162 FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER 2014
I’m A Brass Band – Jacqueline Dankworth – Top 10 Contender
This is the second appearance of I’m A Brass Band on the list. This time around it comes from a studio cast recording of “Sweet Charity”. When I first introduced I’m A Brass Band, (See number 82, Week 12) I praised its uniqueness and naiveté for expressing the feeling of being loved.
Originally directed by Bob Fosse in 1966, and starring Gwen Verdon, “Sweet Charity” tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, an ever-hopeful taxi dancer in Times Square. Its source of inspiration was Fellini’s “Nights Of Cabiria”, where Cabiria (Charity) is a prostitute searching for love.
In the musical, after Oscar tells Charity he doesn’t care about her being a taxi dancer, Charity can’t contain her feelings of elation and excitement. “All kinds of music is pouring out of me, somebody loves me at last!”. However, her happiness is short-lived. Oscar can’t get pass the many men who have been in Charity’s life, and he walks away; leaving the optimistic Charity gathering the pieces of her broken heart.
Sometime in 1989, I met José through some mutual friends and I was swept away by his good looks and charm. I developed a crush on him, but he didn’t; why would he? He had many men hanging from his rafters, he already a semi-steady man and had his sights set on another friend, Fernando. Nevertheless, I stuck around; we developed a good friendship, I used to hang out often at his flat. I guess you see where I’m going with this.
One day, I showed up at his place around two in the afternoon. One thing led to another, and we ended up making love in bed until about five. Now, this is one of the few times you’ll hear me refer to ‘sex’ as ‘making love’. That’s how naïve I was at the time. You didn’t have sex in bed. No. Sex was what happened in a park bench, in the back seat of a car, or in an alley. Beds; now, that’s where you made love. If someone invited you to share their bed it had to be something special; allowing your naked bodies to twist under the covers was an undeniable sign of feelings and intimacy. As I left Jose’s flat in the early evening, I kissed him and told him I’d come by later that day.
I left Jose’s place feeling happy; do you know what I mean? H-A-P-P-Y. I remember the feeling distinctly, I’ve only felt like that a few times in my life. I could go on and describe what others authors have done more eloquently than I could possibly do, but I’ll spare you the narrative. I just felt like Charity Hope Valentine, a full orchestra played in my heart and soul. I felt my heart’s wings spreading and seizing my spirit to a glorious height that I hoped had a no-return way. Somebody loved me at last! Could something ever bring me down from such rosy height? Only a few hours later, I’d get an answer to my question.
That night José and I went to Fernando’s house, the friend José had been fancying for a while. I truly assumed José was going to tell him that they had to stop their flirtation because he now had his sights on me. At some point during the evening, I felt the wings of my heart falling off. I overheard José’s declaration of love to Fernando. He’d be willing to stop seeing the man he was dating if Fernando gave him a chance. I’m not sure what hurt most; to hear him professing his love to our friend or the fact that after our lovemaking session, that afternoon, I was the one who had driven him to Fernando’s house. Fernando, who was a wise and kind man, knew how I felt about José. He politely declined José’s proposal.
So, there I was, heartbroken and confused, after soaring so high I felt my spirit crushed at the bottom of a pit. I couldn’t believe that after making love all afternoon, someone could be so heartless as to go on profess their love to someone else. It then hit me.
For José, our session wasn’t lovemaking, it was just sex, good sex nonetheless, but nothing more than that. I was the one who brought feelings into the equation. I guess I should have checked with him before that. We had sex a few more times, and every time we did, although less emotionally involved, I always hoped for the day Jose would tell me the same things he told Fernando that night. That never happened, we remained good friends for a while until I left Venezuela.
Whenever I hear this song, I remember the few times I’ve felt the happiest. The afternoon I spent with José always comes to mind.
Song Title: I’m a Brass Band – 1966 Genre: Musical Artist: Jacqueline Dankworth Composer: Cy Coleman Lyricist: Dorothy Fields Album: Sweet Charity (Original Studio Cast)
Favourite Lyrics: I’m the bells from Saint Peter’s in Rome / I’m tissue paper on a comb / And all kinds of music / Is pouring out of me ’cause / Somebody loves me … at last!
