I don’t think I need to write a long introduction to this piece. Let me just say that these are the songs that helped provide the soundtrack to this month of life. Let’s get on with it!
“Yeh Yeh” – Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (1965)
“Yeh Yeh” is an energetic little number with a fast beat and lyrics that are fun to sing. It actually started as a jazz number, but Georgie Fame took it and turned it into a classic pop tune in the suave, finger-snapping style that became famous in the early 1960s with songs like Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby” and pretty much every song by Dion (with my favorite being “Ruby Baby“). However, I think “Yeh Yeh”s jazz roots is where the song got its subtle suggestiveness. It’s very hot in a gentle, oblique way that I think is incredibly interesting!
“Now And Forever” – Carole King (1992)
Earlier this month, I watched A League Of Their Own after not seeing it for a long time. (It was still good, if you’re curious!) Music wasn’t really the main draw to the film for me, but I knew that it starred Madonna – I love her – and it did feature one of her songs over the end credits. Therefore, I was completely unprepared when Carole King’s “Now And Forever” blindsided me at the beginning of the film! The music itself is typical of early ’90s Easy Listening, but the lyrics are a heartfelt meditation on nostalgia and the feelings it can arouse in us. I love it!
“How Do You Like Me Now?!” – Toby Keith (2000)
I love country music, especially the songs from the 1980s and 1990s. I grew up on it, so it has an especially warm and homey feeling for me. I have to take Toby Keith on a case-by-case basis, though; while his early work is heartfelt and emotional, he got more and more crass as his career progressed. “How Do You Like Me Now?!” straddles that line for me; while the first verse sounds like the beginning of a sweet romantic story, it turns into a taunting anthem by the end. However, there’s no denying that the music is catchy, and the lyrics are emotionally satisfying. It’s worth a listen!
(Actually, I listened to another Toby Keith song a lot this month: “Drinks After Work,” which is better than “How Do You Like Me Now?!” in just about every way. However, the latter song is the one that sticks in my head!)
“I’m Not Sayin'” – Gordon Lightfoot (1966)
Here’s something you might want to know about me: I love folk songs and folk singers. I’ve generally grown up in cities (or near them), but I’ve always felt an emotional connection to deserts, mountains, and the wilderness, and listening to folk tunes makes me feel closer to that side of myself. I’ve always liked Gordon Lightfoot in that regard, but I knew him primarily for his more slickly produced work in the 1970s. It wasn’t until this past month that I learned he began his career as an unplugged singer. Since then, that part of his career has become my favorite. This song – a love song with a nice twist – is my new favorite of his work!
“Cheer Down” – George Harrison (1989)
Every Beatle had a pretty phenomenal post-Fab Four solo career, but my personal favorite of those has to be George Harrison. After the breakup of The Beatles in 1970, Harrison made his voice heard with All Things Must Pass, the legendary LP that he released later that year. It’s chock-full of wonderful work, like “What Is Life?,” “If Not For You,” and “My Sweet Lord.” However, my favorite phase of Harrison’s solo career has to be the late 1980s, the period I refer to as the “Traveling Wilburys period.”
The Traveling Wilburys were a rock group that lasted between 1988 and 1990, consisting of rock legends Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Mr. Harrison. The group first formed after a trip Harrison made to Los Angeles. Harrison was in La La Land to oversee the filming of Checking Out, a film Harrison was producing with his company HandMade Films. During that trip, Warner Bros. Records execs asked Harrison to record a song to serve as the B-side to his single “This Is Love.” Soon afterward, during a dinner with Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison, Harrison asked Lynne to play on the B-side and for Orbison to attend the session as his guest. Tom Petty became involved in the act when Harrison went to retrieve one of his guitars, and Bob Dylan got into the act when the group decided to record the album in Dylan’s garage studio.
Together, the five-man group completed and recorded an unfinished song of Harrison’s. They took an inscription on a label in Dylan’s garage and named the song after it: “Handle With Care.” The five friends sent the song to Warner Bros. Records, who said that the tune was too good to be B-side filler. The record label released “Handle With Care” as a single, which went on to be highly successful. The Traveling Wilburys were born!
The Wilburys have a very distinct sound, something different than any of the separate members had done before. It’s an interesting fusion of electric rock and folksy heartland music – similar to what Bob Seger was doing in the ’70s, but not quite the same. However, although the Wilbury style wasn’t really something that the five artists had dabbled in before, it went on to affect some of their solo work: Tom Petty and “You Wreck Me;” Roy Orbison and “You Got It,” and George Harrison and “Cheer Down!”
“Cheer Down” was written to fulfill a commitment Harrison had made: to provide a song for Lethal Weapon 2. Together, Harrison and Tom Petty wrote a set of lyrics based around the title phrase, one that Harrison’s wife Olivia used when her husband got overly excited. The resulting song is an incredibly sweet love song about being there for one’s significant other whenever they need help. Jeff Lynne produced the song, which Harrison recorded in his home studio.
Of course, a love song didn’t really have a lot to do with Lethal Weapon 2‘s plot, which is probably why studio execs tacked it onto the end credits. However, the song does serve as a refreshing end note to an excellent sequel, and it also makes for a strong stand-alone single. I love it!
Bonus Track! This is “Handle With Care,” the single that the Traveling Wilburys put together in Bob Dylan’s garage. It’s a personal favorite of mine!