The nice folks at the Bodega Burger Company in Socorro, the best restaurant in the county, took the risk of hiring me to be the dinner entertainment last Friday, despite the fact that I just sing and don't have any instrumental skills or an accompanist. Heck, I figure if the minstrels could do it, why not me? All it takes is some songs that have strong lyrical and musical content: there will be no blazing 32-bar guitar solos, obviously.
I sang from 6:30 to 9:00 with only a few very short breaks. Here's my set list. As you see, I have a real soft spot for top-40 material from ages past, but that's far from all I sang. I've been doing open mic nights in this town for twenty years, I have a lot of material: so far, about 100 songs that are ready for prime time.
- Blue Bayou: Roy Orbison, Joe Melson.
- In my life: Beatles.
- Another you/World of our own: Tom Springfield.
- In my life: Beatles.
- Mega-hits for the Seekers in the 1960s.
- Dance the night away: Jack Bruce, Pete Brown.
- From Cream's second album, "Disraeli Gears".
- Don't think about her (when you're trying to drive): Little Village.
- Little Village was a one-album supergroup of John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner. I sing this one from the toenails because of a recent unpleasant memory.
- Tiny Island: Al Gaylor.
- Stolen from Leo Kottke. I love stealing his vocal numbers because we have compatible ranges and he has a wonderfully off-kilter taste in material. I didn't do 'Sonora's Death Row' tonight, not exactly dinner music, but another Kottke piece I've done many times at open mics.
- Lady Jane: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards.
- Not rock and roll in any way, but a song of courtly love.
- Then you can tell me goodbye: John D. Loudermilk.
- Another repeat offender from the top 40.
- Sukiyake: Rokusuke Ei, Hachidai Nakamura
A Japanese crossover hit, the first Asian artist to break the
Billboard Hot 100, in June 1963. They called it 'Sukiyaki'
because they figured that's the only Japanese word Americans
would recognize; it has nothing to do with beef stew.
I throw in one verse of English to give the mood:
I'll hold my head up high, looking to the sky
So they won't see all the tears that are in my eyes
No one will know I'm going through
My first lonely night without you
- Silence is golden: Bob Gaudio, Bob Crewe
- Big hit for The Tremoloes.
- Learning the game: Buddy Holly.
- Not your typical happy Holly song: deeply sad and cynical. Stolen from Kottke.
- The Longest Time: Billy Joel.
- A ridiculously upbeat tune to counteract the previous one. I once sang this two days after my heart got put through a shredder. If I sounded upbeat that night, it was pure acting.
- Disney Girls (1957): Bruce Johnston.
- Yes, it's a Beach Boys song, but a long ways from "Surfer Girl." A hymn to Disney's shiny fantasy world, recalling my own crush on Hayley Mills. Rather difficult due to a pretty wide range.
- Catch the wind: Donovan Leitch.
- Another perennial in my open mic act, and one of my favorite songs of all time.
- Celluloid heroes: Ray Davies.
- From the Kinks album of the same name. A deeply felt lyric that, for a change, is not about romantic love. Don't step on Bela Lugosi, he's liable to turn and bite!
- Change the world: Tommy Sims, Gordon Kenney, Wayne Kirkpatrick
- Eric Clapton is not usually known for his vocals but his version of this convinced me I gotta learn this one. Sloppy sentimental candyfloss, just the way I like it.
- Cold Cold Heart: Hank Williams I.
- If I needed someone: Beatles.
- Pamela Brown: Tom T. Hall.
- If I needed someone: Beatles.
- Just so nobody can argue I never do country. Thanks to Leo Kottke for finding this one. I frequently end it with the line "And I guess I owe it all to Kendra Barrett," and the Hobbs High class of 1966 will know what that means.
- Prime Time: The Tubes.
