FEATURE Image: Yellow Submarine was a British cartoon feature film in 1968 starring comic strip figures of the Beatles in a colorful and surrealistic musical adventure featuring Beatles hits. Though it was a box office flop in the U.K., it was wildly successful in the U.S. The film title and concept were based on the Lennon-McCartney song of the same name and the screenplay was by Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, Erich Segal (who did Love Story in 1970) and Lee Monoff. In the kingdom of Pepperland that is being attacked by the Blue Meanies, Fred, the conductor of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, escapes in a yellow submarine. He surfaces in Liverpool where he meets the Beatles and they set off together in the yellow submarine through the Seas of Time, Monsters and Holes to restore music and color to Pepperland. With 11 Beatles’ tunes and eye-popping animation in a host of styles, the De Luxe Color film from United Artists and King Features Syndicate epitomized the pop music culture of the late 1960’s. PHOTO credit: “yellow submarine” by youngdoo is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Paradoxically, When I’m Sixty-Four about relationships as one grows older, is probably one of the first songs Paul McCartney ever wrote. He was 13 or 14 years old when he composed it sometime in late spring 1956 although, in the mid-1960’s, it fit into the current fashion of rock music looking back to emulate pre-war English pop music hall styles (i.e., New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral” in 1966). In 1967 and credited to Lennon–McCartney, the song was released on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band studio album. When I’m Sixty-Four was also included in the Beatles’ 1968 animated film and pop phenomenon, Yellow Submarine that is a landmark of the genre.
When I’m Sixty-Four, while seemingly just a cute and simple ditty, was the result of several recordings and mixing stages before it reached the album. It was recorded by the Beatles on December 6, 1966. Two days later, alone, McCartney dubbed his lead vocal onto a December 6 take. Two weeks later, the Beatles dubbed backing vocals and the sound of bells. A new mix of the song was then created by producer (and later Sir) George Martin (1926-2016). The next day, 3 session musicians overdubbed the clarinets which added a fuller and fatter focal point for the song. The magic of mixing carried forward until the end of the year when 24-year-old McCartney suggested speeding up the track, which raised the key, in an attempt to make him sound “younger” and enliven the tune. Released during the Summer of Love in 1967, this was at the height of the LSD influence around music culture so that some viewed the song’s lyric “digging the weeds” as another possible dope allusion.
The animated film, Yellow Submarine, released in the U.S. in November 1968, had already caused a stir in London that July. With its 11 Beatles’ tunes, solid script, and direction by Canadian animation producer George Dunning (1920-1979), the United Artists’ and King Features Syndicate’s production was an almost effortlessly surreal animation and music experience. The film, originally intended for a juvenile audience, was attracting instead full-grown Flower Children which shocked its marketeers who now wanted to cancel, and, ultimately, delayed, its general release. Yet, unlike in Britain where the film was a box office failure – as the UK’s homegrown pop entertainments often were (even the Beatles wanted nothing much to do with the animated film project) – it was an immediate success at its release Stateside in November 1968.
In the U.S. there were more tickets sold for Yellow Submarine that year than any other film except The Sound Of Music. Though U.S. critics were unimpressed with Yellow Submarine, the film’s core audience of American teenagers and twenty-somethings bought tickets to see it over and over again and escaped for a time some of the late 1960’s turmoil of war, riots, assassinations as well as 1968’s divisive, razor-close presidential election. Over 55 years after its initial release, Yellow Submarine remains one of cartoon history’s landmark entertainments.
SOURCES: Revolution in the Head The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, Third Edition, Ian MacDonald, Chicago Review Press, 2007, pp. 220-221.
Can’t Buy Me Love, The Beatles, Britain, and America, Jonathan Gould, New York: Harmony Books, 2007, pp. 484-486 and 505-507.
The United Artists Story, Ronald Bergan, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1986, p. 243.
Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) showed up in a bright pink dress for the release party of the song, Marilyn, in 1952. Though invited, she was the “surprise” stand-out guest who swooped in and out of the celebration fashionably in a wonky helicopter.
By the end of 1951 Marilyn Monroe had completed 13 films, mostly for 20th Century-Fox, and was on the cusp of major stardom.
In 1952, Marilyn made five additional movies – including Clash By Night (RKO) where she was identified as “the new blonde bombshell” by Kate Cameron in New York News. Marilyn also made in 1952 We’re Not Married for 20th Century-Fox where, according to Alton Cook of the New York World Telegram, “Marilyn supplies beauty. She is Hollywood’s foremost expert.” Also for Fox that year Marilyn made Monkey Business where Paul C. Beckley hints at the major transition that Marilyn was making to open the nation’s eyes to her rising star in 1952: “Not seen her before,” Beckley wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, “I now know what’s that about.” Marilyn rounded out 1952 with the Fox anthology film, O. Henry’s Full House where the critics stood up and noticed Marilyn’s “stunning proportions” (Archer Winston, New York Post).
In 1953, Marilyn Monroe’s star did not miss. Her next three films for Twentieth Century- Fox – Niagara (“seductive”), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (“alluring”) and How to Marry a Millionaire (“magnificent proportions”) walked the walk to solidify her film acting career and her status as America’s enduringly iconic sex goddess or symbol.
Ray Anthony (b. 1922) is one of the few surviving members of the post-war period of Old Hollywood (TV producer Norman Lear is another) that came to an end arguably with Marilyn’s death in 1962. Four years older than Marilyn Monroe, Anthony turned 100 years old in California on January 20, 2022.
Most of that exciting generation born in 1922 – including Ava Gardner, Jason Robards, Betty White, Judy Garland, Doris Day, Cyd Charisse, Kim Hunter, Eleanor Parker, Veronica Lake, and others – are today gone.
Starting in the early 1950’s, Ray Anthony led a very popular ensemble that put out dance record after dance record. Many became instantly part of the culture – such as The Hokey Pokey and The Bunny Hop which seemed to make their musical appearance at nearly every wedding reception throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.
With Anthony’s single Marilyn, the world’s most famous sex symbol was unattached though being courted by New York Yankees baseball great Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. They married two years later in 1954.
In 1952 Marilyn Monroe was declared the “It Girl” by Hollywood gossip columnists. Though not a major star yet, Marilyn’s career was fluttering at the verge which made the Marilyn release party particularly exciting.
Ray Anthony adored beautiful and sexy Hollywood blondes. He married one in 1955. Anthony met Mamie Van Doren (b. 1931) in 1955, they had a son, and divorced in 1961. In 1956, Anthony appeared with another popular Hollywood blonde bombshell, Jayne Mansfield, in the musical comedy, The Girl Can’t Help It.
Surrounded by all this beauty and great music it is no wonder that Ray Anthony received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the midst of this period in 1957.
Ride Captain Ride was a no. 4 hit in the U.S. and Canada in the spring and summer of 1970. It was written and performed by the Tampa, Florida-based rock band, Blues Image. The song is a fantasy about a captain and crew who, seeking laughter and freedom, take a trip on a mystery ship into an uncharted world.
Co-written by the band’s lead singer and guitarist Mike Pinera (b. 1948) and keyboardist “Skip” Konte (b. 1947), Ride Captain Ride sold over one million copies and was certified Gold in August 1970. Although best known for this song, Blues Image is much more than a one-hit wonder band.
Miami, Florida’s late 1960’s psych-rock music scene
Formed in Tampa in 1966, Blues Image relocated to Miami in 1968. They were key in helping promoters establish a popular new music club in Sunny Isles Beach (in a former bowling alley) called “Thee Image.” It became South Florida’s go-to venue for newly emerging psychedelic rock and it drew huge crowds.
The club featured three stages along with a meditation room and a black-light room. It booked local bands as well as name acts such as Blood, Sweat, & Tears, Cream, The Doors, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Frank Zappa.
The club was brain-child, construction project, and congregant spot for most of the area’s hippies. The hippies brought love, peace, and sister- and brotherhood to beachfront Miami.
Jam sessions and love ins in the nearby public parks included one incident which involved the Grateful Dead, Blues Image, and about 3,000 impromptu fans. Blues Image also became one of the first rock groups to experiment with Latin-infused rock which exploded onto the wider rock music scene in the 1970s.
The beginning of the end for Miami’s late 1960’s psych-rock music scene was The Doors’ concert appearance there in March 1969. Following the August 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami that nominated and elected Richard Nixon as U.S. president, local public opinion soured on the hippie subculture and Thee Image was shuttered.
That same year, in 1969, Blues Image moved to L.A., signed with Atco Records and released their debut album. Other bands relocated out of Miami – some to New York City. The cultural embers of Thee Image were transplanted to L.A. for a short time in another club – but South Florida’s psych-rock scene that featured rock’s greats had clearly ended.
In the summer of 1969, Blues Image drummer Manny Bertematti and Jimi Hendrix were seen jamming together at L.A.’s “Thee Experience,” the music club on the Sunset Strip evocative of Thee Image. In Melody Maker shortly before his death, Jimi Hendrix observed that Blues Image was “one of the best up and coming bands around.”
Then came April 1970 and Ride Captain Ride, Blues Image’s impromptu hit. Released as the 6th track on the band’s second album, Open, the main guitar solo and fills were provided by Kent Henry with the song’s final guitar solo played by Mike Pinera. Ride Captain Ride became the no.32 ranked single on 1970’s year-end Billboard chart. Since that era, the song has been covered many times, notably by Blood, Sweat, & Tears in 1975 and by Phish from 1987 to 2013.
When Pinera left Blues Image, the group quickly broke up in 1971. Skip Konte joined Three Dog Night. Others, including Pinera, played for memorable rock bands such as Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Manassas, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Alice Cooper and more.
RIDE CAPTAIN RIDE LYRICS: Seventy three men sailed up from the San Francisco Bay Rolled off of their ship, and here’s what they had to say We’re callin’ everyone to ride along to another shore We can laugh our lives away and be free once more
But no one heard them callin’, no one came at all ‘Cause they were too busy watchin’ those old raindrops fall As a storm was blowin’ out on the peaceful sea Seventy-three men sailin’ off to history
Ride Captain Ride upon your mystery ship Be amazed at the friends you have here on your trip Ride Captain Ride upon your mystery ship On your way to a world that others might have missed
Seventy-three men sailed up from the San Francisco Bay Got off the ship, and here’s what they had to say We’re callin’ everyone to ride along to another shore We can laugh our lives away and be free once more
Ride Captain Ride upon your mystery ship Be amazed at the friends you have here on your trip Ride Captain Ride upon your mystery ship On your way to a world that others might have missed
Ride Captain Ride upon your mystery ship Be amazed at the friends you have here on your trip
Following Blues Image’s demise, in the summer of 1972, the Beach Boys—Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Mike Love—decided to relocate themselves and their families to the Netherlands to record.
Once there they couldn’t find an adequate recording studio for their plans. Artistic integrity demanding it and money being no object, they imported a studio that was constructed to their specifications in a converted Dutch barn. Throughout the rest of that summer 1972, the Beach Boys, formed in 1961, recorded their 19th album entitled aptly Holland.
Producer Warner Bros. assessing that the new album lacked what they believed could be a hit single started fishing around for a possible hit song to replace another song on the album. Without a definable hit, Holland, the Beach Boys were told, was not releasable.
Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, a collaborator on Good Vibrations and head of Warner Bros.’ new music video department in 1972, came up with Sail On, Sailor.
“I sailed an ocean, unsettled ocean Through restful waters and deep commotion Often frightened, unenlightened Sail on, sail on sailor, “ is the opening line. A sailing song for sure with deeper connotations of a searching journey with ups and downs which could be personal or professional.
The first-person narrator expounds on the individual and universal nature of the sail: “I wrest the waters, fight Neptune’s waters Sail through the sorrows of life’s marauders Unrepenting, often empty Sail on, sail on sailor.”
The music was remembered to have been drafted by Wilson in 1970 and, with Van Dyck Parks, into a fuller form in 1971. The song was then headed to Three Dog Night and had lyrics written by Ray Kennedy and Tandyn Almer.
Hearing the upbeat tune with its rich harmonies and delving backbeat as finally released, it can be easy to miss the tangle of the sailor’s story: “Seldom stumble, never crumble Try to tumble, life’s a rumble Feel the stinging I’ve been given Never ending, unrelenting Heartbreak searing, always fearing Never caring, persevering Sail on, sail on, sailor.”
In 1972, the Beach Boys’ manager Jack Rieley returned to L.A. and gave the song’s lyrics a going over. He was particularly fond of the line: ”lost like a sewer rat alone but I sail…” Officially, Sail on, Sailor listed Wilson, Almer, and Parks as its composers and Rieley and Kennedy as the lyricists. South African singer Blondie Chaplin, who had been working with the Beach Boys since 1971, became its lead vocal.
By year’s end – it was November 28, 1972 – Brian Wilson was effectively banned from Village Recorders in L.A. Some thought he had been tinkering too much with Sail On, Sailor. Younger brother Carl Wilson was put in charge. During the hit song’s extended and close collaboration, a strong dose of these artists’ struggles is readily displayed in its words: “Always needing, even bleeding Never feeding all my feelings Damn the thunder, must I blunder There’s no wonder all I’m under Stop the crying and the lying And the sighing and my dying.”
Sail On, Sailor was released in February 1973 as the album Holland’s lead single. It peaked at no.79 on the Billboard Hot 100. When it was re-released as a single two years later, in 1975, it jumped to no.49. The album, also a critical success, peaked at no.36 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and in the top 20 albums in the UK.
Sail On, Sailor has been covered many times, including recently by Los Lobos on their 2022 Grammy-Award winning Native Sons album.
SAIL ON, SAILOR LYRICS: I sailed an ocean, unsettled ocean Through restful waters and deep commotion Often frightened, unenlightened Sail on, sail on sailor
I wrest the waters, fight Neptune’s waters Sail through the sorrows of life’s marauders Unrepenting, often empty Sail on, sail on sailor
Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail Bought like a crust of bread, but oh do I wail
Seldom stumble, never crumble Try to tumble, life’s a rumble Feel the stinging I’ve been given Never ending, unrelenting Heartbreak searing, always fearing Never caring, persevering Sail on, sail on, sailor
I work the seaways, the gale-swept seaways Past shipwrecked daughters of wicked waters Uninspired, drenched and tired Wail on, wail on, sailor
Always needing, even bleeding Never feeding all my feelings Damn the thunder, must I blunder There’s no wonder all I’m under Stop the crying and the lying And the sighing and my dying
Sail on, sail on sailor Sail on, sail on sailor Sail on, sail on sailor Sail on, sail on sailor Sail on, sail on sailor Sail on, sail on sailor Sail on, sail on sailor
Rock ‘n roll has long shared a tuneful affinity with the seagoing life. Top rock artists followed Blues Image and the Beach Boys in their songs exploring sailing, sailors, and ships and, by turn, venturing into fantastic or rough waters.
There’s the Grateful Dead’s Lost Sailor (1980), Rod Stewart’s and Christopher Cross’s like-titled Sailing (1975 and 1980, respectively), and Crosby Stills & Nash’s Southern Cross (1981). In 1970 Van Morrison put out Into the Mystic and before that there’s Sloop John B, another Beach Boys’ performance from 1966.
Brian Wilson had adapted an actual Bahamian sea chanty for their rock version. Lyrics include “hoist[ing] up the [main] sail” and setting it. In the 21st century these classic songs still resonate on the lists of the “greatest songs of all time.”
Shut Down is a song by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian that appeared on a pair of 1963 Beach Boys’ albums: Surfin’ U.S.A. in March 1963 and Little Deuce Coupe in October 1963. The song was first released in March 1963 on side B of the Surfin’ U.S.A. single that climbed to no.3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Six months later, Shut Down was released as its own single and peaked at no.23.
The lyrics of Shut Down describe the dangerous activity of drag racing that is also illegal. Drag races were once popularly held on the public streets of southern California using muscle cars. As these races attracted many enthusiastic supporters, streets were sometimes closed off for the race cars and even had the cooperation of local police though unofficially.
The Beach Boys’ lyrics are filled with technical and slang terms for drag racing.
IT HAPPENED ON THE STRIP WHERE THE ROAD IS WIDE (Oooo rev it up now) TWO COOL SHORTS STANDING SIDE BY SIDE (Oooo rev it up now) YEAH, MY FUEL INJECTED STINGRAY AND A FOUR-THIRTEEN (Oooo rev it up now) REVVING UP OUR ENGINES AND IT SOUNDS REAL MEAN (Oooo rev it up now)
One dragstrip in the early 1960s was Glenoaks Boulevard in southern California between Glendale/Burbank and San Fernando/Sylmar. It is a major thoroughfare which stretches over 20 miles. Since a drag race caused disruption to public traffic’s normal flow as well as likely increased harm to law-abiding bystanders, drag races were usually held at night when traffic volume tapered off and was low.
“Two cool shorts” refer not to some spectators’ bermudas, but the truncated length of the race cars.
In 1963, a “fuel injected Stingray” was very much the latest cool car feature. While computerized fuel injection became standard on passenger cars it was, from 1963 to 1965, a specialized mechanical feature found only on the Stingray. What fuel injection accomplished was to optimize the air-to-fuel mixture that made for powerfully efficient engine performance.
TACH IT UP, TACH IT UP BUDDY GOING TO SHUT YOU DOWN
“Tach it up” refers to the moments before the start of the race when muscle cars revved their engines to achieve high rpms. This idling pedal-to-the-metal stores energy in the car’s flywheel so that when the car accelerates it literally jumps off the start line with extra power. Tach it up too much and the car accelerates and does a wheel stand or “wheelie.” While the car’s front wheels lifting off the ground is cool, it is also quite dangerous as the car could more easily lose control.
BUT THE FOUR-THIRTEEN’S REALLY DIGGING IN… SUPERSTOCK DART IS WINDING OUT IN LOW…
The Dart is the other car in the Beach Boys song’s drag race. The 413 is a super-sized engine in the body of the 1962 Dodge Dart. The 413, also called a “hemmie” for its hemispheric dual combustion chambers, started being made by Chrysler way back in 1951.
BUDDY, GOING TO SHUT YOU DOWN.
“Shut Down” is slang for beating the opponent in the race by any and all means. After a car crosses the finish line it enters the shut-down lane. The first car in and out of the shut down lane is the winner.
Since its release in 1963, Shut Down has generated controversy—that it glorifies drag racing, an illegal activity and using what Cash Box at the time identified as “top rock-a-teen sounds.” But some believe the song’s greater scandal is that it seems to imply that the 327 fuel-injected Stingray beat the 413 Super Stock Dodge.
Dodge fans who really know what’s under the hood understand that that outcome couldn’t possibly be real.
In a recording career that spanned over five decades, the singer, actress, environmentalist and animal rights activist, won 4 Grammy Awards, had 5 no.1 hit singles and several Platinum-selling singles and albums.
A Little More Love is a song recorded and released as a single in October 1978 by Olivia Newton-John. It was her follow-up to her latest hit single Summer Nights, released in August 1978, which reached no.5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single A Little More Love anticipated the release of Newton-John’s 10th studio album, Totally Hot, on November 21, 1978 where the song appeared as the lead track on side 2. .
A Little More Love became a worldwide top-ten hit single in 1979. Both the new album and single were another wildly successful collaboration for Olivia Newton-John and John Farrar, her record producer and songwriter, in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
A Little More Love peaked at no.4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1979 and Totally Hot became Newton-John’s first top-ten album (no.7) on the Billboard 200 chart since Have You Never Been Mellow in 1975.
In the course of 1979, when My Sharona by The Knack, Y.M.C.A. by Village People, Ring My Bell by Anita Wood, Too Much Heaven by the Bee Gees, and Heart Of Glass by Blondie were some of Billboard’s year-end top 20 singles, Olivia Newton-John’s A Little More Love ranked no. 17.
Note: British-Australian singer Olivia Newton-John died of cancer on Monday, August 8, 2022. Newton-John was 73 years old.
FEATURE image: Heino Eller with his students from The Tartu Higher Music School in the 1930’s.
Heino Eller (1887-1970) and Lepo Sumera (1950–2000) were both influential Estonian composers and music composition teachers. Following his graduation in 1920 from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, Heino Eller taught music theory and composition in Estonia for the next 50 years.
The list of Eller’s students who are well-regarded composers in Estonia and internationally is lengthy and Eller’s musical legacy lives on through them.
Lepo Sumera is one of those students who, in Eller’s last years, studied with the legendary Estonian composer in Tallinn. Other notable Estonian composers who studied with Eller, starting in Tartu, are Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Karl Leichter (1902–1987), and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Eller’s students also included religious/minimalist music composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1985) and classical/film music composer Jaan Rääts (1932-2020), among others.
Heino Eller (center) in a group portrait with his students from The Tartu Higher Music School of composition in the 1930’s. Left to right: Estonian composers Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Eller, Karl Leichter (1902–1987) and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Photo: Public Domain, author unknown.
Lepo Sumera (1950-2000), Estonian composer, student of Heino Eller, and Minister of Culture during Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” between 1988 and 1992. Sumera is shown in his official government capacity in 1991. Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” signaled Estonia’s second revolution of independence from the Soviet Union in the twentieth century (the first was in 1920) which helped end the Cold War following World War Two. Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0.