Runners Up: Big Spender • Charity’s Soliloquy • There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This • I’m The Bravest Individual • Entr’act • A Good Impression • Baby, Dream Your Dream • Sweet Charity • Where Am I Going? • I’m A Brass Band • I’m The Bravest Individual (Reprise) • Where Am I Going? (Verse) • Rich Man’s Frug • If My Friends Could See Me Now • There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This • I’m the Bravest Individual • Entr’acte • Sweet Charity • Where Am I Going? • Bows • Exit Music • My Personal Property
163 SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER 2014
There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This – Shirley Maclaine, Paula Kelly, Chita Rivera
I’m still hovering over “Sweet Charity”, but the 1969 film adaptation, this time, also directed by Bob Fosse, his first film. I don’t believe it was very successful; it is my least favourite Fosse movie. I’m presuming it was because of the times. With a few exceptions such as, “The Sound Of Music”, “My Fair Lady”, and “Oliver”, musicals had been dead for years. Audiences weren’t even attending the genre’s wakes. I can only speculate Fosse was trying to re-invent the field, but he kind of failed. Fosse would accomplish that feat three years later with “Cabaret” and again in 1979 with “All That Jazz”.
The There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This sequence from “Sweet Charity” was my introduction to Fosse’s energetic choreography, directorial style, and editorial approach. Seeing Shirley Maclaine, Chita Rivera, and Paula Kelly leaping in and out of the frame is quite a feast. Lyrics can be very powerful too; they ring inspiring when they exhort the listener to always find a way to keep moving forward. Regardless of how bad you have it, there’s always going to be something better to aim at.
Check out the number: Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly & Shirley Maclaine in “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This”
Song Title: There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This – 1966 Genre: Musical Artist: Shirley Maclaine, Paula Kelly, Chita Rivera Composer: Cy Coleman Lyricist: Dorothy Fields Album: Sweet Charity Soundtrack
Favourite Lyrics: And when I find me some kind of life I can live, / I’m gonna get up, I’m gonna get out, / I’m gonna get up, get out and live it!
Runners Up: Big Spender • If My Friends Could See Me Now • The Rhythm of Life • I’m a Brass Band • Welcome to the Night • Don’t Know Where You Leave Off • For Susan • Dirt • Mack The Knife • Straighten Up And Fly Right
164 SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER 2014
The Surrey With the Fringe On Top – Phillip Sametz, Grahame Conlon – The Mell-O-Tones
I’ve always liked this cute song from “Oklahoma”, but didn’t love it until I heard this swing version from Australia’s “The Mell-O-Tones”. The cut comes from their album “Swinging Down Broadway”, hands down, one of the most fun albums I have bought in a long time.
Song Title: The Surrey With the Fringe On Top – 1943 Genre: Musical Artist: Phillip Sametz, Grahame Conlon – The Mell-O-Tones Composer: Richard Rodgers Lyricist: Oscar Hammerstein Album: Swinging Down Broadway
Favourite Lyrics: Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry / When I take you out in the surrey, / When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!
Runners Up: Ain’t That A Kick In The Head • They Can’t Take That Away From Me • Me And My Shadow • Makin’ Whoopee • South American Way • Shaking the Blues Away • The Varsity Drag
165 MONDAY 8 DECEMBER 2014
Taking A Chance On Love – Ethel Waters, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson
Continuing with this week’s love theme here comes “Taking A Chance On Love”, the song that taught me that love’s evolution is as predictable as a game of dice. You grow up with the idea that there’s someone for you. Sooner or later you’ll meet someone and you’ll both fall in love. However, nobody tells you about the gambling game you’ll have to play to win everlasting love.
Do you ever play Lotto? I do. Every week I invest 12 dollars in the NZ Lotto, hoping to win the first division, an amount of money that could easily last until the end of my days. Have I ever won anything? Sure, I have. At least every two months or so, I can make between 10 and 20 dollars. A few years ago, I even won 2000 dollars. On that occasion, I remember going to the NZ Lottery headquarters to collect my prize. Although I could have done it by mail, I thought that would be my only chance to walk in the NZ Lottery office to collect money.
When it comes to the lottery, there’s always someone who rolls their eyes when you mention you play it. “Do you know the possibilities of winning a big prize?” They ask, and it is usually the liberals! What’s up with that? How is that any of their business? Anyway, I always reply that 12 dollars buy me a dream for a week. Every morning after a draw, before I log on to the Lotto site to see the results, I tell myself that no matter what, I can always extend the dream for another week for a mere 12 dollars.
In reality, Lotto is not much different from love’s lottery, wouldn’t you say? For years, we’ve been gambling time, energy, emotions, ideas, actions and feelings hoping for that day when we will win something. I like to think of the small amounts I often win in Lotto as the one-night stands I’ve won on love’s lottery. You’re glad to have won them. You use your prize quickly, move on, and then wait for the next draw. The 2000 dollars win from a few years back? That would be the equivalent of a relationship destined to last only a few months, a liaison that you know from the start how long it will last. However, what if I hadn’t spent those 2000 dollars I won in Lotto right away? How about if I had put them to work and make them grow? I might still have some of that money now, don’t you think?
I suppose my point is that, every so often, we may meet someone who would appear to be only a 2000-dollar prize, and treat them as so. We are with them until there’s nothing left to share, and then we move on. There is really nothing wrong with that. However, we could also gamble and invest, hoping to make the relationship last longer. Of course, there’s no guarantee of that’s happening, but you have to gamble if you want to see how far your relationship can go. The same way we expect our money to grow, a relationship can mature too, maybe not to first division level, but at least to a level where you can comfortably live into the future with very little work to do.
At first, I thought Taking A Chance On Love was about how lucky you had to be to find love. Years later, I realised that it is about how lucky you had to be if you wanted the love you had found to keep growing.
Song Title: Taking A Chance On Love – 1940 Genre: Musical Artist: Ethel Waters, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson Composer: Vernon Duke Lyricist: John La Touche, Ted Fetter Album: That’s Entertainment: Part Two
Favourite Lyrics: I walk around with a horseshoe / In clover I lie / And brother rabbit of course / You better kiss your foot goodbye
Runners Up: All About Love • Vida Mia • Gata Bajo La Lluvia • Fascinating Rhythm • I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man • The Lady Is A Tramp • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
166 TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER 2014
I’ve Gotta Hear That Beat – Ann Miller
Remember the over enthusiastic, hyperkinetic, eager girl who went to high school with you? Well, she grew up to become Ann Miller. There’s not a musical number she ever did where she doesn’t give it all and I’ve Gotta Hear That Beat from “Small Town Girl” is a prime example of that. I haven’t seen such level of energy in any other performer from that era. No doubt there were better dancers in that period, but I bet she was a favourite of many directors. I’m sure she was the first one on the set every day and was always willing to do one more take.
However, I like the song because of its dance arrangements. The staging by Busby Berkeley, with the body-less hands playing instruments on stage, is very innovative. It is not as creepy as it sounds, trust me. It is a treat, check it out: I’ve Gotta Hear That Beat (Small Town Girl-1953)
Song Title: I’ve Gotta Hear That Beat – 1953 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Ann Miller Composer: Nicholas Brodszky Lyricist: Leo Robin Album: That’s Entertainment: The Ultimate Anthology of MGM Musicals
Favourite Lyrics: I’ve Gotta Hear That Beat / That crazy tum tum beat / I’ve gotta hear that beat when I dance.
