Saturday, November 30, 2013

Casimir Pulaski Day/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track Ten

Part of A Series: Route 66: Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
To View the whole series as one LONG post CLICK HERE


Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track One:

Sufjan Stevens with Butterfly Wings
Sufjan Stevens via Wikipedia
Continuing onward with our mission of exploring Illinois through the eyes of Sufjan Stevens, we reach track ten, "Casimir Pulaski Day". What is that? I didn't know so I turned to my old research buddy, Wikipedia where I found:
Casimir Pulaski Day is a holiday reserved in Illinois on the first Monday of every March in memory of Casimir Pulaski (March 6, 1745[1] – October 11, 1779), a Revolutionary War cavalry officer born in Poland as Kazimierz Pułaski. He is known for his contributions to the U.S. military in the American Revolution by training its soldiers and cavalry.
The day is celebrated mainly in areas that have large Polish populations, such as Chicago.
The fact that it is a state holiday certainly makes it a candidate for an Illinois album track. Being a Sufjan Stevens song it is really just a loose reference point to build a story around. And being the Illinois album, you have to expect it will be a song of loss and disappointment.

The song is the story of a losing a childhood lover to cancer. There was an attraction in their youth but it moved too far too fast and she ran away. Later they seem to be reconnecting, but it is only because she is dying and ultimately he will lose her again. It is one of the most overtly religious tracks with the narrator confronting and challenging his god at the close of the song. Here are the lyrics from songmeanings.com:

Goldenrod and the 4H stone
The things I brought you when I found out
You had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car into the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulderblade
I could see what you were reading

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse

In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared

All the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I find the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother

On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March, on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window

All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes

As the narrator reacts to the death of the friend. He snaps and challenges his god. Or as Stevens puts it:"the cardinal hits the window". I had to research that expression but it refers to the spring when cardinals are nest building, if the catch the sight of their reflection in a window they will consider it a competitor and will try to attack it. So our narrator attacks himself, both by questioning his faith as well as his luck at having lost love once finding himself losing it again. "And He takes and He takes and He takes". Like Christ on the cross the narrator seems to be saying "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." So sad.

Here is your fan video of the song, with a download link to follow:






Thanks, as always for joining me on this leg of my voyage into route 66 though music. I hope you have found it to be interesting and enlightening. Come back tomorrow as we rejoin our Highway 101 adventure in Tijuana Mexico.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Inspired By Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

Tourists Pose for the Famous Tijuana Zebra Photo
Tijuana Mexico
(Flickr User Infrogmation of New Orleans/CC)

This is part of a multi-part post: Tijuana Day Trip
It Started At The Border-A Visit To Tijuana Mexico
Still in Tijuana and Enjoying the Music of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Still in Tijuana With Artists Inspired By Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Rock and Roll in Tijuana-Mexican Style!
Tijuana Remixed: Molotov, Nortec Collective, and Faca
Border Curios Part 1
Border Curios Part 2
Border Curios Part 3

As we crossed the border last week, we explored a bit on the subject of Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. The band was all over the charts and TV in the 1960's. Such an impact was sure to provide imitators. In the 1960's a few things were happening that would cause the number of imitators to be not unsubstantial. During the 1960's there were a lot of knock off labels that would take the popular hits of the day and release similar sounding records that would sell for low prices to careless department store shoppers. In a slightly less devious vein, there was a lot of music created as easy listening versions of pop hits to be used as Muzak in elevators, stores and restaurants. Due to the breezy pop sounds of the Herb Alpert, these Muzak versions don't stray as far from the original as, lets say a cover of a Beatles hit. In addition to that there were still a lot of active exotic Jazz bands floating around from the late 50's who could adapt the Brass sound with minimal adjustments to their playing style.

The amazing number of releases that came out have had the result that a breeze through most thrift store LP bins will find a Tijuana Brass imitator. The most famous of these imitators is really more of a spin-off than an imitation. Julius Wechter was a marimba player who was a member of the early Tijuana Brass. As a composer he wrote "The Spanish Flea". He was encouraged by Alpert to start his own band and the Baja Marimba Band was created. They were immediately signed to Alpert's A&M label and began churning out music very much in the vein of the Tijuana Brass.
Baja Marimba Band Rides Again LP Cover

The Baja Marimba Band were the campy bad boys of the Brass scene. Over the course of the 1960's they released several successful albums. They wore goofy sombreros, Mexican blanket ponchos, and obviously fake Pancho Villa mustaches. Many Mexicans were offended, but they were mostly considered silly fun in the 1960's. They were tasteless in more ways than just the racist caricatures. As a running joke, almost every one of their album covers has at least one band member who appears to be relieving his bladder with his back to the photographer. Stay classy, Baja Marimba Band! Like the Tijuana Brass, there wasn't a true Mexican among them. The one album I have of theirs is their 2nd, 1965's "The Baja Marimba Band Rides Again". Here is the track list from the A&M website:
Album: Baja Marimba Band Rides Again Baja Marimba Band
  • Brasilia 2:36
  • Walk On By 2:58
  • Guacamole 2:33
  • More 2:23
  • Dear Heart 2:58
  • Majorca 2:31
  • Red Roses For A Blue Lady 2:04
  • Hecho En Mexico 2:53
  • Woody Woodpecker Song 1:58
  • A Spanish Rose 3:26
  • Juarez 2:38
  • Goin' Out The Side Door 2:33

To further stimulate your senses here is a short documentary about the Baja Marimba Band. Unfortunately Amazon doesn't offer this album for mp3 download.

 

There is a Tijuana Taxi load of music from varied knock off bands doing Brass sounding records. A few years ago, in 2007, WFMU had a record a day that they posted for download. It was generally unusual out of print thrift store find kind of stuff, but I like strange audio so I was downloading it and checking it out. On August 20, they posted a a great collection of 100 of these tracks for download that they called The Tijuana Sound (Box Set). I downloaded them and thought they were a pretty fun collection. It truly collects the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Tijuana Brass knockoffs. The set is now part of the Tijuana section of the Highway 101 playlist. If you would like to sample or download the collection (It's free!) or its various tracks, as well as read a much better history of those bands than I can relate, then I urge you to go HERE to check it out. But for the completists out there, here is the tracklisting:

Album: The Tijuana Sound (Box Set) Various Artists LINK
DISC 1
  • Hooray For Hollywood Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (1:32)
  • Tijuana Taxi The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Modernaires  (2:04) 
  • Pennsylvania 6-5000 In The Mood The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker (1:57)
  • Allied Moves To Tijuana Music To Move Families By Dick Boyell  (2:34)
  • What Now My Love Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (2:50)
  • Spanish Flea Plays a Salute to Herb Alpert and the Tijuna Brass Peter Nero (2:18)
  • Georgy Girl Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (2:44)
  • Tijuana Taxi Sing Today's Classics The New Classic Singers  (2:06)
  • All My Loving Lennon & McCartney Tijuana Style The Toreno Brass  (1:57)
  • Whipped Cream Sour Cream & Other Delights The Frivolous Five  (2:36)
  • Spanish Flea The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Modernaires  (2:18)
  • Spanish Flea Spanish Coffee Time The Jack Lander Trio at the Fifty Fourth  (2:09)
  • London Bridge Kiddie Pops Tijuana Style The Nursery Brass  (2:39)
  • Mexico A Go Go New Hits From South Of The Border The Mexicali Brass  (2:19)
  • Peter Gunn Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (2:20)
  • Sound Of Music Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (1:50)
  • Can Can Sounds Tijuana The Trumpets Unlimited  (2:45)
  • Tequila and Squirt Squirt Does It's Thing The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (2:08) 
  • Tijuana Taxi Sour Cream & Other Delights  The Frivolous Five  (2:22)
  • A-Hunting We Will Go Kiddie Pops Tijuana Style The Nursery Brass  (2:23)
  • Downtown (1:46) Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass -   (1:46)
  • Burrito Mistico Epices Cour Et Cuivres George Tremblay et ses Brass  (2:11)
  • The Dating Game In The Mood The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker  (2:10)
  • Spanish Nose Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (2:45)
  • I'm Getting Sentimental Over You The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass  The Modernaires  (2:14)
DISC 2
  • The Yellow Rose Of Texas Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (2:16)
  • Colonel Bogey March Sunday Night At The Movies The Brass Ring featuring Phil Bodner  (2:10)
  • Jingle Bells Tijuana Christmas The Border Brass  (1:57)
  • Spanish Flea Moog Espana Sid Bass  (2:17)
  • Eleanor Rigby Lennon & McCartney Tijuana Style The Toreno Brass  (2:05) 
  • Green Peppers Colonel Sanders' Tijuana Picnic The George Garabedian Players  (1:31) 
  • Chattanooga Choo Choo In The Mood The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker  (2:43) 
  • Little Brown Jug Kiddie Pops Tijuana Style The Nursery Brass  (2:32) 
  • Never On Sunday Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (1:47)
  • Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White A Demonstration Of The Big Astor Sound Dali Caldis Tijuana Brass  (2:40)
  • 24 Hours To Tulsa A Taste Of Tequila The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker  (3:12)
  • Up-Up And Away Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (2:37)
  • All My Loving The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Modernaires  (1:58)
  • Dengazo Viva Mexicali Brass The Mexicali Brass  (1:40)
  • Brasilia Brass Impact The Brass Choir conducted by Warren Kime  (2:12) 
  • Strangers In The Night Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (2:25)
  • The Lonely Bull Sour Cream & Other Delights The Frivolous Five  (2:34)
  • What Now My Love - Music To Watch Girls By Non-Stop Dancing The Bert Best Band  (2:12)
  • Music To Watch Girls By Georgy Girl and Other Music to Watch Girls By Living Marimbas  (2:43)
  • Flowers On The Wall A Taste Of Tequila The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker  (2:21)
  • Tijuana Taxi  Dale Zeigler  (1:19) 
  • Begin The Beguine Hooray For Hollywood   The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (3:26) 
  • It's Not Unusual Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (2:10) 
  • Mexican Paradise (Alla Cugat) La Magnifique (Soundtrack) Claude Bolling  (3:16) 
  • Mexican Breakfast Harper (Soundtrack)  Johnny Mandel  (2:09) 
DISC 3
  • Tijuana Taxi The Going Thing 1969 The Going Thing  (2:16)
  • Tsena, Tsena Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (2:12)
  • Spanish Flea Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (2:12)
  • A Taste Of Honey Sour Cream & Other Delights The Frivolous Five (2:40) 
  • Please Please Me Lennon & McCartney Tijuana Style The Toreno Brass  (2:01)
  • (I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo In The Mood The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker  (2:32)
  • A Taste Of Honey The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Modernaires  (2:19)
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Tijuana Christmas The Border Brass  (1:58)
  • Third Man Theme Colonel Sanders' Tijuana Picnic The George Garabedian Players  (2:35)
  • Malaguena Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (3:09)
  • Habanera Viva Mexicali Brass The Mexicali Brass -  (3:22)
  • Sombrero Tijuana Taxi Guadalajara Brass  (2:59)
  • The Lonely Bull/Spanish Flea Terry Canady With Rudy Perez Terry Canady with Rudy Perez  (2:20)
  • Winchester Cathedral Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms  (2:15)
  • Chiquita Banana Hats Off   The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker  (1:57)
  • Alley Cat The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Modernaires  (2:16)
  • Tijuana Taxi Plays a Salute to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Peter Nero  (2:02)
  • Swanee River What Now My Love The Mexicali Brass  (2:14)
  • A Taste Of Honey Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass  (2:03)
  • Spanish Flea Golden Instrumental Hits Many Moogs of Killer Watts  (1:41)
  • Spanish Flea 1999 WFMU Marathon Disc Optiganally Yours  (1:07)
  • Tijuana Taxi  W.C. Sullivan Junior High School  (1:49)
  • Tijuana Taxi Junior Band 1967 Westchester Junior High School Concert Band  (2:11)
  • Frere Jacques Kiddie Pops Tijuana Style The Nursery Brass  (2:49)
  • The Unocal Song Radio Spot  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass  (0:59)


