Commentary From the Mile High City

"Star of the conservative blogosphere" Denver Post

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Joshua Sharf

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May 22, 2008

The Ruinous Effects of Tom Lehrer

So the Big Band channel for some reason decides to play Don Cornell's "I'm Yours," one of the sappy, string-backed ballads from the 50s when popular music was descending into madness. Anyway, one of the lines is, "I stand here before you/My heart in my hand..."

Anyone who's ever heard "The Masochism Tango" would have to have a heart of stone to hear that line without bursting into laughter.

To salvage this post, I'll point out that the next song was, "I'll Walk Alone." Mark Steyn delights in showing the universality of 1940s popular culture with the story that some wag had written on a ruined German tank, "I'll Walk Cologne."

UPDATE: According to the always-suspect Wikipedia entry, there were three versions of "I'm Yours" on the chart at the same time in the Spring of 1952. *Sigh* As Hugh likes to say, "That which is rewarded gets repeated."

May 6, 2008

Musical Quotes

A while back, Lileks expressed righteous indignation at Paul Whiteman's tendency to quote "Rhapsody in Blue" in about 90% of the records he cut from that point on. (This before his successful career tormenting Jack Benny in various service roles, and his later reincarnation as Kansas's football coach.)

So here I am, listening to the Fletcher Henderson version of the King Porter Stomp (if you're still reading this, you already know the Benny Goodman version), when what do I hear, but that same set of descending chords.

So either Fletcher was having a little fun at Paul's expense, or he was putting in a bid for his share of the royalties, or lots of bandleaders like quoting famous bits of other songs in the middle of their own riffs.

UPDATE: So who is this on Roy Eldridge's "Stop! The Light's on Red" who sings it like "Stob!" as though she has a cold? Turns out it's Anita O'Day, who had the famous banter with the cab driver (actually Eldridge himself) in "Let Me Off Uptown." Nicknamed, "The Jezebel of Jazz," she seems to have had one of the roughest lives in jazz, with being eaten by dogs, Jeeves, just about the only misfortune she escaped, which is good, because she apparently liked raising them.

The story has as much of a happy ending as can be expected in real life for someone who went through so much. She did seem to revive her career in the 90s, riding a wave of nostalgia, but also her considerable talent, back to the bandstand.

April 11, 2008

Like Riding a Bicycle

Here at Cricket, they're run out of office space, so they've put the contract developers in a pit. Well, a conference room, really. We're very lucky in that it has a phone. One phone, kind of like in Brazil. Although we're being paid by the hour, the focus now is on bug fixes - and there are many bugs - so it's a bit like piecework. When the roof started to buckle last week, it was almost DTC's own Triangle Shirt Waist Fire.

Anyway, privacy's unheard-of, and concentration's at a premium, so I've borrowed the gold-plated Backbone Radio noise-cancelling headphones and have started listening to Yahoo! Music. The Big Band station mostly, for now. A lot of the songs are new to me, but most aren't, and it's surprising how many of the lyrics I still remember.

I tried listening to the Vocal Standards, thinking "Great American Song Book," but I needed the coffee just to stay awake. For some reason, in about 1947, the music world forgot about the backbeat, and everything turned into "How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?" and Perry Como and the Four This and the Four Those. It's enough to make you wonder if Sinatra really lost his voice or if he was just holding out for better material.

I'm tellin' ya, I'm 90 years old, just remarkably well-preserved.

UPDATE: So naturally, they play Jo Stafford's version of "I'll Be Seeing You," my one and only Song of the Week. Which I guess makes it the Song of the Blog.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud