Showing posts with label Nat King Cole. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nat King Cole. Show all posts

26 November 2019

P.I. Nocturne


by Paul D. Marks

Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa
In a couple of recent SleuthSayers posts O’Neil and Leigh talked about pre-rock music. I’d like to take my cue from them and offer my nine cents’ worth (inflation) on the topic. Music infuses my life and because of that it also infuses much of my writing.

As I mentioned in my comment on O’Neil’s post, I think there’s a lot of good music before rock. I love baroque music and well, that’s a hell of a long time before rock. But mostly I’m talking here about the swing/big band music of the 1930s and 40s. I love a lot of that music.

I’m a rock n roller, love to sing it, play it, not saying I’m any good, just like to do it. I grew up on it. And when I was a kid and teen it was all I wanted to listen to. My dad liked classical music and swing and if we were in the car and he put those on I would gag. But somehow, as I got older I began to appreciate other genres of music besides rock. I think partially because I was exposed to it as a kid—very much against my will—and also because I like/d old movies from the 1930s and 40s and was exposed to that music in them as well.

Duke Ellington - Take the A Train

When I was a kid, I got to see Benny Goodman play. And I hated it. I didn’t appreciate it. I feel like an idiot saying that today, but it is what it is. That said, I can still say I saw him. These days, I love his music, especially Sing Sing Sing, and wish I could have seen him again as an adult.

Benny Goodman - Sing Sing Sing

A very long time ago, my friend Linda (who’s also into old movies, old music and old L.A., like me), and I would cruise around L.A. and see various swing bands and singers. It was long enough ago that we actually got to see some of the performers from the 30s and 40s, who were still around. We saw Tex Beneke leading the Glenn Miller Orchestra. We saw Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell, who, when they were with the Jimmy Dorsey band (one of my favorite big bands), sing their hits Brazil and Tangerine. You might recall an instrumental version of the latter wafting in from down the street in Double Indemnity.

Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell - Tangerine

So, even though I loved—and still love—rock ‘n’ roll, my musical horizons expanded quite a bit as I got older. I found there was a lot of great and sinuous music pre-rock. Just listen to Sing Sing Sing, or Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train or Artie Shaw’s Frenesi and so much more.

There’s also been some great musical moments in film noirs:

Elisha Cook in Phantom Lady


Louis Armstrong in The Strip, and Mickey Rooney drumming his heart out in that.

And the jazz scene in the original D.O.A.

But the point I’m leading up to is that, as a writer, my story/novel titles are often inspired by music and songs. Mostly rock, because they’re mostly set in the rock era, but sometimes swing. The title of my upcoming novel, The Blues Don’t Care, is inspired by a Nat King Cole song. And a story I did many years ago, Sleepy Lagoon Nocturne, takes its title both from the infamous Sleepy Lagoon incident in L.A. during World War II and the song of that name, which inspired the name of the lagoon in that incident. My story title Born Under a Bad Sign is inspired by the blues song of the same name that was originally recorded by Albert King and covered by Cream, so it hits two genres of music.

Nat King Cole - The Blues Don't Care

Some of my story titles inspired by music are: Endless Vacation (Ramones), Poison Heart (Ramones), Deserted Cities of the Heart (Cream), and more. In fact, I just finished a story called Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith) and another, Nowhere Man (the Beatles). Music is everywhere in my writing.

I sometimes write things set in the past. The Blues Don’t Care (coming out in 2020) is also set on the L.A. homefront during World War II. It’s largely set on Central Avenue, L.A.’s swing and big band center. And the music of that era wafts sensuously around and through the plot. Doing the research for that was so much fun that getting any writing done was difficult. (I’ll be talking more about this book closer to its release. But right now I’m just talking about the music.)


Many of my characters also listen to music, and sometimes play it, like Ray Hood, the lead character in Dead Man’s Curve, named after the Jan and Dean song. P.I. Duke Rogers (from my novel White Heat and its sequel Broken Windows, both set in the 1990’s), listens to a variety of new wave and alternative music, everything from k.d. lang to Portishead and even some Eric Clapton. His less open and less tolerant partner, Jack, only listens to classical and cowboy (not country) music, which he thinks are the only pure/legitimate forms of music (and I like those genres too). He calls Duke’s music “space case” music in Broken Windows. But the music isn’t there only to help define their characters. I use their musical tastes to highlight the difference between the two characters and their contrasting personalities.