DISC 4
  • People Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass (2:24) 
  • Born Free Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms (2:27)
  • Mexican Shuffle The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Modernaires (2:07)
  • A Taste Of Honey Sing Today's Classics The New Classic Singers (1:57)
  • Sorry About That, Herb 45 single The Chipmunks (1:54) 
  • From Me To You Lennon & McCartney Tijuana Style The Toreno Brass (2:21) 
  • What Now My Love Sour Cream & Other Delights The Frivolous Five (2:14) 
  • The Mexican Shuffle Plays a Salute to Herb Alpert and the Tijuna Brass Peter Nero (2:12) 
  • In The Mood In The Mood The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker (2:45) 
  • Mama Inez New Hits From South Of The Border The Mexicali Brass (2:30) 
  • Chicken Fat Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass (2:02) 
  • Whipped Cream Hooray For Hollywood The George Garabedian Players and the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms (1:34) 
  • Spanish Flea Sour Cream & Other Delights The Frivolous Five (2:15) 
  • It's Too Late Hats Off The Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker (2:39) 
  • Mexican Trumpets Midnight Flyer Ray Anthony (1:40) 
  • Our Day Will Come Colonel Sanders' Tijuana Picnic The George Garabedian Players (2:24) 
  • Serape Tijuana Taxi Guadalajara Brass (2:28) 
  • Aztec Two Step What Now My Love The Mexicali Brass (1:44) 
  • El Toro Colonel Sanders' Tijuana Picnic The George Garabedian Players (2:08) 
  • Michelle Viva Tijuana! The Fiesta Brass (2:34) 
  • A Taste Of Honey A Taste Of Honey Living Brass (2:55) 
  • La Cinquantaine New Hits From South Of The Border The Mexicali Brass (2:31) 
  • Dating Game Theme Themes From Game Shows Chuck Barris Productions (2:27) 
  • Mexican Shuffle British Percussion Le London All Star (2:11) 
  • What Now My Love The Mods salute Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Modernaires (2:10) 

Thanks for joining us as we checked out the world of Faux-Mexicana a la the Tijuana Brass sound. Next Sunday we will get away from the schmaltzy LA music that stole the name of Tijuana and check out some Mexican Rock and Rollers doing their own imitations of sorts. Don't forget to stop by Saturday too, when we continue our exploration of Sufjan Stevens Illinois.

If you like what you have read here I'd like to ask you a favor. If you purchase any item on Amazon after you link to them in the little Amazon search window below, I will get a little something from them. It doesn't cost you any extra and I cannot see what you have purchased.


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Thanks!

To read more Old Highway Notes, choose an off ramp and click on the highway sign:
  

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chicago/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track Nine

Part of A Series: Route 66: Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
To View the whole series as one LONG post CLICK HERE


Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track One:
Yellow Volkswagen Bus
(Wikimedia Commons)

This was the big hit of the album Illinois. It went to number one on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart when the album was released. It also gained a lot of exposure due to it being used for the opening segment of the film Little Miss Sunshine. The song is a semi auto-biographical story of a few road trips made be Steven as an up and coming musician. It talks about experiences and hard times traveling to both Chicago and New York. Being a song from the Illinois album that actually is about a road trip it is particularly suited for coverage in this blog.Here are the lyrics from SongMeanings.Com:

I fell in love again
All things go, all things go
Drove to Chicago
All things know, all things know

We sold our clothes to the state
I don't mind, I don't mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

I drove to New York
In the van, with my friend
We slept in parking lots
I don't mind, I don't mind

I was in love with the place
In my mind, in my mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

If I was crying
In the van, with my friend
It was for freedom
From myself and from the land

I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

you came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
(I made a lot of mistakes)
All things know, all things know
(I made a lot of mistakes)

You had to find it
(I made a lot of mistakes)
All things go, all things go
(I made a lot of mistakes)

In the fan conversations I read when researching this post a lot is made of the  2nd verse:

We sold our clothes to the state
I don't mind, I don't mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

What is meant by we sold our clothes to the state? Many folks take it as an expression of hitting rock bottom. And they are right. There is a certain amount of his fan base who think that this is a reference to Jesus's quote: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." While this is an interesting analysis, I think he is being more literal. 

For me the song continues the themes of unattained dreams that he explores in so many of the other tracks. For someone who wrote a whole album about Illinois I am starting to feel the state has offered the narrator nothing but unattained dreams. But we continue onward. 

I can certainly see the biblical allusions he is making throughout this album. I like that he is subtle about his testifying, leaving options for secular interpretation as well. If there is a biblical reference to be found in this song, rather than the quote about Caesar, it would be to the story of the prodigal son. Who, upon leaving and exploring the world finds that true riches aren't worldly possessions. That's not a literal translation of the parable, but I consider that the motivation for the son returning home in the timeless story.

In traveling to Chicago and then New York, Sufjan is quoted as having said that this was loosely based semi-autobiographically on a few trips he made trying to establish himself as a professional musician. These trips that caused a great change in the narrators world view.The narrator sums it in up in what I think may be the best verse in the song. The music stops as if to emphasize the abrupt change about to occur. Then in acapella verse Stevens sings:
If I was crying
In the van, with my friend
It was for freedom
From myself and from the land

He is held by his own mistakes. The land won't give him escape, yet he tries to make that happen. When he says you came to take us, he experiences a cathartic moment. Like being born again, or when Tommy shatters the mirror in the famous rock opera. That moments allows him to let go of those attachments and obsessions and to finally be truly free. I guess that would be the first line of the song: I fell in love again.

Or something like that. 

Anyway, here is a fan video of the tune for you to enjoy as well as a link to download the track from amazon on mp3.





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To read more Old Highway Notes, choose an off ramp and click on the highway sign:
  

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Thanks for stopping by, Come back tomorrow for more Tijuana fun and next Saturday as we continue the meander through The Great State of Illinois and songs of disappointment that is Sufjan Stevens' Illinois.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Music of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

Herb Alpert
Herb Alpert source Wikipedia
This is part of a multi-part post: Tijuana Day Trip

    It Started At The Border-A Visit To Tijuana Mexico
    Still in Tijuana and Enjoying the Music of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
    Still in Tijuana With Artists Inspired By Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
    Rock and Roll in Tijuana-Mexican Style!
    Tijuana Remixed: Molotov, Nortec Collective, and Faca
    Border Curios Part 1
    Border Curios Part 2
    Border Curios Part 3


    If you ask any one alive in the 1960's what name comes to mind when you say the words music and Tijuana, most than likely their first response will be Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. It's not surprising, from Wikipedia:

    Alpert and the Tijuana Brass won six Grammy Awards. Fifteen of their albums won gold discs, and fourteen won platinum discs. In 1966 over 13 million Alpert recordings were sold, outselling the Beatles. That same year, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized that Alpert set a new record by placing five albums simultaneously in the top 20 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart, an accomplishment that has never been repeated. In April of that year, four of those albums were in the Top 10 simultaneously.

    The mastermind behind the wildly successful band was none other than Herb Alpert himself. Herb was as much of a master businessman as he was a master musician. In addition to his artistic contributions he was the A in A&M Records, the M being Jerry Moss. They founded the label in 1962 and ran the studio out of the Charlie Chaplin Studios in Hollywood, which will show up in the video embedded later in this post. The label was successful. From Wikipedia:

    Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, A&M had such acts as Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Baja Marimba Band, Burt Bacharach, Waylon Jennings, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66, We Five, The Carpenters, Chris Montez, Elkie Brooks, Lee Michaels, Captain and Tennille, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Quincy Jones, Lucille Starr, Stealers Wheel, Barry DeVorzon, Perry Botkin, Jr., Marc Benno, Liza Minnelli, Rita Coolidge, Wes Montgomery, Paul Desmond, Cat Stevens, Bobby Tench, Hummingbird, Toni Basil, and Paul Williams. Folk artists Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Gene Clark also recorded for the label during the 1970s. Billy Preston joined the label in 1971, followed by Andre Popp and Herb Ohta in 1973.

    But this is a blog about geography and music, so back to the music, and the story of Herb Alpert. While Herb Alpert's name will probably forever be associated with Tijuana, he was not Mexican. A child of Greek parents who grew up in a musical home in Los Angeles, Herb began to play the trumpet at age 8. He played at some school dances in high school and purchased an early recording device called a wire recorded and began experimenting with it. After high school, he enlisted in the Army and served 2 years performing in military ceremonies before returning to Los Angeles to resume his education at USC. While there he performed in the Trojan Marching Band and also made a few film appearances, perhaps most notably as "the drummer on Mt. Sinai" in The Ten Commandments. Moving forward in his musical career Wikipedia notes:

    In 1957, Alpert teamed up with Rob Weerts, another burgeoning lyricist, as a songwriter for Keen Records. A number of songs written or co-written by Alpert during the following two years became top twenty hits, including "Baby Talk" by Jan and Dean, "Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke, and "Alley Oop" by The Hollywood Argyles and by Dante and The Evergreens.[2]

    All this and he was still largely unknown. But that would be changing before long.

