Thursday, October 1, 2009

GMVW # 91: "Origins (the 50's)"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 91:  Origins (the 50’s)
Song:  Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley
(Songwriter: Mark James aka Francis Zambon)
October 1, 2009

Over the course of these weekly Gem Videos, I’ve been accumulating a handful of ‘unreleased’ songs, including several that have been sitting on the shelf for some time now.  Although they were all gem material, I couldn’t think of much to say about any of them, and so they remained in the wings.  However, as I recently looked over this list of leftovers, I realized the majority could be used in a running theme, after it dawned on me that I had at least one song from each of the past 5 decades.

And so, for the next five weeks, I plan on rolling out a gem a piece for the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and this decade just now coming to a close.  To be clear up front, I will not be proposing that any of these songs or musicians be recognized as the defining blueprint of the given decade (well, maybe one). But each should come across as a fair representative.  In other words, there should be little or no confusion regarding the gem’s generational affiliation. 

I couldn’t help notice that these five decades coincide with the stretch of time most of us, including myself, have been around, which will play into my thinking as I tackle each of these 10-year periods.  With some time to contemplate, I welcome the input of anyone who wishes to share their recollections of any/all of these decades, particularly if the recollection relates to music.  I’ll include ALL comments (and personal gems?) that are sent prior to the posting of that decade’s gem.  But don’t feel on the spot, as I can tackle this solo if need be (and I know these emails sometimes don’t get read until weeks later, if at all). 

I’m also planning on including a ‘Great’ list. These lists will NOT be restricted to that week’s celebrated decade.  For the 60’s week it will be ‘Great Album Covers”; the 70’s will be “Great Album Names”; the 80s “Great Band Names”; the 90’s week will be “Great Song Titles”; and for the 00’s “Great Lyric One Liners”.  Note there is nothing here like ‘great bands’, ‘great guitarists’, ‘great albums’ or ‘great songs’: Too subjective, and not much fun.  Again, I welcome input.

Finally, if anyone can guess a gem over the next five weeks, they get a free lunch (who said there is no such thing?), complete with beverage(s) of choice.  Here's a tip off to narrow the educated guesswork down: All songs have been pretty standard radio play over the years.  Guesses are limited to 3 per person, and can only be made over the days prior to that weeks gem (so, this week, I’ll take choices for the 60’s song).  First correct guess wins for that week.  Hypothetically, you could win five free lunches.  If Steve wins, I may have to make my way to Edmonton; Pat, Ottawa; Bob, Paris; Jeff, Harrisburg; Tina; Falmouth; Jack; South Carolina; Tom, New Jersey; etc.  Yow!

However, before I launch into this running theme, I figured I would set some ground rules… ground-level rules that is.  Hence an introductory gem video is in order here that hopefully gives context and a foundation for what will follow in the upcoming weeks.  First a bit of background (what else did you expect?).

The period of time that predates someone can take on an almost mystical quality, and the photos and film that capture those times can only leave you guessing what it was like to be there.  If you have watched any of the Ken Burns documentary series on PBS, including ‘The Civil War’, ‘Baseball’, ‘The War’ (WWII) and this weeks fantastic release, ‘The National Parks: America’s Best Idea’, these thoughts may ring true. 

Several months ago, Cousin Jack posted a number of prior-generation family photos on Facebook.  The majority of the photos were of the black and white variety, most taken in the 50’s.  Jack’s timing was perfect, as the extended Smith family was preparing for a reunion (a great gathering, which took place several weeks ago).  The photos served as an appetizer for the reunion, giving us all an opportunity to begin connecting ahead of schedule. 

Jack and I have always shared a fascination with our roots.  Our grandparents had 12 children and 57 grandchildren.  Our Moms are sisters.  When we were kids, the two of us used to compete to see who could say the names of our 12 aunts and uncles the fastest.  With the sheer number, there was so much to learn about our mothers family and the families of each of their siblings: Careers, family choices, personalities, faith, education, influences, travels, celebrations, challenges, and the pecking order in age.  We fired many questions at our Moms, and most often they indulged us.

Related to roots, history itself has always been a favorite subject of mine.  Though not the most career-driven of paths, I have no regrets making History my major in college.  Without it (and the equally appreciated Geography degree), I would not have enjoyed half as much the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen.  History helped to give me a sense of purpose, and it gave me perspective.  For example, one great thing about knowing your history is you can readily make ties between the personal and the broader context of the times.  When I looked at those photos Jack posted of Mom in her teens with family, yes, I thought about roots.  But I also connected with the era; what was happening at the time: The Korean War, Dwight Eisenhower, Alaskan statehood, Hungary, segregation, James Dean, Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, and Ted Williams among others.

I also thought about the early days of Rock n Roll:  Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and, of course, Elvis Presley.  These musicians were among a short list that inspired virtually all the musicians I have enjoyed from more recent times.  Although difficult to make a connection between Ray Charles and The Clash; Roy Orbison and The Pogues, there is one. The music of the 50’s was the ground-level, the foundation, for all the great Rock music that came after.

I’ve only recently found out that Mom has always been a fan of Pelvis Elvis.  I knew Mom had enjoyed listening to one of his Gospel albums several years ago, but it appears the interest goes farther back than that.  Lucky for me, there’s a song of Elvis’ that rises to the level of gem: ‘Suspicious Minds’.  It’s a song he covered in the 60’s, but since Elvis was pretty much frozen in time all his life (music and style, not age), this does not matter.  The video is of a performance from his Vegas days in the 70’s.  The tempo picks up nicely about half way through. 

Below the Gem Video is Elvis Presley’s studio version of ‘Suspicious Minds’ (a still shot).  Following that are several other great songs from the 1950’s.

- Pete

Gem Video “Suspicious Minds”

“Suspicious Minds” (studio version)

Chuck Berry “Roll Over Beethoven”

Eddie Cochran “Summertime Blues”

The Everly Brothers “All I Have to to is Dream”

About the Video: Elvis in Vegas, early 70’s.  I’m not sure of the year.  Video opens with him drinking a glass of water and voicing the name of the song to the band.

Video Rating: 2

Best Feedback: Amy

At the risk of being the nerd in the front row, I have a question.  Do you, right this moment, know what the next 5 gems/weeks will be?  You do, don't you.  Of course you do.  Oh nevermind.

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