148 FRIDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2014
Shall We Dance? – Gotan Project – Top 10 Contender
Just like cricket, ballroom dancing is one of those pastimes that I have never fully understood. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they do seem like fun activities, at least ballroom does. But I don’t see the point of both being taken so seriously, lest being professional disciplines with championships and world cups. However, I’m a sucker for movies where ordinary people get their moment to shine under the spotlight of such pastimes. That is why I’ve liked movies such as 1991’s “Stepping Out”, and 2004’s “Shall We Dance?”. In the former, La Minnelli teaches a group of misfits to tap so they get to excel in a dance recital. In the latter, La Lopez coaches another group of everyday people for a ballroom competition.
The film “Shall We Dance?” features the Gotan Project’s music, including this rendition of Shall We Dance? which is used during the obligatory montage of the group of hopefuls improving on their dancing techniques. I know, moments like that in a movie can be very corny, but I always buy into those, I’m truly happy for the characters’ successes. In this case, in particular, it is the music of the Gotan Project that makes the scene cool. The Gotan Project may as well be one of the coolest bands to come out of France in the last 15 years, an Argentine, a French, and a Swiss taking tango to a new level. Check them out!
Song Title: Shall We Dance? – 1951 Artist: Gotan Project Genre: Musical Composer: Richard Rodgers Lyricist: Oscar Hammerstein Album: Shall We Dance? (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
Runners Up: It Was Love • Sex and the City Movie Theme • Happy Feet • I Could Have Danced All Night
149 SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2014
Pedro Navaja – Rubén Blades
Pedro Navaja was a huge popular hit when it came out in 1978. It was probably the first time that I heard any of Rubén Blades songs. After that, I was hooked.
Inspired by “Mack The Knife” from “The Three Penny Opera”, Pedro Navaja (Navaja is knife in Spanish) tells the story of a two-bit neighbourhood assassin with a gold tooth who meets his fate at the hands of a prostitute. After stabbing her in the street, for no apparent reason, she guns him down with a “Smith & Wesson” she keeps in her bag for protection. As the two bodies lie on the sidewalk, a drunken man walks by, takes the knife, the revolver, and the money and walks away from the scene singing, “Life gives you surprises, and surprises come from life.”
The phrase, “Life gives you surprises” is not only one of the most universally used phrases in Spanish, but it is often sung rather than spoken, just like in the song’s chorus. I’m not sure if Blades coined the phrase, but it is certainly associated with him.
Song Title: Pedro Navaja – 1978 Artist: Rubén Blades Genre: Latin Composer: Rubén Blades Lyricist: Rubén Blades Album: Siembra – EP
Favourite Lyrics: La vida te da sorpresas, sorpresas te da la vida” ¡Ay Dios! / Pedro Navaja matón de esquina / quien a hierro mata, a hierro termina.
Life gives you surprises, surprises come from life “Oh God! / Pedro The Knife corner killer / who kills by iron to by iron ends.
Runners Up: Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man • ‘Till Good Luck Comes My Way • Life Upon The Wicked Stage • Why Do I Love You? /Montage – Chgo • Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (Reprise) • Kim’s Charleston • I’m Still Here (From “Follies”) • I’m Daisy, I’m Violet • Feelings You’ve Got To Hide • Leave Me Alone • We Share Everything • Who Will Love Me As I Am? • One Plus One Equals Three • I Will Never Leave You • Yo Viviré (I Will Survive)
150 SUNDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2014
Good Morning – Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds – Top 10 Contender
“Don’t you think Debbie Reynolds looks tired?” My mother walked by and asked me while I watched the Good Morning scene from “Singin’ In The Rain”.
“Funny you mention,” I always thought my mother was very perceptive. “As a matter of fact, I’ve read that Gene Kelly was a tyrant during the making of this movie.”
“No, that’s not it.” My mother answered without even processing the information I had just given her.
“What do you mean?”
“She wasn’t tired at first.”
“Not sure I follow …” I couldn’t see where she was going with this.
“I mean when you’ve been watching that movie non-stop for a week. Give it a rest. Let poor Debbie take a break.” She said and kept going her way. “Go outside and play.”
I stopped the VCR and probably went on to do another thing.
Yeah, I was a little bit obsessed with the movie, particularly this song.
Sometime in the 1980s, they showed “Singin’ In The Rain” on TV. I had never seen it. So, not only did I watch it, but I also taped it. Needless to say, I loved it from start to end, every song and musical number were fabulous. I use to watch the movie constantly, and it was this particular number, the one that I’d play almost in a loop, I just thought it was incredible. Not only the talent of Kelly, O’Connor and Reynolds was impressive, but the dance arrangements were also superb. I can’t exactly remember the reason why I watched it so much, though … Oh, who the fuck am I fooling? You already know that I saw myself in the musical number. Sometimes I’d be Gene Kelly and other times Donald O’Connor, and often, Debbie Reynolds, naturally.
