Monday, June 09, 2008

THE FIVE SONGS: TENTH INSTANCE. It's 97 degrees outside. The air outside is like sitting in front of a panting dog: hot and humid. Welcome to Joisey. Since keeping cool is really the only thing on our minds, there really couldn't be a better time to feature five cool songs. And that's what we're gonna do on the ole Five Songs this time around: songs that be cool. Not necessarily "Fonzie" cool, you understand. But COOL cool. Dig?
  1. COOL DRINK OF WATER BLUES by Tommy Johnson. Mesmerizing early blues side featuring Tommy Johnson's haunting wail. "I asked for water and she gave me gasoline." Hmm, wonder if David Bowie ever heard this song?
  2. IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENING by Dean Martin. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Song 1951 for the otherwise forgettable film HERE COMES THE GROOM, Dino's pretty much is the definitive version of this cool and swinging song by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer: two titans of the songwriting craft. "In the cool cool cool of the evening/Tell 'em I'll be there/In the cool cool cool of the evening/You better save a chair." You really get the feeling of a cool summer night after a blazing hot day when the family gets out the potato salad. "Sue wants a barbecue/Sam wants to boil a ham/Grace votes for bouillabase stew/Jake wants a wienie bake/steak and a layer cake/he'll get a tummy ache too."
  3. COOL WATER by Hank Williams. One of my all-time favourite cowboy songs. "All day I've faced the barren waste without a taste of water/cool water." Immediately draws attention to the dry, parched dust in your throat. This one also sports a classic rendition by The Sons of the Pioneers but here I've chosen the man himself: Hank Williams riding across the burning sand. "And way up there He'll hear our prayer/and show us where there's water/cool clear water."
  4. SOMETHING COOL by June Christy. The ultimate depression song for lonely hearts drowning their sorrows in the corner bar. Also one of the greatest album covers of all time. Play this side and you can just FEEL the hot summer weather and the hankering for that tall, cool glass of "something cool". June Christy's first rendition of this song (and album) was in mono but a couple years later, when hi-fi stereo came in, the vogue was to re-record entire albums in stereo. However, I actually prefer the mono version -- the stereo version has less "feeling" in Ms. Christy's voice than the original for me. Lovelorn June sits alone in a smoky bar when a stranger offers to buy her a drink. "Something cool", June croons, "I'd like to order something cool. It's so warm here in town and the heat gets me down. Yes, I'd like something cool." The song really conveys the loneliness of the city in the summer. And besides that, the mono version (the one I like best) was recorded on what would years later become my birthday (August 14) way back in 1953. It's definitely an "August" song.
  5. AS COOL AS I AM by Dar Williams. This song just makes you jump around and blows through your speakers like a soothing breeze. There's "freedom" in this song. "And so I’m leaving/you can find out how much better things can get/And if it helps/I’d say I feel a little worse than I did when we met/So when you find someone else you can try again/it might work next time..." Dar sings about "cool" not in the "Fonzie" sense but in the "keep cool" sense. "But truth is just like time, it catches up and it just keeps going."

So there we have it. Hopefully these Five Songs will help to keep you a little cooler during the heat wave. So pour yourself a tall frosted glass of something cool and start the wienie bake! Until the next time The Five Songs rolls along.

3 comments:

Terry Frost said...

"Something Cool" is one of those great songs that tells a story and paints a vivid picture of a woman's life and history. In that sense it more resembles a French chanson than an English language song. It doesn't pull punches, really, and June Christy's iteration of it is perfection.

Cerpts said...

Ah, another fan of "Something Cool". The song is indeed epic!

Weaverman said...

Good choices as usual, although I own up to total ignorance about Tommy Johnson. June Christy is pretty cool herself. Why have I never replaced my Christy vinyl?