Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Sallie replied, "I've always liked folk music and still do." I kind of liked folk music but my initial reaction is, it gets tiresome too quickly. In general, I never liked "novelty" songs, and folk, to me, is a close relative of the novelty. By novelty songs I mean things like "Please Mr. Custer," "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley" (one which surely spans both novelty and folk categories), "The Purple People Eater," "Allie Oop," Perry Como's "Round and Round," "Poison Ivy," and dozens more. The only such song I have in my play list is "Your Nobody Called Today" which for some inexplicable reason struck me as more charming than annoying from first hearing, and I still like it enough that I don't hit the "forward" button when it comes on. Oh, that reminds me...I do have "A Little Bit of Soap" on my play list, too, but I do hit "forward" immediately when it comes on. I thought when I saw it offered that I remembered it as likeable, but find it's maddeningly annoying. If most hits make it on the basis of an opening "hook," this one begins with an "unhook."
I liked "folk rock" (Simon and Garfunkle, Mammas and Pappas) better than strict folk (Pete Seeger; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Mitch Miller's Singalong Singers, who turned every song into a folk song). The younger Paul Simon still impresses me as a lyrical genius; I suppose I'll continue to grow my appreciation for the line, "I couldn't get any younger," from "Old Friends" more and more the older I get.
My equivalent of Sallie's appreciation for folk must be "do-wap," which I think my "second tier" list reflects. As I went down my play list to pick out the second tier choices, I had to resist a temptation to choose every do-wap title listed. Groups like the Platters and the Silouettes create (to my mind) a bridge from "pure" do-wap to the "pure" sweet love songs of the Fleetwoods, Skyliners, and Simply Red, and are closely aligned with "soulful love" songs like those of Gladys Knight, Luther Van Dros, Johnny Mathis, Ray Charles, and dozens other performers. I can't explain the disconnect between my liking for love songs and my suspicion and negativity toward so-called "romantic love" (arranged marriages have past the test of time and seem on reflection to have worked better).
Judy wrote: "A lot of my favorites are on your list also. Just reading over the titles brought back memories of the 'good old days' I associate with Nanty Glo and those great Saturday Nights at the Miners Hall. It's been hot and humid here in Home Page Country and one of the strongest memories I have of a particular song is of a very hot and humid Saturday night, those big front windows at the Miners Hall were open in hopes of a breeze drifitng in and the great, haunting sound of 'Sleepwalk' by Santo and Johnny was wafting through the open windows to Roberts Street below where a group, in hopes of cooling off from the dance had gathered."
Songs that define a moment like that continue to be meaningful for years, perhaps a lifetime, afterward. I still remember skating at Cicero's to "In the Middle of An Island," a novelty song which is no favorite, but it's stuck there because the lyrics led my girlfriend to ask me the first "leading question" a girlfriend ever asked me.
We can't leave this topic without another mention of Elvis. Though I'd seen a number of his early movies, I'd never seen Love Me Tender, his first and, by many lights, one of his best. So when it came on through a cable channel recently I watched it. It was better than I'd imagined, but the surprising thing was that there were a number of other songs in it, sung by Elvis, that I didn't remember hearing before. For 45 years I'd had the impression that every song he recorded in those days went right to the top of the charts, but some of these apparently didn't even make the charts.
Live and learn...for whatever it's worth.
Webmaster Jon Kennedy