Runners Up: Inka Dinka • I Got Rhythm • The Wedding Of The Painted Doll • Manhattan • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas • Steppin’ Out With My Baby • I Got Rhythm • Love Is Here To StayTake Me To Broadway • I Like MyselfI Remember It Wel • lNew York, New York • I Wish I Were In Love Again • That’s Life • Un Homme Et Une Femme
167 WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER 2014
Sweet Sue, Just You – John Green & His Orchestra
I’ve always loved to listen to music while I work; it just makes time go faster. Many years ago, when I was working in Washington, José Luis, a co-worker, walked into my studio and told another colleague: “Luis listens to the most ‘Cha Cha’ music there is.” I can’t remember what I was listening to, or what the heck ‘Cha Cha’ meant. All I know is that every time I like a song, but I’m not sure why, I say I like it because it’s a very ‘Cha Cha’ song. So, I give you one song from the ‘Cha Cha’ section of my iTunes library.
Song Title: Sweet Sue, Just You – 1928 Genre: Jazz Artist: John Green & His Orchestra Composer: Victor Young Lyrics: Will J. Harris Album: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Musical Highlights From The Original Soundtrack)
Runners Up: Inka Dinka • Les Uns Et Les Autres • Alexander’s Ragtime • After You Get What You Want (You Don’t Want It) • LazyThere’s No Business Like Show Business • Finale • America
168 THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER 2014
Gimme Gimme – Sutton Foster – Top 10 Contender
First of all, lovely Sutton Foster is once again on my list. I just love her so. Secondly, I’m starting to notice a pattern in the way I’m making up this list. Last week it was all about giving ourselves new opportunities. Next week, it will be about travelling, and this week seems to be about love.
A few weeks back, I included some songs that were part of a breakup playlist. (36. Sing Happy, 48. Toledo Surprise, 58. Now You Know). As I’ve mentioned before, while going through a bad break up in 2006, a friend suggested I created a breakup playlist in my iPod with songs that would help me go through the difficult process. Gimme Gimme came to the playlist towards the end of the process.
Not long after the breakup, I ran into my friend Leo and his partner John at a bar. Naturally, I told them all about Keith dumping me for Brian, and how sad and disappointed I felt. They offered their sympathy and support. Although I don’t remember much of that moment, I have never forgotten John’s kind words. He said that I shouldn’t let this event stop me from generating love. Although the kind of love my heart spawned was not to Keith’s liking, someone else would appreciate it. John’s vague words didn’t make much sense until later when I heard Gimme Gimme.
Gimme Gimme wasn’t a song about the illusions and ideas of love. It wasn’t a song about hoping for random love. It wasn’t a song about searching for love. It was a song about being ready for love, ready to give and receive. I had lost a battle, but I hadn’t been defeated. There would be more battles, and for that, I had to be ready with enough ammunition. I had to keep spawning and growing love in my heart. I had to have enough love in my heart to give away. So, a few weeks after the break up, in a way that only musical queens can relate to; an 11 o’clock number if you will, I invocated all the clichés associated with love (Fly, dove! Sing, sparrow! Gimme fat boy’s famous arrow) and recruited them into my army of love. I was ready for another tour of duty. It was then that John’s words finally made sense, if I couldn’t spawn love, I would have nothing to offer the next time someone would come around. The important thing was to have love in my heart ready to give it away at a short notice. I’ve never stopped growing the love. My bags are packed; I’m first in line! Gimme, gimme that thing called love!
Song Title: Gimme Gimme – 2002 Genre: Musical Artist: Sutton Foster Composer: Jeanine Tesori Lyricist: Dick Scanlan Album: Thoroughly Modern Millie
Favourite Lyrics: Here I am, St. Valentine / My bags are packed, I’m first in line / Aphrodite, don’t forget me / Romeo and Juliet me / Fly, dove! Sing, sparrow! / Gimme fat boy’s famous arrow / Gimme, gimme that thing called love!
Runners Up: The Japanese Sandman • Derby Medley – By The Beautiful Sea / Can-Can • I Love a Violin • Think Pink! • Taking a Chance On Love • This is my life • Thoroughly Modern Millie • Overture-Thoroughly Modern Millie • Not For The Life Of Me • Thoroughly Modern Millie • Only In New York • Sincere Trust • Forget About The Boy • Thoroughly Modern Millie • Finale • Prelude