Today I heard of the death of American jazz, pop, gospel (and many other genres) singer and actress Della Reese. She was 86 years old and I have been a fan for many years. The reason I became a Della Reese fan is down to my sadly departed father who as it turns out was born just three months after Della. Anyway during his years in the Royal Navy, a submariner no less, my Dad collected quite a few records mostly Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee and Della Reese. I no longer have any of the original vinyl that he had but in recent years I have managed to get hold of a few rather excellent Della Reese vinyl albums.
At 13 she became a backing singer for legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and her first tour was with Nat King Cole. She worked with many jazz legends including Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. She made a staggering 17 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, her first was in 1957. She had her own American TV show ‘Della’ which aired from 1969 to 1970. As an actress she starred in US TV series ‘Touched By An Angel’, she also made an appearance in the Eddie Murphy film ‘Harlem Nights’. In the 1980s she became an ordained minister. She will, I am sure be very sadly missed. My thoughts are with Della’s family, friends and fans. Della Reese RIP.
So after nearly eight years of blogging I am approaching my 1,000th post on here. This one you are reading is post 999. But for post 1,000 I made a little offer to my Facebook friends, I asked them to name one song (or one artist) that they wanted me to include in post 1,000. So before I get there I would like to extend that offer to any of you in the blogosphere that would like their song added and receive a name check. I promise to try to say something nice about your song choice! Just message me or add a comment.
Anyway now for post 999, I went through a whole range of ideas for this one; songs about or related to the emergency services was a favourite until I thought of doing a sum. So what follows is a list of twenty songs with numbers in their title. If you add all those numbers together they total 999. Trust me they do, I used a spreadsheet 🙂 I hope you enjoy them and that you exercise your brain with a bit of mental arithmetic while you do!
Many of you know that Catwoman (a.k.a. Catherine Lee now Catherine Adamson) and I recently got married. As you might have guessed music did play quite a big part in the day, beyond just the choice of first dance. We chose a small but special group of songs for our guests to listen to while they were waiting for the beautiful bride to arrive and the ceremony to start. Those songs were;
We even chose the song for us to exit the ceremony room. That simply had to be “This Will Be” from Natalie Cole. We even managed a half decent jig on the way out of the room to that one!
We also chose a selection of swing type songs as background to the serving of champagne and canapés or as I like to say; fizzies n fod! The background music for the wedding breakfast (incidentally why is it called a breakfast when it’s not usually in the morning?) was carefully selected classic soul and Motown love songs. These two sets are included as a list at the end of this post.
Then of course it was time for the first dance, the title of which was also immortalised on my cufflinks for the wedding day. It had to be
the really beautiful Nick Cave ballad, “Into My Arms” Probably the only song I know that includes the phrase ‘interventionist god’ in its lyrics.
We hired a swing band for the evening; the truly excellent and very talented Chris Hilton Little Big Band. They did two sets of around an
hour each combining swing classics and swing arrangements of many other hits too. Their version of “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book was a real rocking party tune.
There was also a very special guest appearance after the bands first set. A long overdue set from the superstar DJs of the 70s ‘Bill
& Glen the Disco Men’ this was their first gig in more than 30 years. They had specially designed wigs and costumes. Well ok cheap T Shirts with their pictures on and tacky 70s wigs from the party shop. None the less the boys really rocked the joint with a storming set of pure 70s disco classics, many of which haven’t been aired in years. In case you were wondering, the Bill part of the team is me and the Glen part is my best buddy Glen Voisey. We went to Ryefield Primary School together in Hillingdon in the late 60s. It was my selection that managed to actually clear the dance floor though; personally in my defence I just feel that there was no one with enough class and taste to really appreciate the finer points of Mr Dooley Silverspoon’s amazing “Bump Me Baby” The full Bill and Glen set was;
“Boogie Nights” – Heatwave
“Get Dancin'” – Disco Tex And The Sex-O-Lettes
“Ain’t Gonna Bump No More” – Joe Tex
“Bump Me Baby” – Dooley Silverspoon
“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” – Sylvester
“Get Down Tonight” – KC & The Sunshine Band
“Rock The Boat” – Hues Corporation
“September” – Earth, Wind & Fire
In addition to all of this there were also two other musical related items on the day; one was a reading of the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Wedding Song” lyrics from the Planet Waves album. This was read by our good friend and wife of my best man, Caron Godbold-Derbyshire. (The other two readings were not music related but were superb none the less, so thank you also to Rachel Vernelle and Ruth Smethurst). The second of these musical pieces was a part of my speech at the end of the wedding breakfast. I wanted to do
something along the lines of what Peter Sellers did in the 60s with George Martin, when he recorded a version of the Beatles “A Hard Days Night” in the style of Laurence Olivier.
It took me ages to come up with the right song. I considered Kylie’s “I Should Be So Lucky” and “Love Is All Around” from the Troggs or Wet Wet Wet. But then the weekend before the wedding I saw Madness at the Reading Festival and I knew what song I was going to try in a Olivier style; it simply had to be “It Must Be Love”, and it was! I introduced that part of the speech as something Shakespearian, using some props; a cape and a skull. I kicked off with “Alas poor Yorrick…….” And then went straight into “It Must Be Love” in my
best Olivier style. I felt it could have worked really well or could have bombed completely. I think it went quite well, but obviously I would appreciate any comments from those of you who were there!
I should also add that my excellent Best Man, Mr John Williams also managed to include a little section from David Bowie’s “Heroes” in his speech!
Thank you for reading this far into what has been a rather self-indulgent post, but I hoped that you have enjoyed the music too. I would
also be interested to hear any stories you have of music used at weddings; be they your own or those of friends and family.
