Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tequila!: The Champs, Danny Flores and Pee-wee

The scene is classic, the song: immortalized. And after a raucous New Year's Eve in 2001, I will never touch tequila again...

In 1957, a random grouping of musicians gathered in Los Angeles to record a group of songs for Gene Autry's record label Challenge Records. Pictured above Joe Burnas on bass, Dale Norris on lead guitar, Dave Burgess on rhythm guitar, Gene Alden on drums and Chuck Rio (born Danny Flores, the son of Mexican American fieldworkers) on vocals and sax.

"Tequila" was recorded last, and was composed on the spot based on a "raunchy" latin tinged saxophone solo written by Flores, the "God Father of Mexican Rock." The song was released as the B-side for "Train to Nowhere" but skyrocketed up the charts to reach #1 in March of 1958.

This group of musicians went on to become the Champs named after Gene Autry's horse, Champion. In 1959, "Tequila" won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. Flores parted ways with the band soon after due to inter-band feuding and went onto form the surf band, the Persuaders.

Even though he signed the rights away to most of his royalty earnings on the song, Flores has been immortalized by his cry of "tequila!" They played it at his funeral in 2006. His wife Sharee said he never got tired of playing it.

In 1986, the song appeared in Pee-wee's Big Adventure when Pee-wee dances his way out of certain death in a biker bar after knocking over dozens of bikes. He finds "Tequila" on the jukebox and borrows a busboy's ridiculous white platform shoes to rock this scene.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jamie sings "GoodNight Bush" at Yoshi's San Francisco on Inauguration Evening

On January 20th, 2009 I sang with about 2 dozen other people to form the "Goodnight Bush" singers at our debut (as well as one and only) performance at Yoshi's San Francisco to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama.

We sang a four part arrangement by Daryl Henline (also conductor) of the children's parody book Goodnight Bush by Erick Origen and Gan Golan, in bathrobes.  We had one rehearsal the night before and did a warmup in the Yoshi's parking lot.

Someone edited together this awesome video of folks at the inauguration in D.C. reading the story while we sing over it.  It's terrific.  Look for me, I'm just to the right of the conductor. And I'm singing my socks off!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who is your favorite Beatle and why?

Take a moment to pick your favorite Beatle in the poll over there on the right.  And if you have another moment, please comment and explain why you've made that choice. Be as specific or ridiculous as you want.  

This is a little survey that will hopefully make things interesting on my Band of Boys blog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I love this moment: Ferris Bueller and "Twist and Shout"

I know we all love this movie, and we all love this moment.  I just thought you should relive it, just for fun. 

What I really love about this scene is how, twenty years or so after its release, a song recorded by The Beatles brings an entire city together.  I know it's a movie and these people were probably paid to do this, but all of these people KNOW this song. They LOVE this song.  And they are having a good time grooving to it.  It's just a universal super feel good moment.  It makes me smile every time I watch this movie. 

I love the folks dancing down the stairs, the window washer, the busty Bavarian float dancers shimmying their stuff, the little kid hold his hands over his ears and that one guy playing the Sousaphone (a wearable tuba) out in front who is totally getting down!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Oscars: The Visitor and and Slumdog Nominated

The Oscar Nominations are in and two of my favorite films of the year were nominated. 

Richard Jenkins from the Visitor was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role. This movie was terrific. Read my initial thoughts after seeing the film here: the musical aspect of the movie really caught my attention.  Jenkins played the dad in Six Feet Under, we love him. I don't think he'll win (he's up against Sean Penn in Milk), but I'm so happy he got a nomination.  He's been a character actor for so long, this must be very exciting for him. 

Slumdog Millionaire, on the other hand, received 10 nominations (and will probably win many of them) including best score and TWO best song nominations for "Jai Ho" and "O Saya."  And you know what that means right? Oscar performances!  And while I'm not a huge fan of M.I.A. (she's got great beats but I just can't get around her voice) she'll probably be making an appearance.  And hopefully there will be dancing. Composer A.R. Rahman is finally getting the worldwide recognition he deserves.

4 Golden Globes are exciting, but this is going to be even better.

Check out one of my former blog entries discussing Slumdog and my favorite Indian film Lagaan, which also happens to be my favorite soundtrack by Rahman.

Here is one of the nominated songs "Jai Ho" 

And a second nominiated song "O Saya" (This one is my fav. I love the percussion)

Anyone think other songs should have gotten nominated? I can't believe I haven't bought the soundtrack yet? What am I waiting for?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

OBAMANATION!: Inauguration's greatest hits

This our OBAMANATION! (thanks to Prop. 8 the Musical for that one!) What a line-up. Legends, all of them.

This is my own personal 2009 Presidential Inauguration greatest hits (plus a few added ditties on the way).  PLEASE leave a link to your favorite moment if it's not included here.

1) "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "City of Blinding Lights" - U2 (This song has been making me cry ever since I starting thinking about MLK and Obama and what this really means to all of us.) I love these four guys from Dublin, they can do no wrong in my book, even as Bono's voice starts going. I love his shoutouts to Ireland, Europe, Africa, Israel and Palestine, as well as to Joe Biden (as a fellow Catholic)!