    Leaning on Wikipedia again, they explain:
    Alpert set up a small recording studio in his garage and had been overdubbing a tune called "Twinkle Star", written by Sol Lake, who would eventually write many of the Brass's original tunes. During a visit to Tijuana, Mexico, Alpert happened to hear a mariachi band while attending a bullfight. Following the experience, Alpert recalled that he was inspired to find a way to express musically what he felt while watching the wild responses of the crowd, and hearing the brass musicians introducing each new event with rousing fanfare.[10] Alpert adapted the trumpet style to the tune, mixed in crowd cheers and other noises for ambience, and renamed the song "The Lonely Bull".[11]

    It was a huge success of an album and I consider it to be a classic of 1960's pop music. The mixing of the title track in downright cinematic as Alpert launches into what is one of the greatest bullfighting songs of all time. The roar of the crowd really takes you there. Much of the album was created by Alpert overdubbing his trumpet and playing slightly out of sync. It's success led him actually form the completed Tijuana Brass to address the need for live performances. He got the right guys for the job based on there ongoing successes. Naturally, The Lonely Bull was the first album to make the cut on my playlist. You can find it here:

    Album: The Lonely Bull Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
    • The Lonely Bull (El Solo Toro) 2:18
    • El Lobo (The Wolf)  3:05
    • Tijuana Sauerkraut  2:50
    • Desafinado  3:54
    • Mexico 2:40
    • Never On A Sunday 2:47
    • Struttin' With Maria 2:15
    • Let It Be Me  3:04
    • Acapulco 1922 2:44
    • Limbo Rock 2:12
    • Crawfish 2:28
    • A Quiet Tear (Lagrima Quieta) 2:21
    Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass had a sort of post exotica lounge sound going for them. There music evoked "Exotic Mexico" but it was raucous and fun and less sensual than Les Baxter or Martin Denny, the heroes of exotic lounge music. It was a just a little dangerous too, Tijuana always having a little bit of lawless reputation, and that bad boy image game them a certain swinging creditability. Alpert's background also got them much in the way of commercial and soundtrack work that many people remember best from The Dating Game or a Clark Gum ad that used "The Mexican Shuffle" reworked as the Teaberry Shuffle. They were funny and filmed well. Their success launched a series of TV specials that had good ratings.

    I have a tendency as a music collector to buy greatest hits packages first, then I will get the individual albums over time to fill out an artists catalog. Due to this tendency, the next album on my playlist is Herb Alpert Definitive Hits. Speaking of hits, Herb Alpert is the only artist to have a number 1 Billboard hit on both the vocal and non-vocal charts. The album lives up to its billing as being definitive. It covers all the classics, including another hit that is relative to our city of interest "Tijuana Taxi".

    Album: Definitive Hits Herb Alpert




    • The Lonely Bull 2:17
    • Mexican Shuffle 2:14
    • Whipped Cream 2:35
    • Lollipops and Roses 2:29
    • A Taste of Honey 2:45
    • Spanish Flea 2:08
    • Tijuana Taxi 2:07
    • Zorba the Greek 4:24
    • What Now My Love 2:17
    • So What's New 2:10
    • The Work Song 2:10
    • This Guy's in Love With You 4:01
    • Casino Royale 2:37
    • Route 101 3:18
    • Fandango 3:43
    • Rise 7:35
    • Rotation 5:10
    • Diamonds 4:54
    • Keep Your Eye on Me 5:13
    • Making Love in the Rain 5:56

    Continuing through my library we come to the third Herb Alpert album I have, Lost Treasures.I am often drawn to albums that features out-tracks and unreleased tracks. This collection gathers a bunch of that kind of material and slides in as the last Herb Alpert album to be included.

    Album: Lost Treasures 1963-1974 Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass




    • Up Cherry Street 2:36
    • Lazy Day 2:56
    • Wailing Of The Willow 2:52
    • Fire And Rain 2:44
    • And I Love Her 2:47
    • I Can't Go On Living Without You 2:38
    • (They Long To Be) Close To You 2:22
    • Promises, Promises 2:34
    • Happy Hour 1:52
    • Julius And Me 1:33
    • I Might Frighten Her Away 4:14
    • Alone Again (Naturally) 2:14
    • Tennessee Waltz 2:34
    • Tradewinds 3:03
    • Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head 2:02
    • Flowers On The Wall 2:07
    • Popcorn 3:45
    • Chris 2:33
    • Killing Me Softly 3:59
    • I'll Never Fall In Love Again 3:19
    • Speakeasy 1:51
    • Whistlestar 3:26
    There is a lot more to discover as we poke around the back roads of Tijuana looking for music. Join us next Sunday as we continue to explore Tijuana, Mexico just south of Highway 101.