So very nearly there now and definitely onto Christmas songs in my UK Christmas Number Ones Advent Calendar, it’s December 22nd people, are you excited yet? You’re not? Why not? Maybe checking out NORADs Santa Checker will help, click here to find it. In the meantime let me take you back to Christmas 1957, another one from before I was born. This is one of only three songs to reach the Christmas Number One spot more than once. It was also the first song to achieve it. The song in question is “Marys Boy Child” and at Christmas 1957 it was number one in the UK courtesy of the supremely talented Harry Belafonte.
Harry Belafonte with Martin Luther King Jr and Sammy Davis Jr
I remember my Uncle Ben, who incidentally had nothing to do with rice, playing “There’s A Hole In My Bucket” to me on his ukulele. Harry Belafonte had a hit with the song in 1961 as a duet with, according to Wikipedia, Odetta Holmes. However I thought he did the song with Eartha Kitt. My first experience of Eartha Kitt was as her sultry performance in the camp 60s TV version of Batman where she played Catwoman. With hindsight maybe that was the seeds of my sexual awakening!
Anyway Harry’s version of “Mary’s Boy Child” was number one for 7 weeks. Harry first recorded the song in 1956, although it wasn’t released as a single until the following year. The Caribbean island of St Kitts issued postage stamps featuring the song in 1983. It has been covered by many acts, including; Andy Williams, Roger Whittaker, Bryn Terfel, Harry Connick Jr, Three Degrees, Nat King Cole, Jim Reeves, Rolf Harris, Charlotte Church, Juice Newton and of course Boney M.
They didn't have much of a clothing allowance did they?
It was Boney M who took the song back to the Christmas number one spot in the UK at Christmas 1978, their version which formed a medley with “Oh My Lord” was number one for 4 weeks. Boney M were an incredibly successful band in the late 70s, but I really disliked them. They came to prominence when I first started out as a mobile DJ with my good friend Glen Voisey. Thanks to Glen’s brother Gary we were known as Bill & Glen the Disco Men. The group were really the brainchild of German record producer Frank Farian. Their first big hit was “Daddy Cool” which was just about ok, but for me “Brown Girl In The Ring” still resonates as one of my least favourite songs. What do you think of Boney M?
They say that August is the silly season for news don’t they? well here’s a story in the UK media that clearly shows that there can’t be much else happening in the country. Apparently the government is urging local councils to reduce the number of street signs and bollards and the like. Did you know there is a car park in Salisbury with 63 bollards and only space for 53 cars? Nor did I. Did we need to know? I doubt it. Has that information been life changing for any of us? Not bloody likely. The government line on this is being headed by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles (what a great name!) and isn’t it pleasing to see that the focus of our wonderful (NOT!) coalition government is focussing on the big issues. Personally I think it’s a load of bollards! Read the story here
So now let’s get back to music and have some streets and sign related tunes, feel free to contribute your own;
“Signs” – Snoop Dogg featuring Charlie Wilson and Justin Timberlake. In my opinion one of Mr Timberlake’s finest performances, a long way from the Mickey Mouse Club that’s for sure. It was produced by the Neptunes and made it to number two in the UK charts in 2004. The lyrics draw from the Gap Band’s “Early In The Morning” from 1982 and Cheryl Lynn’s 1978 hit “Got To Be Real”
“No Matter What Sign You Are” – Diana Ross and the Supremes. This was originally intended as the last single from the girls before diva Diana went solo, but it didn’t sell too well and failed to make either the UK or US top 20. Sadly it wasn’t even the Supremes who sang on it. Diana took the lead but the backing vocals were provided by a session group called the Andantes rather than Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong
“Streets Of London” -Ralph McTell. Ralph first recorded the song in 1969, but it wasn’t released as a single in the UK until 1974. What could be described as a timeless classic it has been recorded by more than 200 artists
“Where The Streets Have No Name” – U2. The video was filmed on the roof of the Republic Liquor Store in downtown LA in homage to the Beatles performing live on the roof of the Apple Building in Saville Row for the Let It Be film.
“Somewhere In America There’s A Street Named After My Dad” – Was (Not Was). I have always loved this band and this is a great song, the video on the link also includes some excellent photographs from Charles Cushman. The key band members were often assumed to be brothers largely because they called themselves Don and David Was. However the truth is that David Was was really David Weiss and Don Was was really Don Fagenson
“On The Street Where You Live” – Nat King Cole. I didn’t really appreciate Mr Cole until I got older, probably because my parents liked him when I was a teenager and it’s not cool to like what your parent’s like is it? This song is actually taken from the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ which is one of Catwoman’s favourite musicals.
“Across 110th Street” – Bobby Womack. Taken from the blaxploitation movie called, unsurprisingly, ‘Across 110th Street’. The song also featured on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’
“‘A’ Bomb In Wardour Street” – Jam. This song was the B Side to the Jam’s 1978 single “David Watts” which was a cover of a Kinks song. Paul Weller apparently listened to a lot of Kinks stuff prior to recording the ‘All Mod Cons’ album. The video in the link is taken from the band’s appearance on the sadly missed Old Grey Whistle Test on the BBC
“Baker Street” – Gerry Rafferty. In the early 70’s as part of Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan, Gerry had a hit with “Stuck In The Middle With You” which was later used in the movie Reservoir Dogs. However it’s “Baker Street” that he is most remembered for and that’s no wonder as it’s a great song.
“53rd & 3rd” – Ramones. This video is a live recording with Rancid. The song was written by Dee Dee Ramone and is about an area of New York that was a major haunt for male prostitutes and rent boys. There have been suggestions that Dee Dee worked there himself in his youth.