2) "You'll Never Walk Alone" - Renee Fleming (Omigawd I want to wrap myself in this woman's voice!)

3) "This Land is Your Land" with Pete Seeger (the cutest man alive) and Bruce Springsteen. By Woody Guthrie, this is one of the most quintessential American songs ever written. Seeger has been leading the masses to this song for decades. I wonder which would have been his proudest sing-a-long.

4) "Air and Simple Gifts" by John Williams performed by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill. STUNNING! Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts is one of of the most perfect melodies ever.

5) "Higher Ground" with Usher, Shakira & Stevie Wonder

6. "America the Beautiful" Beyonce (and a ton of other famous people) Simple and gorgeous.  Beyonce is a goddess.

7. "My Country Tis of Thee" - Aretha Franklin She's not quite the singer she used to be, and someone had a point that the key was too high for her, but it's ARETHA FRANKLIN!! And she can get away with anything, even that hat.

8. Oh, and just because I can't help it, here is Obama dancing with Ellen from over a year-and-a-half ago.

9) And this... "No one as Irish as Barack OBama" by the Hardy Drew and the Nany Boys (a.k.a The Corrigan Brothers)

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

You don't believe me, I hear you say
But Barack's as Irish, as was JFK
His granddaddy's daddy came from Moneygall
A small Irish village, well known to you all

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

He's as Irish as bacon and cabbage and stew
He's Hawaiian he's Kenyan American too
He’s in the white house, He took his chance
Now let’s see Barack do Riverdance

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

From Kerry and cork to old Donegal
Let’s hear it for Barack from old moneygall
From the lakes if Killarney to old Connemara
There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama
From the old blarney stone to the great hill of Tara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

2008 the white house is green, their cheering in Mayo and in Skibereen.
The Irish in Kenya, and in Yokahama,
Are cheering for President Barack O’Bama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

The Hockey Moms gone, and so is McCain
They are cheering in Texas and in Borrisokane,

In Moneygall town, the greatest of drama, for our Famous president Barack o Bama

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

The great Stephen Neill, a great man of God,
He proved that Barack was from the Auld Sod
They came by bus and they came by car, to celebrate Barack in Ollie Hayes’s Bar

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Inaugural line-up: What would yours be?

I assume that Barack Obama gets a least a little bit of say when choosing the musical and poetic "entertainment" (I put quotations around it because it's WAY more than that) of his presidential inauguration. 

I mean, it's not a question of "can we get so-and-so" or "too bad whats-her-name will be in Australia".  It's the presidential inauguration! And not just any inauguration. I'm already kicking myself for not making a bigger attempt getting to D.C. but, oh well.

So who did the Obama people pick to perform tomorrow on the steps of the Capitol Steps tomorrow?

Aretha Franklin will be there.  A quartet comprising of Yo-Yo Ma (cellist), Itzhak Perlman (violinist), Gabriela Montero (pianist) and Anthony McGill (clarinetist) will be performing an original composition by John Williams.  The Boys and Girls Choruses of San Francisco and the Marine Corps Band will also play.

We all know about the controversial pick of Pastor Rick Warren to speak.  But also we will hear from Elizabeth Alexander (poet) and Reverend Joseph Lowery (civil rights leader).

Who would you want to speak and/or perform at your inauguration?  Think as big as you want! (Let's keep it to living folks though.)

Would would I want? Aretha was certainly a good choice. How about U2? But give me the 1997 Bono so that he can still sing  :P 

How about some Paul McCartney?  He's not American, but he played the Super Bowl once-upon a time didn't he? I mean, that was way more "American" than this is.  This is a celebration for the whole world to enjoy.

I would definitely get the Soweto Gospel Choir.  They are amazing and they represent a country that has seen dark times and is moving toward a brighter future.  

As for speakers? I wouldn't be able to resist some Jon Stewart.  Oh, and Bill Clinton.  Definitely.  Maybe David Sedaris? 

Who would be in YOUR inauguration ceremony?

UPDATE: How amazing was that ceremony? John William's piece was gorgeous and Reverend Joseph Lowery was incredible as he nodded to whites, black, browns and yellows, Christians, Jews and non-believers (in a humorous and endearing manor.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Be My Husband": Nina Simone & My Brightest Diamond

I've been a Nina Simone fan for a long time now.  I'm not ashamed to say that I first noticed her in this Six Feet Under promo (the best tv show there ever was) and thought "WHO ON EARTH WAS THAT???"  That cadence (the bit at the end) is the most amazing few seconds of deep feeling vocal virtuosity I have ever heard. I still rewind it to hear it again and again.

Nina Simone was an African-American woman who was way before her time and never got the recognition that she should have.  I think this just makes her music more attractive to audiences and artists today.  She was more edgy than Carole King, Judy Collins and Carly Simon put together.  She was also socially relevant in her thematic material and as a classically trained pianist, she brought an elegance not really ever heard in blues or soul. 

Please watch her performance of "Be My Husband" at the Harlem Festival in 1969. Check out here amazing head-dress hairdo and her "percussion section."  Please also take note of the last couple verses, you know, the ones that mentions "cooking and sewing", "meanest man I've ever seen" and "sudden death" (you can even her the audience show surprise).

This is typical Nina: the deepest passion and pain all rolled up into one.

Now, this is Shara Worden, a.k.a. My Brightest Diamond. I've heard about here (she's performed at South by Southwest for the last few years), but not taken the time to really listen until friend played her for me last weekend while packing books for a move. I think I was seeing Ozomatli at the Fillmore the same night she performed in San Francisco.  Too bad for me.

New York based Shara is a classically trained vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. She has studied string quartet arranging and has just an adorable presence (She's tiny!) and funky look.

Watch HER cover of "Be My Husband."  Shara, as you might notice, has changed up the last couple verses making it a little less of a downer. (Check out HER hairdo!)

Now let me throw an original at you.  This is a live performance of "My Brightest Star." Just Shara and her guitar. (The open tuning gives the guitar that moody feel.)

If you're intrigued by her voice, check a clip of her singing Whitney Houston's/Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" at Karaoke (the dude is her husband, and no, he's not a giant, she's just tiny). And a funky little interview clip

I've also added Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good" and some other of Shara's tunes to my playlist.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stop and Hear the Music: Violinist Joshua Bell Plays the D.C. Metro

I received this email forward today from a friend. It happens to be over a year-and-a-half-old, but I thought it was really thought provoking...

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
Read an article at

Monday, January 12, 2009

Secretary for the Arts: Sign the petition!

If you read this blog, I would assume that you value the arts.  

If you haven't signed Quincy Jones' endorsed petition demanding the creation of an Arts Secretary, please sign it now.

Watch Quincy talk about Obama and their plans to expand the arts and education.

Very exciting!

Slumdog Millionaire wins four Golden Globes, including best original score

If you haven't heard yet, Slumdog Millionaire won four Golden Globes last night, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score!  And A.R. Rahman was there to collect his statue! (read about it here and watch a video, including Rahman's short but sweet acceptance speech, here.

Check out my previous blog entry about the movie (including the trailer) and my favorite of Rahman's previous scores Lagaan. I have since seen Slumdog and loved it.  It's very clever, sweet and educational about Indian poverty. 

Slumdog will be released in India in a little less than two weeks, and I'm sure the masses are clamoring ever more to see it now that it has received Hollywood's praises.

Watch the press ask the cast and crew questions at the Golden Globes here.  (Too bad Rahman wasn't asked a question.) 

Congratulations! Let's see what happens at the Oscars. 

p.s. I've added a couple of tunes from the soundtrack (M.I.A.!) as well as put the tunes from Lagaan at the top of my playlist. Take a listen.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Palestine and Israel - Hevenu Shalom Alechem/ Ma Ana Ajmal Min Salam

Who's in the mood to hear about some Jewish/Muslim collaboration for a change?  I sure am.

Since going to Israel two years ago (I can't believe it's been that long) I am even more thoroughly convinced that there is no right and wrong when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian situation. At this point it's more like mafia warfare that anything else. The resentment and fear runs so deep that there seems to be no hope in sight.

As I Jew I cannot help but to feel sympathy and cultural understanding for Israel. I have family there that I love very much, and I know how they have grown up in a world where you might lose your life walking across the street. And as a human being and as part of a people who was once victim to genocide, I feel the Palestinian struggle as well.

One thing that most people can agree upon is that the leaders of these two peoples cannot seem to make it work. There have been so many misteps along the way (that I will not get into here) that you can't help but wonder who on earth these people are and how they can sleep at night.

Most Israelis and Palestinians just want to live their lives in peace and most of them do, together, side by side.

I wanted to post this song as tribute to the power of two warring peoples coming together to make art and music. It's sung in both Hebrew and Arabic called Hevenu Shalom Alechem ("We brought Peace among us" in Hebrew) & Ma Ana Ajmal Min Salam ("There is Nothing more Beautiful than Peace" in Arabic).  And I have to say, Other than Souad Massi, I'm new to listening to Arabic being sung, I think it's gorgeous!

If you want to help, my advice to you is go to Israel and the West Bank if you can (especially the West Bank, so many people go to Israel and don't make it to the West Bank, there are organizations that will take you for free), talk to as many people as you can including Jews and Muslims. 

But if that's not possible, talk to people at home. If you hear someone taking sides, talk to them about it. The only thing that will save this situation is communication, whether it be artistic or simple conversation.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gunther: And why the Swedes crack me up

To those that have not yet been graced with his presence, let 2009 welcome you with Sweden's Gunther (Mats Söderlund): a hysterical model turned europop parody.   

Once you get past the pornographic mustache, pouty lips, terrible dance moves, and mullet (and the scantily clad "Sunshine Girls"), you won't be able to get these songs out of your head. You are welcome to curse me for it.

Here is "Ding Ding Dong"

And another gem: "Tutti Frutti Summer Love." Nothing beats the flying fruit and extra special surprise you get at 3:13.

What's the funniest thing you've seen on the internet lately?