Friday, March 16, 2018

A Window Above: Too Busy Thinking About My Baby

Song: "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby"
Writers: Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong and Janie Bradford
Original Performers: The Temptations
Album: Gettin' Ready
Original Release: June 15, 1966

To love soul music is to love Marvin Gaye, the second-most important musician born in Washington D.C. (after Duke Ellington).  Possessing one of the most captivating voices in the history of popular music, Marvin rose up through the ranks at Motown as a session musician before scoring a few hit duets and, of course, his breakthrough solo smash, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."  In the '70s, his concept albums What's Goin' On and Let's Get It On were classics of the era, must-haves in any respectable music collection.  His 1982 comeback, "Sexual Healing", is undoubtedly one of the sexiest songs of all-time.  His life story is tragic but his musical legacy is rock solid.

For all this lush greatness, the Marvin Gaye song I have the most affection for is a fairly simple one.  "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" was a recycled Temptations song and essentially an attempt to quickly cash in on the success of "Grapevine."  The recording may not seem like much compared to his classics but I think it exhibits the full range of Marvin's vocal gifts as few others do.  I especially love the "some kinda wonderful" verse.

Here's the Temptations original, so different:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Squid Mixes: Dubonnet Cocktail

Everybody say hello to the new kid.  For blog purposes, we shall call her The Scamp.  She has quickly made herself at home.  The Squirt is not pleased but we're hopeful she'll come around.
A Dubonnet cocktail combines Dubonnet rouge with gin, a dash of Angostura bitters and a lemon twist.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.

Angostura bitters is a truly magical substance.  I would still say a Manhattan is my favorite cocktail and it is as much for the bitters as for the rye.  A bitters is a botanically infused alcoholic mixture.  They were initially created for medicinal purposes.  Angostura is produced in Trinidad and Tobago and was originally used to serve Bolivar's army in Venezuela.  While Angostura is the most popular bitters, there are loads of others.  Our friends The English Prof and the Playwright have an extensive collection.

A big part of the cocktail mixing hobby is ingredient management.  There is, after all, only so much room in the liquor cabinet.  I have enjoyed this exploration of Dubonnet-based drinks and I am also satisfied by the fact that I have now killed the bottle.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Window Above: Superstition

Song: "Superstition"
Writer: Stevie Wonder
Original Release: October 24, 1972
Album: Talking Book (lead single)

"Superstition" is a work of genius.  That's almost redundant when speaking of the music of Stevie Wonder but the creation of this particular song - one of his biggest hits, mind you - is especially extraordinary.  Guitarist Jeff Beck, a rising star in his own right, was brought in to collaborate during the Talking Book sessions.  One day, between recording sessions, he played what would become the opening drum beat of "Superstition."  Stevie asked Beck to keep playing while he improvised the rest of the song.  That's right.  One of the masterpieces of funk and soul, including its signature organ riff, was essentially made up on the spot.  On the final recording, Stevie played all of the parts except trumpet and sax.

I first heard the song, and Stevie, on Sesame Street:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Squid Mixes: Cabaret

The cabaret recipe in The New York Bartender's Guide combines gin with Dubonnet rouge.  Angostura bitters and Pernod are added for flavoring with a Maraschino cherry garnish.  While the Dubonnet provides the color, the Pernod is definitely the dominant flavor.

Pernod is an anise-flavored liqueur.  We haven't had much luck with it at our house.  If one is a big black licorice fan, I suppose it's great stuff.  But we are not so much.  My wife didn't even finish her drink.

Oh, well.  They can't all be winners.  If you are a licorice fan and ever find yourself at Chez Squid, I will have drinks to make for you.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Window Above: Hard to Say I'm Sorry

Song: "Hard to Say I'm Sorry"
Writers: Peter Cetera and David Foster
Band: Chicago
Original Release: May 17, 1982
Album: Chicago 16 (lead single)

1982 was an important year in my musical journey.  That was the summer I first learned about Top 40 radio, listening to DC's Q107 with my older sister.  My sister still loves to tell the story of the time that summer when I asked our mother if she thought I was old enough to listen to rock 'n' roll.  I don't remember the answer but she didn't stop me so I guess it was okay.

As a result, the songs that were popular in 1982 hold a special place in my musical heart: "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, "Don't Talk to Strangers" by Rick Springfield, "Hurts So Good" by John Cougar (born Mellencamp), "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, "Africa" by Toto and on and on.  No song pulls at those particular heartstrings quite like Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry."

The song was a major comeback hit for the band and it marked the culmination of a gradual departure from the horn-driven, jazzy sound Chicago had championed through the 1970s.  At the time, many critics had judged the band as one whose time had passed.  The transition to an electronic emphasis had been rough.  "Hard to Say I'm Sorry", which soared to #1 on the Billboard charts and camped out in the top five for twelve weeks, was their first top 50 hit in four years.  The song kicked off a new, highly lucrative era for Chicago.  The band is still active today and, thank goodness, they never gave up the horns completely.

In 1996, the R&B group Az Yet released an excellent and commercially successful cover:

The Armchair Squid began life as a tennis blog.  As such, I would be remiss if I didn't include the following, featuring (left to right) Grigor Dimitrov, Tommy Haas, Roger Federer and... a surprise guest.  There is a little bit of musical cred in this video:  that's David Foster himself at the piano.  In addition to being the song's co-writer, he's Tommy Haas's father-in-law.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Squid Mixes: Appetizer

The recipe given for the appetizer in The New York Bartender's Guide involves only two ingredients: Dubonnet rouge and freshly squeezed orange juice.  The quantity of OJ indicated is unusual.  Whereas most of the book's ingredients are expressed in specific terms of ounces, an appetizer simply requires the juice of one orange. 

Fortunately, my wife ended up with six already peeled oranges one day that needed immediate squeezing.  So, there was enough for our cocktails with plenty left over for the girl, making everyone happy.  To me, few things are more inherently magical than fresh OJ, pulp and all, and our daughter has inherited that love.

The result was most pleasant.  The Dubonnet supplies the color and enough grape flavor to complement the orange without being overpowered.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: March 2018 Blog List

Greetings to all!  I hope you'll join us for the next installment of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books.  The next meeting is set for Friday, March 30th.  If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us: