Song of the day: The Bob Crewe Generation – "Music To Watch Girls By"

June 26, 2012

Today’s instrumental is a groovy little number (dig that tune, baby):

The Bob Crewe Generation – “Music To Watch Girls By (1967)

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Or if you prefer a singin’ version, here’s Andy Williams to satisfy your vocal needs:

Andy Williams – “Music To Watch Girls By (1967)

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Incidentally, I found out that I’d already posted both versions of “Music To Watch Girls By” (a couple of years ago). It was part of a selection of songs in an instalment of the Frank’s Faves on Fridays series. But I love this track so much that for this week of instrumentals I’m more than happy to extract it from Frank’s Faves and place it centre stage. (Or, as Americans like to say: “center stage”.)

Also incidentally, I found a video of Andy Williams performing the song on one those 1960’s TV variety shows. Although I think it’s fabulous, I must warn you that it contains an utterly bizarre middle section (starting at 1:04) – Andy stops singing, the orchestra goes off on a wild tangent, and the dancers start dancing like pixies. It’s very strange (and very typical of TV variety shows from the 1960s):

I think the weirdest thing about that video is the background vocals when Andy comes back on after the middle section and resumes his singing (from 2:29). Andy sings “Guys talk…”, and the background vocals do something indescribable the background vocals sound… well, I can’t really describe those background vocals.

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Frank’s Faves on Fridays

August 13, 2010

Eternity’s Children – “Little Boy” (1968)

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This is the work of Psychedelic/Sunshine Pop wunderkind Curt Boettcher, but I didn’t know that until I went a-lookin’ for some information about Eternity’s Children. I’m a fan of Curt and his various projects – I have The Millennium’s Begin (1968) which is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best Sunshine Pop albums ever made (I also think it’s one of the great lost albums of the Sixties) – but wasn’t familiar with Eternity’s Children at all. And that last sentence was way too long. Anyway, in addition to Begin I also have the triple-disc compilation of Magic Time: The Millennium Sessions which features Curt Boettcher creations The Millennium, The Ballroom, Sagittarius, and Summer’s Children – but no Eternity’s Children. And it’s just occurred to me that at this very moment all I’m doing is filling your head with useless information. I’ll try to get back on to the point of this paragraph, which is to respond to your song suggestion. Okey dokey. The song in question is lovely. (That’s because Curt Boettcher’s involved.) It’s the first time I think I’ve ever heard a Sunshine Pop song with a bit of Soul. However, the bit in the middle (starting at 1:35) threw me a little, because up until then I had been quietly grooving to the smooth sounds of Curt & Co. I was diggin’ the dreamy jazz guitar noodling in the left channel, and that barely audible Hammond organ burbling away in the background – and then all of a sudden this weird Mamas & The Papas-ish up-tempo section appeared for no apparent reason. And then it went away almost as quickly. I thought it was an incongruous middle eight for that particular song. (Well, it was the Sixties, I suppose. Anything goes, man.) But I’m used to it now.

Incidentally, courtesy of listening to “Little Boy” (and liking it) I now have a 25-track Eternity’s Children compilation, and I think it’s fabulous. The music is primarily Sunshine Pop, but each song has a little bit of some other music as well. Here are a couple of songs from that compilation:

Eternity’s Children – “I Wanna Be With You” (1969)

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…because it reminded me of “It’s Not Unusual” which subsequently reminded me of you (I know you’re a big fan of Tom Jones);

and

Eternity’s Children – “Till I Hear It From You” (1969)

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….which I think is a nice bit of faux-Smokey Robinson.

Now, back to your suggestions…

Ronnie Dove – “My Babe” (1967)

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Groovy. I’ve played it a few times now – and liked it each time – but every time it finishes I have to play it again because I’d forgotten how it went. I’m now playing it one more time so I can make notes about it before I forget it again. I like the little 12-string guitar breaks (they remind me of something). The syncopated rhythms in the verses remind me of The Seekers. (That, to me, is a Good Thing.) I’ve listened to “My Babe” five times now, and the tunes are finally sinking in. “My babe, I got my babe, and I won’t lie babe…”

Tom Waits – “Tango Till They’re Sore” (1985)

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Ah, The World’s Last Living Beatnik Musician™. I used to be a fan of Tom’s earlier stuff up until about Heartattack And Vine (1980) (I even went and saw him live, too, when he came to Adelaide in 1979), but not so much his later stuff when he decided to get more and more experimental, both instrumentally and vocally. I got tired of his defiant oddness (e.g., “I think I’ll use a garbage can for the rhythm track on the next song, and maybe the sound of rubber bands stretching as well…”). I know a lot of people (especially music critics) say that you have to look past the weirdness for the polished-gem-of-a-song within, but I’ve had trouble finding the beauty within. And so it is with this song, too. I listen to Tom growling and try to look past his “lassitudinous louche”* persona, but he doesn’t make it easy. I was going to use the word “defiant” again, but I think I’ll use “resolute” instead. Tom seems resolute in his non-conformity. Now, I have no problem with non-conformity in music (I adore Kate Bush, for example), but for me that non-conformity needs to serve and enhance the music presented. Unfortunately, I don’t hear how Tom’s songs are enhanced by the musical and vocal choices he makes. The more recent music I’ve heard from Tom – and, admittedly, it hasn’t been a lot – has sounded to me deliberately ugly, as if Tom is daring you to like his music. Ah well. I guess I’ll just have to look deeper for that beauty within. If it’s there. But I don’t think I actually got around to talking about the song in question. “Tango Till They’re Sore” sounds to me like something that came from Berlin in the 1920’s, when Berlin was full of champagne and decadence. The song sounds as if it was written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. I’ll let other people decide that.

(*Sorry about the verbiage there.)

Plain White T’s – “Sunlight” (2008)

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I’d never heard this song before, but I had heard of the Plain White T’s (courtesy of kids’ TV show, iCarly, where they appeared in an episode). When the first five words (“When the storm won’t end”) came out of the singer’s mouth I was convinced it was Paul McCartney. It sounds exactly like Paul McCartney. However, after those first five words the singer stopped sounding like Mr. McC and the song then settled into an exceedingly pleasant and inoffensive track (slightly bland, maybe). I have a feeling that I just damned this song with faint praise. I think it’s very nice that there’s a young pop band with melodies and harmonies and all those things that make songs so satisfying, but “Sunlight” didn’t grab me in any major way. I wanted it to, because of the dearth of bands nowadays writing actual, you know, tunes, but it wasn’t memorable enough for me. My loss.

Andy Williams – “Music To Watch Girls By (1967)

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This is great, great stuff. I have only one criticism of the song, though: I think it’s too fast. My view with this song is: “Why hurry? Take your time and enjoy those tunes…” Apart from the speed, however, I think it’s a splendid version of a splendid song – even with the superfluous words.

Bonus instrumental:

The Bob Crewe Generation – “Music To Watch Girls By (1967)

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That’s better. It’s slower, so you can savour those magnificent tunes. Now, if I have only one criticism of this version, it’s that I miss the fuzz guitar from Andy’s version (see above). For me, if you took the fuzz guitar out of Andy’s version and put it in Bob’s version you’d have the perfect version of “Music To Watch Girls Go By”.

Thanks for the variety, Frank. (And extra special thanks for “Music To Watch Girls By”.)