been a real nice clambake over the last 19+ years. Hugs and love to the Thriller, and happy NYE to all of you!

No blue Monday here

Hey, aren’t you proud of me? I’m on vacation and I actually know what day it is.

I am slashing through my to-do list (OK, I don’t actually have one written out, which should surprise no one, but there’s a kind of list going in my head), making some good progress. Three charts got done yesterday; about 10 hours of work. Glad it’s out of the way.

I like writing my own arrangements. Unlike some choral directors who feel dread when faced with providing their own music for their singers, I get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it. In fact, I wish I could make a living at it. However, I wonder if you’re aware of what an absolute pain it is — I’m talking serious hassle, here — to get arrangements published when the music is not your original composition. Holy cats. Check this out and look at the pictures:

Back in 2011, I wrote a chart on Michael McDonald/Beth Chapman’s gorgeous Christmas song, “Peace.” After submitting it to a respected mentor for advice and getting some good feedback, I thought I’d take a shot at throwing it at a publisher.

I started by tracking down the company that owns the rights to the song. ASCAP had the info I needed, so I contacted the first person I could find. Over the next several weeks, after a dozen phone calls, the obligatory faxes, and a half dozen emails and redirects, I did what was required (submitting my request to the company that holds the publishing rights of “Peace”) and found this


So I gave up. It’s OK, though. I have plenty keeping me busy; no intrinsic need to worry about rejection of my stuff at the moment. As long as the audiences and the kids think it’s decent, I’m fine with that.

But no worries for today, Jim! The Thriller and I are going to see Star Wars this afternoon, followed by dinner out. We’ll likely call this our anniversary celebration, as we won’t be going anywhere on the 31st. Too much crazy prowling about on that night.

Hope you’re not having a blue Monday.

If they asked me, I could write a book*

Maybe not a book, but I could definitely write a paper, or an article, or a pop music history lesson plan about it. Ready? Here it is:

Ringo Starr did not play on the recording of the song “Please Please Me,” from the album of the same name, released by Parlophone in 1963. Apparently, upon hearing it while previewing material to include on Anthology I in the early 1990s, George and Paul immediately remarked, “That’s not Ringo.” Much controversy surrounded (and still surrounds) this issue, and I’ve read conflicting-yet-convincing arguments on both sides.

Still with me? :-) Read on.

The late Andy White filled in as one of the many drummers the Beatles used in revolving-door succession before finally settling on Richard Starkey. I’ve often wondered how people like White, Colin Hanton, Norman Chapman, Cliff Roberts and other drummers felt about *almost* reaching fame of positively cosmic proportions, but for one reason or another, fell along the wayside. (In the very early days, some drummers chose not to continue on with the ragtag band of obnoxious, demanding and sometimes unkind partyboys; in other cases, jazz-oriented players simply dismissed their music as silly, took the few quid for playing the gig, and went on their way.) A couple of years later, to some, I’m sure it felt like they gave away the winning lottery ticket. I think no one felt this enormous sense of missed opportunity — and, according to his own account, betrayal — as vividly and painfully as Pete Best. Alas, a story for another day; so many layers. If they asked me, I could write a book, but, you know…that’s been covered.

Anyway, there are several theories about why Andy White was credited on the single release of “Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You” (it should be noted that Ringo, as the band’s newcomer, played auxiliary percussion on those two songs), but was not listed as drummer on the LP Please Please Me’s title track. One popular position is that producer George Martin didn’t like Ringo’s interpretation or groove in rehearsal, or didn’t trust him fully yet, and made an executive decision to use White’s version instead. Moreover, listing Ringo’s name on the back cover of the album as the only drummer would have been important to the band’s united identity in the marketplace: Four Lads From Liverpool is much easier to package and hawk than Four Lads From Liverpool Plus One Scottish Guy Filling In On Three Tracks While Ringo Plays Maracas And Tambourine Because God Knows Why.

Thing is…the White version contained some not-so-perfect vocals, which might explain:

1) John’s screwing up of the lyrics on the last verse (starting at :08) and singing the next “Come on” in a half laugh, and

2) the extraneous, spacey sounds and slightly behind-the-beat harmonica riff (starting at :26), presumably in an attempt to incorporate other takes, piecemeal. The result: “shadow” sounds and marginal misalignment caused by layering mono mixes over top of stereo. I’ve made a clip to highlight it (you’ll need to have Flash enabled to listen to it):

Last 42 seconds of “Please Please Me”

I tend to side with this particular story, as White himself recognized his own drum sound and style on the final product — and seriously, what drummer couldn’t recognize his own playing? Or singer his own singing? I can also find no documented interview wherein Ringo confirms or denies White’s involvement on the final issued LP. My guess is the people who were there can’t really remember clearly, combined with the fact that there has always been considerable confusion surrounding session time sheets for that week in ’62. Bottom line: Stuff gets misplaced or destroyed, and when you’re depending on folks’ individual recollections of repeated, nearly identical sessions, memories can be sketchy at best some 40+ years on.

“Please Please Me” began its life at Paul’s house on Forthlin Road as a bit of an ode to Roy Orbison: slow, jangly and a bit on the schmaltzy side, almost channeling Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.” (Any recordings of that version have been lost to history, but this guy does a pretty decent cover of what it might have sounded like.) George Martin thought it completely boring, and sped up the tempo to give it some energy. Sometimes, it pays to listen to your producer — even one who had never produced a single rock group in his entire career before taking on the Beatles.

Have we had enough of reading about “Please Please Me” yet? Yeah, I thought so. ;-) But hey — it’s the weekend for all you private sector types, so have a groovy Saturday. I’m off to write arrangements & such.


*One of my all-time favorite standards, by the way.

Christmas RNFs

After a day of cooking, baking, cleaning, running about, and taking an extra-special hour out of Christmas Eve to pile in the car with the Thriller and hunt for Pax, who’d decided to have a Home Alone: Lost in New York-style adventure, I collapsed on the bed at 9:30 last night, after our traditional family Christmas Eve celebration. What a great day.

So, of course, I’m up before dawn, even earlier than usual, thinking thoughts (3:45 this morning). But no regrets; it was a wonderful day and evening. Was Santa good to you and yours? I hope so.

I’m writing two arrangements this week for my choirs. One should be easy enough to pull off for 5th/6th grade (Great Big World’s beautifully sad Say Something); the other, for high school choir, will take a bit more work (Africa” by Toto). After those are in the books, I’ll start on one for my advanced ensemble (The Girl is Mine,” a cute duet recorded in 1982 by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, minus the stupid banter at the end). So, the creative muse –should she be found– looks to be busy for the rest of the “vacation.” Seems like I can’t wait for a break like this, but once I’m at home and not setting alarms, all I can think about is going back to work. Go figure.

Still, we’re going to make some time for fun before I go back. Our standard trip to Cleveland on Christmas morning (after the Thriller gets up and we have coffee) is still on, and we may yet go to a Star Wars showing after having dinner at the Outback, courtesy of our friends BoomR and BluVox down in Dallas. (Thank you guys!)

paxphotoDo you like to play around with photos? At the suggestion of someone who posts on an Australian Shepherd group I’m in on Facebook, I downloaded SuperPhoto on my phone, and boy is it fun. This is one of the hundreds of effects you can apply to an image to make it look cool or funky. I applied the “painting” filter to a picture of Jailbreak Boy, and it does fancy him up a bit. There are lots of other neat effects, too.

And now it’s 5:48. I love looking at our Christmas lights while it’s still quiet and dark in the early morning, and the beautiful Frasier fir in the living room still smells good, looking stately and peaceful as the only light on in the house right now. Peace: I love it. And I wish it for you this Christmas Day and into the new year. Much love.

Remember me?

Are you finished with your shopping?

It’s been a while, but it’s great to see you. I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season! :-)

For the first time ever, I took a huge long break from blogging. Why? Meh. I dunno. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are several reasons, but among them: 1) I was sad, 2) Godspell was a brutal rehearsal schedule and I was pretty much exhausted, and 3) I was mad at some Americans for their collective hatred and bigotry, and didn’t want to use RtB as a sort of bully pulpit. That kind of negativity extracts joy, and I really didn’t want to contribute to it. So, as Mother used to tell us, If you don’t have anything nice to say…

As I look at 2015 in the rear-view:

  • Even thought I’m an avid fan of made-up stories, I read some great non-fiction (this, this and this – sheesh, no wonder I was depressed).
  • I wrote to you exactly five times in August, three times in September, twice in October and once in November. A sad trend. Thassnotright.
  • I said silly things like, “I didn’t enjoy recess, because I was afraid of some boys who always picked on me. They were not nice. They’re probably corporate presidents now.”
  • We had a super fun summer Odyssey.
  • Five of my favorite shows ended in 2015, darn: Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, The Newsroom, DaVinci’s Demons and True Blood. (I’m still not over Mad Men not being a part of my Sunday nights.) But many of my other faves — Homeland, The Knick, Empire, Penny Dreadful, Outlander, Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight, others — are still going strong. I still record most of my television watching due to my work schedule, but I’m grateful for times like this when I can catch up. That easy life of a teacher, I tell ya…
  • Good grief, I have snarked this year.
  • But I got pretty new dishes. :-)
  • I hated on some singing voices, but none more than my own. Heh.

Another year, almost in the books. Fellow crusties: do you find yourself ruminating on your mortality more often nowadays? I try not to, as it’s basically pointless. Moot, sort of. Sometimes, I think about how I could have, conceivably, less than a decade or so left to live (give or take), and there are still a thousand things I haven’t done. Stupid jobs and mortgages, anyhow (and lack of independent wealth). Where’s that silver spoon when you need it?

Anyway, it’s good to talk to you again. I hope the next time doesn’t take another seven and a half weeks.

Fink, who’s being taken shopping and to lunch by #1 Son Seamus today — wahoo!