After years, I can’t still watch the number just once. I have to watch it two or three times whenever I run across it in youtube. Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor look so young, cute and charming. And although I believe the number has the lamest segue from dialogue to a song in movie musical history, and Gene Kelly’s ridiculous faces are distracting, I still think it is a fabulous number. Of course, I can still see myself in it.
Song Title: Good Morning – 1939 Artist: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds Genre: Soundtrack Composer: Nacio Herb Brown Lyricist: Arthur Freed Album: Singin’ In The Rain
Favourite Lyrics: When the band began to play the stars were shinging bright / Now the milkman’s on his way and it’s too late to say good night.
Runners Up: Stereophonic Sound • All Of You • Red Blues • What Kind of Fool Am I? • The Impossible Dream • Some Other Time • All the Things You Are • Striking Similarities • It All Depends On You • Should I • You Do Something To Me • Ol’ Mac Donald • Title Music • Fit As A Fiddle • All I Do Is Dream Of You • Hollywood Montage • You Were Meant For Me • Moses • Singin’ In The Rain
151 MONDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2014
Reunion And Finale – Orchestra
In the summer of 1995, many guys my age were engrossed by the best seller “Sleepers”, a riveting memoir by Lorenzo Carcaterra. The novel tells the story of four young friends growing up in New York’s Hell Kitchen in the 1960s. After a prank goes horribly wrong, putting a man in the hospital, the lads are sent to a juvenile correction facility, where they suffer terrible abuse. As adults, two of them, John and Tommy, have a fortuitous encounter with one of their abusers and gun him down. One of the friends, Michael, now an assistant district attorney, manages to get assigned to the case, so he can mess up the prosecution and set his friends free. Although the veracity of events has been highly debatable for 20 years, the book is still catalogued as non-fiction.
After I had devoured the novel over a weekend, I loaned the book to my friend Eduardo who also read it in a matter of days. For weeks after that, there wasn’t a moment we got together that we didn’t talk about the book, we were obsessed by it. It was a fantastic story, with colourful characters, and unbelievable events. Even when we learned the story may not have happened as it was described, or happened at all, we still loved the book. We had become hard-core fans of the novel.
In October of 1996, the movie version opened and Eduardo and I were the first ones on the block to watch it. We loved it, of course! The movie was as good as the book and it had a stellar cast, including Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Bacon. However, it was the score by John Williams what turned out to be the real star of the movie. Although better known for his themes for blockbusters like Jaws, Star Wars or Indiana Jones, Williams’ score for this film is considered to be above average. I think it is very organic, it feels intrinsic to the characters and locations. It is not just background music. It almost feels like an additional omnipresent narrator with a story to tell as well.
The piece I chose is the one used in the final scene. At that moment, the score embraces us. Its soothing effect let us know that the worst has passed. Things are about to wrap, and although some of the characters would go on with their lives, perhaps doing other interesting things; as a group, this extraordinary event was the only story about them worth telling.
After almost 20 years, “Sleepers” still remains my favourite film score of all time.
Song Title: Reunion And Finale – 1996 Artist: Orchestra Genre: Soundtrack Composer: John Williams Album: Sleepers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Runners Up: Would You • The Braodway Ballet • Singin’ In The Rain • Top Hat, White Tie and Tails • Hell’s Kitchen • Broadway, Here I Come! • Hand Covers Bruise
152 TUESDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2014
I Could Drive a Person Crazy – Christopher Durang, Scott Frankel
The only reason I’ve picked this Sondheim’s song is because I’ve fantasised about doing it on a big stage. Although originally called “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and sung by three women, on this version from “Putting It Together” the song takes on the first person. The man now sings about his inadequacies and exigencies when it comes to love. Although, a few have described me as high maintenance, trust me, I can’t personally relate to any of the lyrics. I just like it because of its energy and zaniness.
Song Title: I Could Drive a Person Crazy – 1970 Artist: Christopher Durang, Scott Frankel Genre: Musical Composer: Stephen Sondheim Lyricist: Stephen Sondheim Album: Sondheim – Putting It Together
Favourite Lyrics: When a person says that I’ve upset them / That’s when I’m good / I impersonate a person better / Than a zombie should.
Runner Ups: Sweet Sue (Alternate Track) • On the Street Where You Live • If I Were a Bell • Maybe • Invocation and Instructions to the Audience • Putting It Together • Back in Business • Merrily We Roll Along, No. 4 • Old Friends
153 WEDNESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2014
So Many People – Vanessa Williams, Norm Lewis
I’ve always looked forward to Daylight Time saving. That Sunday, when we move the clocks one hour forward, is hands down, my favourite time of the year. The last weekend of September 2010 was particularly special, I was seeing a man. A young and handsome man had come into my life slow, but with the steadiness and perseverance that we often confuse with the signs of everlasting love.
