Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nat King Cole

I remember some weird conversation that happened between my older sister, who was 13 then, and a friend of hers, who was also 13 I guess, about Nat King Cole. This was in the summer of ’66, and I don’t know why he came up, I think maybe they had seen Cat Ballou.

I was 11, and my parents had rented a cottage at the beach for the month of July, and it was the first time they did that, and the last, and I hated it because I wanted to be in the city with my friends, but the smell of that summer at the beach always comes back to me when I’m in the country, and when I happened to be back at that beach town, though I’ve moved away, and it’s not likely I’ll ever be back there again.

And I remember the radio, of course, Summer In The City, The Pied Piper, Paperback Writer.

And the girl who talked Nat King Cole grew up, and became a Queen’s Bench judge, and a good one, though she was a bit strange.

Then there was my friend AD, or more specifically his father, who didn’t like pop music so much, and so he lectured us about the virtues of classical music, and he would play us The Moldau by Smetana, though I realized later that as a classical music aficionado he was a bit of a dilettante. And he was also partial to MOR, and he liked Nat King Cole, and he would sing Mona Lisa to us.

Cole was an accomplished jazz pianist, leader of the King Cole Trio, and then he started singing. And from the late 40s until the early 60s he had hit after hit. My book, which starts in 1955, lists 57 top 100 singles. I have about 20 of them here, plus many from pre-1955. What I did was I took the box set called Nat King Cole, and The Capital Collectors Series, and I mushed them together, and I also had a few singles at my disposal.

Nat King Cole:

Straighten Up And Fly Right – This is from about 1944
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 – I’ve never been able to tell definitely whether the instrumental by Nelson Riddle is this song sped up and rearranged, or a different song entirely. The Rolling Stones recorded this, and so did Them.
Embraceable You – An interesting concept. If this was hip hop, it would be called something else.
It’s Only A Paper Moon – “It wouldn’t be make believe if you believed in me.” I actually believe that.
The Christmas Song – A perennial. This was written by Mel Tormé and it was hit for Cole in the mid 40s. It charted again in 1960 and 1962. I think that it creates the image of the ideal Christmas, though having no personal experience I’m really just guessing…
(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons – I love you for analytical reasons wouldn’t cut it I suppose. Sam Cooke did this, as did The Righteous Brothers.
Nature Boy – It all comes down to love. José Feliciano covered this.
For All We Know – Not The Carpenters’ song. This was a standard, and I can think offhand of the one by The Ray Charles Singers.
Lush Life – A self-pity song.
My Baby Just Cares For Me
Mona Lisa – There we are. “You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile.” I guess this is his signature song. Carl Mann covered it, and so did Conway Twitty.
Too Young – Donny Osmond covered this.
Unforgettable – The title was co-opted by his daughter Natalie for a collection of songs made famous by her father, who is the subject our discourse here.
Walkin’ My Baby Back Home – A song about making out.
That’s All – Covered by Ricky Nelson
Blue Gardenia – There is a beautiful version of this by Dinah Washington
Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup – The title means Darling I love you very much. This is from early 1955. This is kind of a prototype for Michelle. He loves her, but he can’t speak to her, because his French is appalling. Witness “I hope that you compris, what you mean to me.” And why does he call her “vous” instead of “tu?” It should be je t’aime beaucoup. And compris should be comprendes. See? I’ve learned some French after all.
Answer Me, My Love – Very sad this. I think Frankie Laine did it.
Smile – Another standard, this one written by Charlie Chaplin. “Smile, though your heart is breaking…”
My One Sin (In Life) – From the summer of ’55.
A Blossom Fell – From the summer of ’55. He must have been busy then.
If I May – The flip side of A Blossom Fell and a top 10 hit in its own right.
Autumn Leaves – The Roger Williams hit with words.
Night Lights – He’s hoping that his night life will “lead me back to you.” Wah? A hit late in 1956.
To The Ends Of The Earth – The flip of Night Lights, and a hit slightly earlier.
Ballerina – This had been a hit for Vaughn Monroe. Not the Van Morrison song. A hit for Cole in early 1957.
Caravan – Not the Van Morrison song. This is the Duke Ellington song, usually done as an instrumental. The Ventures did a great version.
Stardust – Another Hoagy Charmichael standard. Check out the pop version by Nino Tempo & April Stevens. A minor hit for Cole in summer ’57.
When I Fall In Love – Who didn’t do this? The Lettermen put it on the charts in summer ’62. This was a hit for Nat in the UK in the spring of ’57.
Send For Me – A hit in the summer of ’57.
The Party’s Over – How sad. I have a really good recording of this by Julie London, and a decent one by Lonnie Donegan.
But Beautiful
The Late Late Show
The Best Thing For You - Is Nat of course...
Perfidia – This was a hit for The Ventures in 1960.
Where Or When – A live piano solo version of the standard. I have another version by Dion & The Belmonts.
Mr. Cole Won’t Rock & Roll – Well excuse me. Mr. Cole indeed did not rock & roll, but he needn’t have been so smug about it.
I Remember You – This is the same one that was done by Frank Ifield. Cole does it much slower. The Beatles did this too; it was on Live At The Star Club, Hamburg, 1962.
Day In – Day Out
The Touch Of Your Lips
The Sand And The Sea – From the spring of 1955.
Ramblin’ Rose – Another signature song, this reached number 2 in the fall of ’62. I read the novel, by Calder Willingham which wasn’t nearly as well known as the song, but the novel was a better novel than the song was a song. I’ve not known many people named Rose.
I Don’t Want To See Tomorrow – A hit from the fall of ’64.
Non Domenticar (Don’t Forget) – A hit in the fall of ’58. Most of the song is in English, but some of it is in… Italian?
Dear Lonely Hearts – Nat writes to a magazine. From December, 1962.
All Over The World – Another one of those love-makes-the-world-go-round songs. From spring, 1963.
Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer – From the summer of ’63, not a totally bad summer song. It doesn’t take much to imagine the beach, coke, and sun.
L-O-V-E – A Bert Kaempfert song. The flip side of I Don’t Want To See Tomorrow, this only reached number 81 in the fall of ’64. I have the Kaempfert version somewhere.
Sweet Lorraine – This is a stereo remake of the hit from the 40s. I once knew a girl named Lorraine; that was at university. See used to sit beside me in history class, and she was some kind of Judeophile. Go figure.
I Don’t Want To Be Hurt Anymore – From the spring of 1964, this is a bit country, with a Floyd Cramer-style piano.
Looking Back – A top 10 hit from the spring of 1958.
That Sunday That Summer – Oh such nostalgia. From the autumn of 1963.

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