- I saw this legendary band twice live. Better showmen I've rarely seen. This was from their "Remote Control" concept album about TV. At some point I want to do a medley starting with "TV is King" (oh, if only your chassis were covered with skin!), then Blondie's TV song "Fade away and radiate", and close with this one.
- Supernova: Nate Borofsky.
- Title track from my favorite album since the year 2000, and my favorite new group of the millennium, Girlyman. Sadly, they broke up forever in 2013. The harmony on their version is riveting. Heir to a long tradition of fine American vocal harmonists, from the Sons of the Pioneers through the Everly Bros. and Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby Stills and Nash. It's too bad I can only sing one line, but I think the lyrics are strong even without the harmony.
- Desperado: Don Henley.
- See the changes: Stephen Stills.
- From Crosby Stills & Nash's "CSN" album.
- Helplessly hoping: Stephen Stills.
- Picking the so-called melody line out of the perfect choral tapestry of the album version took a lot of study. Then I heard Stills sing a solo version to confirm that I did it right.
- Happy ending: Joe Jackson.
- Another of my go-to songwriters; I've done at least ten of his pieces at open mic nights.
- Things we said today: Beatles.
- Time after time: Richard Hayman, Cyndi Lauper.
- I didn't get to my other favorite of hers, "All through the night," but it's in the book and ready to go.
- Overkill: Colin Hay.
- Be my number two: Joe Jackson.
- A post-romantic-apocalypse love song for the shattered.
- Conversation/Blue Boy/Chelsea Morning: Joni Mitchell.
- A repeat of a set I did for the NM Symphonic Chorus summer fundraiser a week earlier. I think I've done well over half the songs from "Clouds" and "Ladies of the Canyon" in open mic nights.
- Don't let it show: Alan Parsons.
- A wonderful song for people recovering from romantic disasters. His "I, Robot" album has been a good source of tunes. I've also done "Some other time" and "Day after day (The show must go on)".
- You don't have to say you love me: Dusty Springfield.
- Hit Single: Joe Jackson.
- If I fell: Beatles.
- I'll be over you: Steve Lukather, Randy Goodrum.
- Hit Single: Joe Jackson.
- Yes, Toto was a commercial smash, but that doesn't mean they were bad. I like to sing this one through, modulate up an octave, and sing it again.
- I'm an old cowhand: Johnny Mercer.
I know all the trails in the Big Square States
'Cause I ride the range in my Ford Escape
- Hank Williams: I'm so lonesome I could cry.
- Cool Water: Bob Nolan.
- Gotta do Sons of the Pioneers because as they say at Bob's Country Bunker, Country and Western are two different things. Also known as the Bartender's Friend; guaranteed to spike drink orders.
- Complicated Girl: Michael Steele, D. White.
- The Bangles really should have been the next Beatles. They had it all: great instrumental skills, fine harmony, good writing right in the group, and they were photogenic.
- Ana Ng: John Linnell, John Flansburgh.
- These two call themselves They Might Be Giants and they have a goodly cult following among nerds. Lots of lyrics here that go by quickly and leave you wondering, what was that?
- Endless Sleep: Nick Lowe.
- Another song for the terminally depressed. Stolen from Leo Kottke.
- Eternal Flame: S. Hoffs, B. Steinberg, T. Kelly.
- Did I mention I adore the Bangles? They visited Elvis's grave once on a rainy day and found that the Eternal Flame was not burning. They complained and the caretaker said, "It's semi-eternal." And that's what inspired this song.
- And I love her: Beatles.
- It's not my time to go: Dan Hicks/Something: Beatles.
- One night many years ago, back when the Socorro Springs Brewery was in their new building and they still did open mics, I had these two songs lined up. Then I suddenly realized that the first song ends with the same word that starts the second, so I made them a musical Siamese twin. By the way, I also love and adore Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks and have done several from him at open mics.
- I wanna be sedated: The Ramones.
- It would be a sin to ignore the entire punk movement, which so energized popular music after the Disco Disaster Years.