I don’t have many rules, but I’ve made a lot of guidelines for myself, among them, the seven-year gap. That is I only go out with men who are seven years older or younger than me, that is, men born between 1958 and 1972 to be exact. So, I was the first one surprised when I started to fancy a man 20 years younger than me. It’s not as it was planned or anything, we had known each other for a while. Then one night he told me he was gay, a few months later he showed up at my place late one night, and he stayed the night. For a few months, we embarked on a secret affair, and then, the last weekend of September arrived.
That Saturday night we saw each other at a party and had a lovely time. When I left, he hugged me. We both wanted to kiss, but there were people around. He said he’d kiss me next time we saw each other. I smiled and told him I’d be looking forward to the next time.
As I walked down the street, I took out my iPod and listened to So Many People. That day I had bought on iTunes the album from the musical “Sondheim On Sondheim”, a review of Sondheim’s musical numbers.
As I walked down the street, I felt as if I was inside a musical, I found it hard to believe that someone so young, delightful and handsome was choosing me. Like the song said, with so many people in the world, you choose me. I went to a bar to have a drink, I was trying to put things into perspective and strategize. I felt we both were on the verge of becoming a couple.
At the bar I ran into a few friends; you know the type, wise older gay guys who have been around the block a few times. I asked their opinion about my budding romance with a young man. One of them said: “You think it will be okay because you don’t look your age, but that’s never an issue. They only say that, because they think you want to hear it. They’ll like you no matter what.” Another one said that there would always be a 20-year difference but that the gap would eventually shrink, “The difference between 35 and 55 is smaller than the one between 25 and 45.” Finally, I was warned that these are the kind of relationships one enters at our own risk.
Two days later, my young friend called and asked me out for coffee that evening. He ended it up that day. He tried to explain why, I tried to understand, but couldn’t. However, I had to accept his decision and move on.
I never understood what happened that weekend, and how a promising romance crashed and burned over coffee that Monday evening. Trying to find answers, I used to fantasise about that weekend. I wondered what had happened in that lost hour when we moved or clocks from 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM. Whatever it was, I was sure I could find an answer in that lost hour. I was convinced that if I waited six months, on the Sunday morning when we switched our clocks back, I’d find an answer. All I had to do was switch my clock back to 2:00 AM when it hit 3:00 AM and live that hour for a second time. I snapped out of that idea quickly; that was the romantic in me trying to cope and understand. I don’t believe I’ve ever been up at that time when clocks go back to 2:00 AM, so I haven’t been able to prove my theory. One day I may try it, though.
My young man turns thirty this year; we’re still friends.
Song Title: So Many People – 1955 Artist: Vanessa Williams, Norm Lewis Genre: Musical Composer: Stephen Sondheim Lyricist: Stephen Sondheim Album: Sondheim On Sondheim (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Favourite Lyrics: So many people in the world / Don’t know what they’ve missed / They’d never believe / Such joy could exist / And if they tell us / Its a thing without growth / They’re jealous as they can be / That with so many people / In the world / You love me
Runners Up: The Best Thing That Ever Happened • Happiness • Loving You • Losing My Mind / Not a Day Goes By • Opening Doors • Being Alive • Company / Old Friends • Anyone Can Whistle • The Song Is You • Nobody Does It Better • Nice Work If You Can Get It • Fascinathing Rhythm • All The Things You Are • Over The Rainbow • Laura • The Lady Is A Tramp • Manhattan • Brotherhood of Man
154 THURSDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2014
The Sound of Music – Carrie Underwood
This week I leave you with one of the most cherished songs of the last 50 years, The Sound Of Music. Note that I’ve chosen the Carrie Underwood version. Yes, Carrie Underwood. You may remember all the hate she received for daring to step in Julie Andrews’s shoes for playing Maria in a Live performance of the musical. Right! Like Julie Andrews was the original Maria, please! Hello, Mary Martin!
I’m going to be honest, although I think “The Sound of Music” is a great film, I was never a big fan of Julie Andrews as Maria. Not sure why. She’s just never clicked with me. As a matter of fact, there are very few things Julie Andrews has done, as an actress that I’ve liked. In any case, it was this Carrie Underwood rendition that re-connected me with The Sound Of Music, her honest low tones made me believe again in the power of your heart’s passion.
I’m convinced that after a long period of negativity and cynicism, this rendition moved me to start making amends with the life I’m living.
Song Title: The Sound of Music – 1959 Artist: Carrie Underwood Genre: Musical Composer: Richard Rodgers Lyricist: Oscar Hammerstein Album: The Sound of Music (Music from the NBC Television Event)
Favourite Lyrics: I go to the hills when my heart is lonely / I know I will hear what I’ve heard before / My heart will be blessed with the sound of music / And I’ll sing once more
Runners Up: Time Is An Ocean • The Simpsons Main Title Theme (Extended Version) • Pet Me Poppa