Sunday, February 21, 2010
Today's New York Times has a short piece in which Judy Collins, now 70, explains what she does to keep herself in ship-shape physically and psychically for a life on the road. So it seems fitting to tip the stetson today to the song of hers I always loved the best, written by the beloved Canadian singer-songwriter, rodeo rider and rancher Ian Tyson, the near-perfect Someday Soon.
Collins was trained as a classical pianist at a very young age, giving her first public recital at 13. But when she discovered folk music, both of traditional origins and what was coming from the singer-songwriters of the 60s, lyrics and the guitar became all-important to her. She raised her angelic soprano voice in song and hasn't stopped for almost 60 years.
Collins was the paramour of Stephen Stills at one time (Crosby, Stills & Nash's Suite: Judy Blue Eyes is about her), and it was he who introduced her to Someday Soon. Here they are reunited and performing it together on a 1990 TV show Graham Nash had called The Inside Track of which I have absolutely no memory!
Although she has had a tough life, from everything I've read Collins has worked hard to protect and not squander the incredible vigor she has and the creative gifts she's been blessed with. She believes music uplifts and heals - she sang Amazing Grace at her son's wedding, her granddaughter's christening and her son's funeral after he committed suicide. Many people have interpreted that 18th century hymn, but I don't think anyone has done it better than she. Hers was the voice that introduced it to me, and the one I will always hear in my head when I sing it.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
I've been listening to a lot of early instrumental music lately thanks to a Richard Thompson shout-out to Hank Marvin of the Shadows (about whom I'll probably write another time) and was poring over forgottenhits.com which has lists galore, including the best instrumentals. One I had especially nostalgic feelings for leapt out, so today, Pipeline is on the menu. By the Chantays. I have no idea who they were/are, but we're about to find out.
According to their Facebook page (because it turns out they are playing together nearly 50 years later and have a need to get the word out!), the song was written by original members Bob Spickard and Brian Carman. They still perform with their original drummer, Bob Welch, and long-time members Ricky Lewis and Brian Nussle. Growing up in Orange County, California, they formed a band while in high school as boys will sometimes do, and the rest is history.
If I had my life to live over again, I would have wanted to be a surfer chick. It would have been a whole other life, and I'd be a completely different sort of person. Good thing, bad thing ... you decide. I just know that it's a life that suggests a more carefree existence than the one I have lived or lived when I was young, and why wouldn't that sound sweet any day of the week?
Pipeline is considered to be the first instrumental surf-rock hit, with the Beach Boys' Surfin' Safari (1962) the first with vocals. But the seeds were sown in 1961 by Dick Dale (and the Del-Tones), a guitar shredder who played one of the first Fender Stratocasters through a 15-inch JBL D130F speaker and created the sound that instrumentalists the world over have tried to duplicate, something he described as close to what he heard in his head when he was surfing. His sonic embellishments were pioneering and, as a southpaw, he did it all while playing his guitar upside down and backwards - without restringing it.
Dale's Let's Go Trippin' was considered the first surf song ever recorded, but it was only a regional hit - and not in my region. (And "trippin'" did not refer to dropping acid but going on a road trip to find the best surf.)
Pipeline has been a surf rock standard for decades, and isn't likely to die on the vine anytime soon. I played it today for the first time in eons. It made me happy like it did the first time I heard it as a mere child. Let me tell you, when you're landlocked and surrounded by icicles a foot long, a music-induced surfing high can be very therapeutic.
And now I leave you with this great find: a 1987 collaboration between Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughn on a cover of Pipeline for the soundtrack of a Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello beach flick sendup, Back to the Beach - somehow this was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. Hi-fricking-larious!