From 1920 to 1940, Heino Eller, born in Tartu, Estonia, taught music theory and composition at Tartu Higher School for Music (today known as the Heino Eller Music School). During World War II, Eller’s wife, pianist Anna Kremer (1887-1942), was executed by the Nazis in a concentration camp because of her Jewish ethnicity.
After the war and following the Soviet occupation, Eller taught at Estonia’s Tallinn Conservatory until his death in 1970. It was at Tallinn State Conservatory (today the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre) that Lepo Sumera studied with Heino Eller. Following Eller’s death, Sumera graduated from Tallinn Conservatory having studied with Estonian composer Heino Jürisalu (1930-1991).
Eller: Romanticism, Modernism and Folk Songs.
Eller’s early music (before 1940) is characterized by a broad romanticism which takes in impressionism, expressionism and modernism. His melodies and orchestrations are lyrical and refined by way of varying modernist modes of polyphony. Eller’s orchestral, ensemble and piano works often utilize the melodies and/or structures of Estonian folk songs.
Charles Coleman’s arrangement of Heino Eller’s Three Pieces for Flute and Piano (or string orchestra) was created in 2005. In three movements: 1. In the Valley 2. On the River and 3. In the Meadow, the performance of “In the Meadow” features soloist Maarika Järvi on flute. She performs with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by the flutist’s brother, Kristjan Järvi. (2:06 minutes).
Three Pieces, flute and piano was composed in 1952. Whereas Eller’s music had been generally lyrical-romantic, influenced by Chopin, Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, Eller’s musical idiom changed after World War II.
Eller’s music turned simpler and relied increasingly on folk melodies. By the early 1950’s his orchestral works with an illustrative idiom such as Flight of the Eagle (1950) and Singing Fields (1951) reflected official Soviet cultural policy to which Estonia, in Eller’s lifetime after 1940, was incorporated. It wasn’t until the end of the 1950’s, however, that Eller’s symphonic arrangements grew structurally denser.
Lepo Sumera: introduced electro-acoustic trends to Estonian music
As a student of Heino Eller, Lepo Sumera shared with the legendary composer a keen attention to compositional detail as well as being a key figure in his generation to introduce international contemporary music ideas and trends to the country.
In his 50 restive and creative years the late-20th century Estonian composer and teacher, Lepo Sumera, wrote six symphonies, the bedrock of his musical corpus. Sumera regularly collaborated with theatrical figures, film directors, choreographers, and artists to create over 70 film scores and music for the stage.
From 1988 to 1992, during the days of Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” which helped to end the Cold War, Lepo Sumera was his country’s Minister of Culture. It was not easy for the new government minister as his own house was subject to restitution to its rightful owners following the end of a half century of Soviet occupation.
Lepo Sumera was known by his students as a kind and thoughtful man. The professor and composer thought it nothing to bend down in the middle of a discussion on musical composition to tie the untied laces of a child’s shoe of one of his students. Whereas Sumera’s themes, especially in his symphonies, tackle quintessential issues of humanity—life, death, love, torment, and so on, in music that is multi-layered, dramatic and richly colored—his other and shorter works frequently offer a weightless, shimmering quality that lend to the music a sense of timelessness.
Performance at the 2019 Pärnu Music Festival of Lepo Sumera’s waltz from the animated 1986 color short film Kevadine kärbes (“Spring Fly.”). Arranged by Mihkel Kerem, Sumera’s music is characteristically playful and humorous but expressively direct. It is performed by the Estonian Festival Orchestra founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011. (7:39 minutes).
Heino Eller, Estonian stamp, 125th anniversary of Eller’s birth (2012).
Sketch portrait of Lepo Sumera, 2018, by Khanzhin Ivan. CC BY-SA 4.0.
For an enterprising American traveler in the 1970’s, the acquisition of an album released only in Europe or the UK could add special purpose to an overseas trip. This proved true for me during various trips to England in the mid-to-late 1970’s. In addition to seeing plays, touring art museums, and visiting historic pubs, there was the hunt for releases and formats not yet available in the United States by the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Ramones, and many more. There were several such vinyl records I bought in London and elsewhere which I carefully packed into the carry-on bag for the flight home.
This was also true for the debut album of Supertramp. Though released in the UK in 1970, it did not appear in the U.S. until 1977 following the English progressive rock band’s ascent on the charts here.
Music for the album Supertramp was composed by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson. The lyrics were written by guitarist Richard Palmer-James. This was because no one else in the band wanted to write lyrics.
Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second album in 1971
The debut album received positive reviews. Supertramp’s musical innovations were moving ahead so quickly that the first album’s ten songs were dropped from their promotional live mega-tours almost as soon as they were recorded and released.
Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second album in 1971, was a major change for the band to the rock sound. This was followed by the group’s multi-platinum albums, Crime of the Century in 1974 and Breakfast in America in 1979.
Supertramp never returned to its first days’ output as musician-poets. Yet hit songs such as Dreamer in 1974 and Give A Little Bit in 1977 were written in this early period around 1970. Their high level of creativity adds to the debut album’s appeal. Supertramp’s other first songs also make for worthwhile listening.
Music critics react to Supertramp’s first songs – in 1970 and in 2020
Even after Supertramp was world famous, critics still had somewhat harsh words for Supertramp, their debut album.