    If you like what you have read here I'd like to ask you a favor. If you purchase any item on Amazon after you link to them in the little Amazon search window below, I will get a little something from them. It doesn't cost you any extra and I cannot see what you have purchased.


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    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    Decatur, or Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!" and Track Eight "One Last 'Whoo-Hoo!' for the Pullman/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track Seven


    Part of A Series: Route 66: Sufjan Stevens: Illinois

    To View the whole series as one LONG post CLICK HERE



    Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track One:
    The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track TwoCome On! Feel the Illinoise! (Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition – Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream)/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track ThreeJohn Wayne Gacy, Jr./Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track FourJacksonville/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track FiveA Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane But for Very Good Reasons/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track Six

    Casimir Pulaski Day/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track TenRock River Valley, Superman, Peoria and Drones/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Tracks Eleven to FourteenWasps and Zombies/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Tracks Fifteen to EighteenCelebrate The Few, Celebrate The New. It Can Only Start With You/Sufjan Stevens Illinois Tracks Nineteen to Twenty Two 
      The Chickenmobile
      The Chickenmobile
      source Flickr
      As someone who spent most of my childhood in 1970's, I was one of the lucky few who did not have parents divorce. So when I listen to "Decatur, or Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!", from the Sufjan Stevens Illinois album, I can't really appreciate the emotions behind the song. When coupled with having never been to Decatur, Illinois there is not much in the song lyrics to grip me tightly. It does make reference to the Lincoln Douglas debates. Which is a subject I find interesting that  occurred near Decatur, but the rest of the song I am just too far removed from to relate to. Here are the lyrics from SongMeanings.Com:

      Our stepmom, we did everything to hate her
      She took us down to the edge of Decatur
      We saw the lion and the kangaroo take her
      Down to the river where they caught a wild alligator

      Sangamon River, it overflowed
      It caused a mudslide on the banks of the operator
      Civil War skeletons in their graves
      They came up clapping in the spirit of the aviator

      The sound of the engines and the smell of the grain
      We go riding on the abolition grain train
      Steven A. Douglas was a great debater
      But Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator

      Chickenmobile with your rooster tail
      I had my fill and I know how bad it feels
      Stay awake and watch for the data
      No small caterpillar, go congratulate her

      Denominator, go Decatur, go Decatur
      It's the great I Am
      Abominate her, go Decatur, why did we hate her?
      It's the great I Am

      Denominator, go Decatur, anticipate her
      It's the great I Am
      Appreciate her, appreciate her
      Stand up and thank her

      Stand up and thank her
      It's the great I Am
      Stand up and thank her
      It's the great I Am
      Stand up and thank her
      It's the great I Am
      Stand up and thank her 

      This song is bit like the earlier song on the album, Jacksonville. It name drops a lot of local color and history. Some of the local color referenced is the chickenmobile, a car decorated to look like a chicken that graces the front of local eatery. He mentions the Caterpillar tractor factory which is located there, the railroads, the river, floods, the Civil War graveyards and the rich history of Lincoln in Illinois.

      In the song, the narrator weaves in a yet another story of unattained dreams. Ah...but here's the twist-they were negative dreams. Dreams of hating a step mother and a new place. The lack of attaining those dreams has made the narrator who he is today. A better person than he might otherwise be. His realizes this and is expressing his gratitude via the song. Fairly clever stuff and a catchy melody. The song has a playful rollicking feel that the sing-song lyrics compliment well. This fan clip takes you around Decatur and shows you some of the spots mentioned in the song.



      Here is a link to download the track:



      Picking up speed we move through another track. At 11 seconds long "One Last 'Whoo-Hoo!' for the Pullman"  is just sort of a silly, name-dropping joke. The Pullman railway cars were designed and built just south of Chicago. And of course railroad cars go Whoo-Hoo. The title and this explanation take longer than the song which you can hear here:



      You can purchase the track here:


      Tomorrow we return to the southern tip of Highway 101, before we explore more of Illinois next week. Stay with us won't you?

      If you like what you have read here I'd like to ask you a favor. If you purchase any item on Amazon after you link to them in the little Amazon search window below, I will get a little something from them. It doesn't cost you any extra and I cannot see what you have purchased.


      With your help, I can keep the show on the road for you.

      Thanks!

      To read more Old Highway Notes, choose an off ramp and click on the highway sign:
        

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      If you appreciate this blog and would like to drop a little something in my guitar case, you can donate on PayPay:
      Its not a highway without gift shops. Visit ours:
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