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Sobering Thoughts

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January 4, 2005

OK, folks, the holidays are over. It's time to sober up and face realisty with assistance from the likes of Dave Van Ronk, Loudon Wainwright and W.C. Fields. We also check out some new releases, including the soundtrack albums for A Very Long Engagement and The Aviator.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Bill Bradley Of The New York Knicks The Best of the National Lampoon Radio Hour Bill Murray and John Belushi White guys still can't jump.
The Piano Has Been Drinking Small Change Tom Waits Waits' gravelly voice is perfect for this portrait of someone who has clearly had one too many.
Drinking Song Album III Loudon Wainwright III This is about a good a counter-argument as you could find for the image of the comic drunk.
Down Drinking at the Bar A Live One Loudon Wainwright III So is this, for that matter.
Drink With Me Les Misérables (OC 1986) Anthony Crivello, Company Marius and his fellow revolutionaries have a last drink together before the final assault by government troops. They've outnumbered, cornered and expect to die - and most of them do. Based on the Victor Hugo novel, Les Misérables has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and has been a massive hit worldwide for nearly 20 years; the New York production ran from March 12th, 1987 until May 18th, 2003. The original French lyrics were by Schönberg's frequent collaborator Alain Boublil. The English lyrics are by Herbert Kretzmer.
A&P Commercial: The Death Penalty for Shoplifting The Best of the National Lampoon Radio Hour George Coe, Lynn Lipton, Judith Jacklin Law and order in the produce aisle!
The Dream of the Reveller An Evening with Henry Russell Clifford Jackson; William Bolcom (piano) British-born composer and singer Henry Russell was something of a superstar in mid-19th century America. Although he performed here for only six years (1836 - 1841), his one-man show played to packed houses. His were the first solo vocal programs in America. From contemporary accounts, it appears that he was an immensely charismatic performer and (based on his scores) an accomplished pianist. The lyrics for this anti-alcohol screed are by Scottish poet, author and historian Charles McKay, who didn't much care for Russell's interpretation of his work.
Who'll Buy (Temperance) Where Home Is The Harmoneion Singers The song is by James R. Murray, a temperance crusader, and dates from 1869. The consequences of alcoholism it lists ("beggary and death", "empty pockets", "tangled brains") are real and were more of a problem in the late 19th century when the existing social safety nets so despised by contemporary political conservatives didn't exist and the loss of the head of a household due to drink (or anything else, for that matter) virtually guaranteed ruin for the family.
I Saw a Man at Close of Day Southern Old-Time Harmonica Mark Graham Graham sings and provides some impressive harmonica breaks on this traditional tune about the death of an alcoholic.
The Parting Glass Evelyn (OS 2002) Pierce Brosnan The Evelyn of the title is one of three children of the unemployed Desmond Doyle (Brosnan). When his wife leaves him the day after Christmas, the children are sent to a Catholic orphanage and Doyle must fight to reclaim them. The score for this 2002 film is by Stephen Endelman.
Last Call Songs for Ageing Children Dave Van Ronk Written in the same style as the traditional "Parting Glass", this Van Ronk song is the just about the bleakest description of intoxication I've ever heard.
The Temperance Lecture W.C. Fields on the Radio W.C. Fields This is from an early 1940s broadcast for Armed Forces Radio. When Fields refers to alcohol being "so hard to come by these days" he's referring to rationing.
The Day I Drank a Glass of Water W.C. Fields and Mae West W.C. Fields Despite copious liner notes, the LP from which this comes offers no information on the recording date or the names of the other actors involved. It is, as far as I can tell, the only recording Fields made
Mother Goose's Wine The Best of the National Lampoon Radio Hour Christopher Guest and Paul Jacobs Another fine alcoholic product targeted at the younger set.
One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) [Alternate Take] The Essential Frank Sinatra (The Columbia Years) Frank Sinatra With music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, this portrait of man on a bender trying to forget a failed love affair originally appeared in the 1943 film The Sky's The Limit. Sinatra's recording is, of course, a classic.
Onion Radio News 8 The Onion's Finest News Reporting Doyle Redland The Amish Give Up
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Chapter 4 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Cyril Ritchard, New York Woodwind Quintet Alice starts growing again and tossing servants about. This 1957 recording features one of the great British actors of the previous century. Although best known in the USA for his role as Captain Hook in the musical version of Peter Pan (1954), Ritchard had a long and distinguished stage and screen career.
The Rosenbergs The Best of the National Lampoon Radio Hour Martin Harvey Friedberg and Lynn Lipton A little warning about the afterlife from Julius and Ethel.
Main Title / The Trenches A Very Long Engagement (OS 2004) Orchestra conducted by Phil Marshall The score for this romantic war drama is by Angelo Badalamenti. He has a long list of TV and film credits, but mostly in relatively low-visibility productions. Prior to this film he was perhaps best known for his work on the David Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks in 1990 - 1991.
Icarus The Aviator (OS 2004) Flemish Radio Orchestra conducted by Howard Shore The Aviator is based on the life of aviator, inventor, film producer and later reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.
Limerick Time / American Safety Institute The Best of the National Lampoon Radio Hour Ed Subitsky, Chevy Chase Your favorite limericks and/or public service announcements.
Quarantine The Aviator (OS 2004) Flemish Radio Orchestra conducted by Howard Shore Composer Howard Shore builds his score on a few themes, repeated in various guises (and often in counterpoint) to highlight the changes in time and place in the film
America's Aviation Hero The Aviator (OS 2004) Flemish Radio Orchestra conducted by Howard Shore Prior to this film, Shore was best known for his work for the three Lord of the Rings films.
Pink Champagne Texas and West Coast Blues Joe Liggins Oklahoma bandleader Liggins had a crossover hit in 1950 with this song about a guy who lost his baby to pink champagne. It was number 1 on the R&B charts and 30 on the Pop charts.
I Got Loaded 1950 - 1952 Blues Classics Peppermint Harris w/The Maxwell Davis Orchestra Texarkana-born blues man Harris recorded this number shortly after moving to the West Coast. It hit number 1 on the R&B charts in 1951 and was later covered by Los Lobos.
Bad Bad Whiskey Blues Legends Amos Milburn "Bad bad whiskey made me lose my happy home". This number 1 R&B chart hit from 1950 is one of several songs with a similar theme that Milburn produced in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Let Me Go Home Whiskey 1953 - 1954 Blues Classics Amos Milburn Here's another one about a guy who can't pass up a drink. Milburn hit number 3 on the R&B chart with this in 1953.
One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer Blues Greats Amos Milburn Finally, another the "booze blues" hits the Milburn recorded for the Aladdin label. This one hit number 2 on the R&B charts in 1953.
Dial-a-Curse The Best of the National Lampoon Radio Hour Gracie Whitebread and Bob Dryden It's just the thing for The New Rudeness.

Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

p class="pleft">OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.

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