Critics, both in 1970 and today, acknowledge that the 1970 album Supertramp offers almost 50 minutes of enjoyable melodies. They especially cite Surely, its lead track, and Words Unspoken, Nothing to Show and Try Again, a 12-minute track. Yet original and later critics continue to dismiss the album’s first songs overall.
Their main criticism is that Supertramp‘s musical and lyrical effort was too loosely conceived and, according to a review in AllMusic, wanders “pretentiously.” Critics generally agree that Supertramp’s progressive pop music on their 1970 debut album is melodious and poetic yet, lacking this compositional rigor, rambles.
Instrumentally meandering among pretty patches of subtle melody is not all bad. Appreciating the music from the viewpoint of a new group who seem to savor the pleasure of making music together for its own sake rather than attempting to make a powerfully cohesive statement, makes Supertramp’s first songs more enjoyable on its own terms.
Rare film soundtrack in 1971
Along with Arc, Crucible, and other bands, Aubade/I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey was featured as part of a rare soundtrack for a 1971 UK docufilm called Extremes. The film was directed by 19-year-old Tony Klinger and 21-year-old Mike Lytton and displayed the adventures and pursuits of young people of that era (it can be rediscovered in a 2017 DVD release).
Supertramp’s first two albums are commercial flops
Despite this creativity and critical success, the album Supertramp was a commercial flop. Its follow-up album Indelibly Stamped in 1971 and new rock sound was also a commercial flop.
Crisis? What Crisis?
Turning point for rock stardom: Crime of the Century in September 1974. Supertramp’s third album is no.1 in the UK
Following these commercial disasters—and before fame—Supertramp broke up. Co-founders Davies and Hodgson recruited new band-mates. Bassist Frank Farrell and drummer Kevin Currie were replaced with pub rockers John Helliwell on saxophone, Dougie Thompson on bass, and drummer Bob “C.” Benberg. The third album, Crime of The Century, preceded by a massive millionaire-bankrolled promotional campaign, soared to no.1 in the UK —and sowed seeds of a following in the U.S.
Breakthrough U.S. single in 1975: Bloody Well Right
Supertramp’s breakthrough hit single in the U.S. was Bloody Well Right in 1975. Written by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson and sung by Davies (who performs its opening keyboard bars), the song appeared on the newly reconstituted English prog-rock band’s third album, Crime of the Century, released in mid-September 1974. The song features impressive guitar work by Hodgson and by saxman and new recruit John Helliwell.
Bloody Well Right was not Supertramp’s odds-on, or even favored, hit song from the album. That would have been Hodgson’s Dreamer, written when he was 19 years old, on side A. But Dreamer charted only in Canada.
Crime of the Century went Gold in the U.S., Diamond in Canada and Platinum in France, and Bloody Well Right on side-B of Dreamer climbed to no. 35 on the U.S. charts in 1975. A Supertramp classic, Bloody Well Right remains a staple in the band’s live shows and over the airwaves and internet. During 1975, with singles from Crime of The Century charting, the bank-rolled group toured the U.S. and filled arenas by giving away most of the tickets.
Supertramp’s fourth album, Crisis? What Crisis? flops.
Crisis? What Crisis? is the fourth album by the English progressive-rock band. Recorded in the summer of 1975 in London and Los Angeles, it was released on November 29, 1975.
Hastily assembled from second-hand discards of Crime of the Century so to capitalize quickly on the third album’s success, Rolling Stone magazine panned the album and though the album contains some pleasant melodies, Supertramp was also underwhelmed by the project and came to see it as a low point of their career.
Major Comeback: Even in the Quietest Moments… is the fifth studio album released by Supertramp in April 1977.
Recorded between November 1976 and January 1977, it was released on April 10, 1977 and featured another song that Hodgson wrote at 19 years old.
Even in the Quietest Moments… repeated Crime of the Century‘s certification achievements and became their second Gold record in the U.S. During this period, Supertramp relocated permanently to Los Angeles. The single Give A Little Bit became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. and Canada and reached no. 29 in the UK.
Rock-star success for Supertramp is achieved in 1979 with their sixth album, Breakfast in America.
Recorded from May to December 1978, Supertramp’s sixth album was released on March 29, 1979.
Breakfast in America became the no.1 LP around the world and went 4x Platinum in the U.S., selling over 4 million copies.
SOURCES: The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Third Edition, edited by Holly George Warren and Patricia Romanowski, New York: A Rolling Stone Press Book, 2001.
What’s Going On is one of rhythm and blues and soul’s first “concept” albums and is considered by many to be not just one of the great albums of all time but the greatest.
What’s Going On produced three hit singles. All top ten chart bestsellers addressed diverse issues affecting a complicated time—including the war in Vietnam (What’s Going On, #2, 1971), the global biophysical environment (Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), #4, 1971) and civil rights and justice (Inner City Blues (Makes Me Want to Holler), #9, 1971).
MARVIN GAYE (LIKE STEVIE WONDER) GAINED COMPLETE CONTROL OVER HIS MOTOWN RECORDS
The 32-year-old Gaye, who had his first hit song in 1962, had entered into a new and distinct stage of his musical career by the early 1970’s. Like Stevie Wonder, Gaye was one of the Motown artists to first gain complete control over his records.
THE LYRICS OF INNER CITY BLUES WERE WRITTEN BY MARVIN GAYE AND JAMES NYX AND RECORDED IN DETROIT, MICHIGAN
Gaye’s Inner City Blues revealed the conditions of America’s black ghettos and America’s attitude and (lack of) response to them — Make me wanna holler. To those in society wielding predominant power, Gaye unflinchingly depicts the conditions of America’s inner-city ghettos and the attitudes of the men, women and children who live there.
A NATION RULED BY “HAVES” OVER “HAVE NOTS” — GAYE WRITES: This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’, No, no baby, this ain’t livin’.
Relentlessly bleak economic conditions of these cities’ slums—”Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing, panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading”— perpetrate denizens’ lives. In a prosperous period in U.S. history such is offset by endless war, spiraling inflation, and an economy geared for permanently and grossly augmenting “haves” and “have nots.”
In Marvin Gaye’s mellifluous tenor voice which had a tremendous three-octave range, the singer relates soulfully and passionately—the multi-track background vocals were also sung by Gaye—his conclusion about “The way they do my life” which makes him “wanna holler and throw up my hands.” The writers’ conclusion about inner-city ghetto conditions in the United States, a rich country that ceaselessly spends its money on “rockets, moon shots,” is that insofar as the ghetto resident: “This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’, No, no baby, this ain’t livin’.“
GAYE’S MUSIC STOOD UP TO THE PREDOMINANT CULTURAL FORCES OF HIS TIME AND FREELY EXPLORED ALL MANNER OF CONTEMPORARY POLITICS AND SOCIETY, INCLUDING THE SEXUAL– GAYE WRITES:“Everybody thinks we’re wrong Who are they to judge us.”
Gaye had his first hit at 23 years old and died one day before his 45th birthday after he was shot to death by his father following a violent verbal altercation in 1984. In a career that exemplified the maturation of romantic black pop of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s Gaye’s music developed into a popular artistic form that openly explored contemporary society and all manner of politics, including sexual.
In Inner City Blues the talented singer relates his harrowing subject matter and that which it implies by way of a sophisticated and mellow funk style. Detroit-based session musicians, particularly Eddie “Bongo” Brown and Bob Babbitt on bass, who were part of The Funk Brothers that performed on most Motown recordings of the period—added to the record’s sound.
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) Music and lyrics by Marvin Gaye and James Nyx
Rockets, moon shots Spend it on the have nots Money, we make it ‘Fore we see it you take it
Oh, make you wanna holler The way they do my life Make me wanna holler The way they do my life
This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’ No, no baby, this ain’t livin’ No, no, no Inflation no chance
To increase finance Bills pile up sky high Send that boy off to die Oh, Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life Make me wanna holler The way they do my life Hang ups, let downs Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is I can’t pay my taxes Oh, make me wanna holler And throw up both my hands
Yeah, it makes me wanna holler And throw up both my hands Crime is increasing Trigger happy policing
Panic is spreading God knows where we’re heading Oh, make me wanna holler They don’t understand
Mother, mother Everybody thinks we’re wrong Who are they to judge us Simply cause we wear our hair long
Adapted from William Shakespeare (English, 1564-1616) The Dream is a one-act ballet for the Royal Ballet created in 1964. Depicted is elegant Oberon, king of the forest fairies.
# 2 Onegin (1965).
Choreographer: John Cranko.
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Story: A. Pushkin.
With music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Onegin was first performed in 1965. Onegin is one of the most popular story ballets for both audiences and dancers.
Onegin was created by John Cranko (1927-1973) and is his ballet masterpiece. Its lead roles are Tatiana and Onegin, and Olga and Lensky. These are finely drawn characters who tell a story of love and tragedy through a series of intricate and diverse dance sequences.
#3 Mayerling (1978).
Choreographer: Kenneth MacMillan.
Music: Franz Liszt.
Story: G. Freeman.
Mayerling was created by principal choreographer and former artistic director Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992) at The Royal Ballet. Since its premiere in 1978, it has been a popular staple on the ballet stage. The music is by Franz Liszt (1811-1886).
The male lead dancer appears in virtually every scene in the three-act ballet and performs with five different ballerinas. It is one of ballet’s most demanding roles.
Mayerling is a tragic story based on the true story of the murder-suicide of the crown prince of Austria-Hungary and his mistress.
Mayerling is the Imperial hunting lodge in the Vienna Woods where the bodies of the pair were discovered on January 30, 1889.
FAMOUS BALLERINA: Pierina Legnani (1868-1930).
Pierina Legnani (1868-1930) is considered the greatest Italian ballerina of the late nineteenth century.
Legnani trained at La Scala Theatre Ballet School in Milan and danced famously in Europe, especially in Italy and Russia.
Pierina Legnani and Olga Preobrajenska (1871-1962) in 1899. In the late 19th century, the pair were considered the greatest ballerinas.
#4 Giselle (1841).
Choreographer: Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot.
Music: Adolphe Adam.
Story: Théophile Gautier and Vernoy de Saint-Georges.
With its premiere at the Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier) in June 1841, the ballet Giselle was an immediate triumph and staged across Europe.
The story is about two lovers, Giselle and Albrecht. When Giselle discovers that Albrecht is betrothed to Bathilde she dies of a broken heart at the end of Act I. This leads to the appearance in Act II of a group of otherworldly and potentially mortally dangerous Wilis, a type of young female vampire. These creatures are intent on revenge for Giselle by arranging for Albrecht’s destruction.