Music is a big part of my writing, helping express character and mood, though sometimes music can be difficult to express in a “two-dimensional” medium. It’s a bummer we can’t have a soundtrack to our stories/novels, but I’m sure that’s coming with e-books, if it isn’t already here.

I often listen to music while I write and most often it’s the kind of music that can get me in the mood for what I’m writing. So if I’m writing something set during WWII I listen to big band, if I’m writing something more contemporary, I listen to one kind of rock or another. You get the idea.

Today I’m listening to Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and who knows what stories they might inspire or how it will affect what I’m working on right now. That’s one of the great things about music, it can inspire you in so many ways and bring out emotions, thoughts and feelings that we sometimes stifle in our everyday lives—and it can do the same for our characters. And remember, it don’t mean a thing if ain’t got that swing.

~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:


Don't forget to check out Broken Windows, the sequel to my Shamus award-winning novel, White Heat. Betty Webb at Mystery Scene magazine says: "Broken Windows is extraordinary."



Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com

18 October 2019

Music in the Time of a Private Eye


Music in the Time of a Private Eye
by O'Neil De Noux

Research for my private eye series set in the 1940s-1950s drew me to YouTube to learn just how bad popular music was before rock and roll. The radio was filled with dreck. In 1947 Perry Como had a hit with Chi-Baba Chi-Baba and Al Jolson was still around with The Anniversary Song. 1948 gave up hits like MaƱana by Peggy Lee with a God-awful Spanish accent and The Andrews Sisters with the yodel polka Toolie Oolie Doolie. In 1949 we had a faux-western hit by Dinah Shore called Buttons and Bows where the "cactus hurts by toes" and Tommy Dorsey's brassy The Huckle-Buck. 1950 came with hits like Goodnight Irene by the Weavers and Perry Como was back with another polka Hoop De Doo. Wait, 1950 gave us Nat King Cole's Mona Lisa. Thank God for Nat.


The Weavers were back with a top hit in 1951 – On Top of Old Smokey. Lord, help us. Phil Harris had a big hit with The Thing (No, not from the 1951 movie The Thing from Another World, but a goofy novelty song). Perry Como was back with the sleep-inducing If and we had the tear-jerker Tennessee Waltz by Patti Page. I admit, I sorta like Tennessee Waltz.


1951 gave us the unforgettable Aba Daba Honeymoon by Debbie Reynolds and Patti Page's Mockin' Bird Hill, where the morning sun kisses roses on a windowsill. For some reason, I like Mockin' Bird  Hill. Hey, maybe I just like Patti Page. (I also like sugar songs like 1963 's Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilber and the Fireballs and – please forgive me – 1969's Sugar Sugar by the Archies).

1951 hits did give us a good hit with Nat King Cole's Too Young, but watch out, it can put you to sleep. Tony Bennett's Because of You was OK, but not one of his best. He also had a hit with his cover of Hank Williams' Cold, Cold Heart but the original by Williams was far better. But that version was played on hillbilly radio stations. No way my cool cat PI would listen to country music, even though Hank Williams had dynamite songs.

The radio hits of 1952 were highlighted by Kay Starr with Wheel of Fortune and Vera Lynn's Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart and the Mills Brothers with The Glow Worm. Irish-American Rosemary Cooney gave us at hit with an horrendous Italian-accented Botch-A-Me.


According to Billboard, the No. 5 tune of 1953 was P.S. I Love You (No. Not the cool one by The Beatles – John was 13, Paul 11, George 10 and Ringo 13 at the time). This hit came from four singers wearing college freshmen beanies and sweaters with a big W on the chest. They were The Hilltoppers, hailing from Western Kentucky State College. At No. 2 sat another sleepy song, You, You, You by The Ames Brother.



Tony Bennett had a couple top hits in 1953 with Rags to Riches and Stranger in Paradise.

OK, what about Frank Sinatra? He was in a slump between 1946 and 1953. Dean Martin did have success with 1952's You Belong to Me and 1953's Sway. In 1953, he finally had a top 10 song with That's Amore at No. 2.


My private eye is saved by listening to jazz and rhythm and blues on the radio with New Orleans own Fats Domino's 1951 hit The Fat Man. Too bad my PI has to wait years for Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and so many others.



Antoine "Fats" Domino 1928-2017

That's all for now.
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