The ballet music was composed by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856). It became the French composer’s most popular and enduring work. Musically, Adam introduced to ballet the leitmotif, that is, a specific theme for a character who appears on stage in the ballet.
The libretto was scored by Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges (1799-1875). The choreography was by Jean Coralli (1779-1854) and Jules Perrot (1810-1892).
The print above depects the theatre at the time of Adolphe Adam’s triumphant ballet Giselle. The opera building, opened in 1820, was destroyed by fire in 1873 and replaced in a new location by the Palais Garnier.
#5 Coppélia (1870).
Choreographer: Arthur Saint-Léon.
Music: Léo Delibes.
Story: Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter.
Coppélia is a comic ballet based on Der Sandmann by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822). It was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon (1821-1870) with music by Léo Delibes (1836-1891) and a libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter (1828-1899).
The comedy surrounding mischief-making village folk premiered in May 1870. Its production was immediately interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris. Following the hostilities, Coppélia went on to become one of the most popular works of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Italian ballerina Giuseppina Bozzacchi (1853-1870) first danced the part of Swanilda. Tragically, the 17-year-old ballerina died from malnutrition related to the Franco-Prussian War’s privations in November 1870.
FAMOUS BALLERINA: Marie Taglioni (1804-1884).
Marie Taglioni had many spectacular ballet accomplishments in her dancing career that spanned 25 years.
Marie’s parents were both dancers. Her Swedish mother was a ballet dancer and her Italian father was a dancer, choreographer, and ballet master in Vienna at the Court Opera.
Marie was rigorously trained by her father in Vienna, including six hours of ballet practice everyday for six days a week. The hard work paid off.
At 17 years old, Marie made her debut in Vienna in Rossini’s La reception d’une jeune nymphe à la cour de Terpischore, choreographed by her father. For the next five years Marie danced in cities in Austria and Germany until, in 1827, she made her Paris Opéra debut.
In 1832 Marie is credited with dancing en pointe (on tip toes), an innovation for ballet theater at that time. As a famous celebrity and the first famous ballerina, Marie Taglioni influenced fashion and hairstyles in the Romantic era of the 1830’s.
Marie married in 1832 but was separated in 1836. She bore a child with a lover in 1836 but he died soon after. In 1837 Marie accepted a dance contract to perform in Russia at the famed Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg. Marie remained at the Imperial Ballet until 1842, the same year she gave birth to a second child. In 1843 she danced in Milan at La Scala in another of her father’s ballet creations, La Sylphide and in 1845 appeared in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre dancing in Pas de quatre choreographed by Jules Perrot (1810-1892). In London, Taglioni was one of the famous ballerinas to appear in this production dancing alongside Carlotta Grisi (1819-1899), Lucile Grahn (1819-1907) and Fanny Cerrito (1817-1909).
Dominating the image (above) is Marie Taglioni, standing with her arms en couronne, surrounded by ballerinas Lucille Grahn, Fanny Cerrito, and Carlotta Grisi. The lithograph by English artist and engraver Thomas Herbert Maguire (1821-1895) depicts a scene for the 1845 London production of Pas de Quatre.
In 1847 Marie Taglioni retired from the stage following her appearance in The Judgment of Paris, a ballet that concludes an opera (1754) by Christoph Gluck.
Taglioni lived in Venice into the 1850’s and returned to Paris in 1857 to take up the position of dance examiner at the Paris Opéra. One day before her 80th birthday, she died in Marseilles.
To this day there is some mystery as to the exact location of her grave. It is not known into which Paris cemetery Marie Taglioni was exactly buried.
#6 Paquita (1846).
Choreographer: Joseph Mazilier.
Music: Edouard Deldevez.
Story: Joseph Mazilier and Paul Foucher.
The two-act ballet is set in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. It tells the love story of a French military officer and a Spanish gypsy woman.
FEATURE image: Milwaukee’s Bel Canto Chorus in public performance. Fair Use.
INDEPENDENT CHORUS FOUNDED IN 1931
Founded in 1931, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s independent 100-voice Bel Canto Chorus performs carols and hymns in the historic Basilica of St. Josaphat, a Polish-style church in Milwaukee completed in 1901 and boasting one of the largest copper domes in the world.
SOLD OUT CONCERTS AT CHRISTMAS
The Bel Canto Chorus is made up of singers from throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Their Christmas concert is one of their most locally popular of the year and its weekend of Christmas concerts is often sold out.
In this 2012 performance, Music Director Richard Hynson conducts. Hynson has been music director of the Bel Canto Chorus since 1987 and in 2012 received the American Prize in Choral Conducting, Community Choral Division.
The Bel Canto Chorus has an impressive international performance portfolio, including performances at the Spoleto Music Festival in Italy and music festivals in France, the UK, Ireland, Canada and Argentina and Uruguay.
CONCERT AT BASILICA OF ST. JOSAPHAT, COMPLETED IN 1901
This wonderful performance features the Stained Glass Brass and Bel Canto Boy Chorus, both conducted by Ellen Shuler.
PROGRAM: Once in Royal David’s City – H.J. Gauntlett Ding Dong Merrily on High – George Radcliffe Woodward A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells O Come, All Ye Faithful – J.F. Wade Welcome All Wonders – Richard Dirksen Gloria-John Rutter Silent Night-Franz Grüber Joy To The World – George Frideric Handel We Wish You A Merry Christmas – arranged by John Rutter