Sunday, June 7, 2009

Andy Williams

Ok, Andy Williams. I saw him on TV a lot – well maybe not a lot, maybe just some. But I did see him on TV, and he was always singing Moon River. I didn’t hear him on the radio a lot.

That’s odd I think, because he had, between 1956 and 1976, 45 records on the top 100. He recorded for Cadence until 1961, and I have 10 of his his 16 Cadence hits from Andy Williams’ Best, which I can’t remember exactly where I got it. His Columbia hits, though, I cobbled together from here and there, LPs, singles, cassettes. I didn’t use the ubiquitous The Best Of Andy Williams. That’s all I can tell you.

Andy Williams:

The Bilbao Song – Some kind of nostalgia, not easy to tell exactly what was going on, but whatever it was must have been fantastic. From the summer of 1961.
Lonely Street – In Lonesome Town, no doubt, where you’d find Heartbreak Hotel. The idea of heartbreak and loneliness as a physical location was irresistible to songwriters. From the fall of 1959.
In The Summertime (You Don’t Want My Love) – A song of romantic discord, and how the seasons don’t mirror the inner world of the heart when you think they should. Very uptempo for a heartbreak song. Roger Miller did this, titled You Don’t Want My Love.
The Village Of St. Bernadette – From the winter of 1960. I don’t know if this is meant to be a Christmas song, but it has religious stuff. I don’t know where St. Bernadette is exactly. But he may be saying something about Lourdes.
Canadian Sunset – A number 1 hit for Hugo Winterhalter and Eddie Heywood. I don’t know if the lyrics were added after. Williams sings of a Canadian holiday during which he meets the woman of his dreams. He seems to have been on a skiing trip. He does not sing of back bacon, beer, or the metric system. From the fall of 1956.
How Wonderful To Know – This is a kind of insipid song about being in love.
The Hawaiian Wedding Song (De Kale Nei Au) – This is basically a wedding song, not unlike Paul Stookey’s later song, but very much unlike Dylan’s Wedding Song. The fact that it’s Hawaiian is just a matter of adding a bunch of Hawaiian guitars. Elvis did this, of course. So did The Ray Charles Singers, and many others. From the winter of 1959.
Do You Mind – Andy is tentative, declares his love in grandiose terms, but only if she doesn’t mind. From the summer of 1960.
Are You Sincere – I think I have a version of this by Steve Lawrence, but don’t quote me. I definitely have a version by Gene McDaniel. There is something wrong here; like, why does he have to ask. A hit in the winter of 1958.
I Like Your Kind Of Love – From when Williams was slightly rock and roll. This has the dippiest answer vocal I’ve ever heard, by Peggy Powers apparently. (No I’ve never heard of her). From the spring of 1957. “I like the way you wear your clothes…”
Don’t Go To Strangers – This was the b side of In The Summertime (You Don’t Want My Love), and it was a hit in its own right in some markets, like Canada. I guess it’s a song about having your needs filled by people outside your primary relationship. A little on the mild side given the subject matter. From the summer of 1961.
Butterfly – Butterflies are light and fast and fragile. They should be called “flutterbies.” Andy tries hard to reconcile his attachment to his “butterfly” with his recognition of her character. He is clipping her wings, he says. Sure. Williams’ single biggest hit, it reached number 1 in the winter of 1957. Also a hit for Charlie Gracie.
Stranger On The Shore – A massive hit for Aker Bilk, Andy added words and put it on the charts in the summer of 1962. One of his first Columbia hits.
Moon River – This was Andy Williams’ signature song; he sang it every week on his TV show. And lo and behold, he never put it on the charts at all. The closest entry is by Danny Williams, same surname, different person. This is Henry Mancini’s masterpiece, written for the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s, with words by Johnny Mercer. Besides the aforesaid Williams, it was a hit for Mancini himself, and for Jerry Butler. But Andy may have the last word; his rendering of this song of indefinable longing may be the best. I got this from the More American Graffiti soundtrack.
Happy Heart – This is a really good happy song. It’s from the spring of 1969, and I totally remember hearing it on the radio. My copy was from the Happy Heart LP, and I found that at the West Kildonan Library. Petula Clark did this also.
Days Of Wine And Roses – Another Mancini song, from the movie of the same name. One of those songs of nostalgia for a time that never was, when everything was perfect. From the spring of 1963, this is the b side of Can’t Get Used To Losing You.
Can’t Get Used To Losing You – Speaking of which… This was a major hit in the spring of 1963. I guess it’s one of those songs of the aftermath of heartbreak. It’s got this pizzicato thing going on…
Battle Hymn Of The Republic – I don’t know what the right word is: “Exploitative?” “Cynical?” “Machiavellian?” In June of 1968 Robert Kennedy is
assassinated, a singularly traumatic incident for a troubled US. Andy Williams, who was a friend of the family, sings this song at the funeral, and Columbia records, capitalizing on the tragedy, releases it as a single. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find the whole episode tasteless. This isn’t the funeral performance; the single was a studio recording done afterwards. It reached number 33 in late 1968. An odd choice for a radio hit, but The Mormon Tabernacle Choir actually put it into the top 20 in 1959. And Elvis later did it as part of a medley (An American Trilogy) with Dixie and All My Trials.
Hopeless – I got this right off the single, which I remember picking up at Argy’s. The words are basically a rewrite of Can’t Get Used To Losing You, but it doesn’t have nearly the charm. And the line “my heart has a mind of its own” was lifted from a Connie Francis hit. From the summer of 1963.
Madrigal – The flip side of Hopeless. Not the Yes song. I remember that the record label had a picture of Williams’ face. Madrigal seems to be a woman’s name in this song. It’s about someone who is searching.
A Fool Never Learns – “Fools rush in” sang Elvis, and then “fools rush in wear angels fear to tread.” A person in love is a fool, that’s the message. And here it is again. A hit in the winter of 1964.
Dear Heart – “Heart” here is a stand-in for “sweetheart.” He is not singing to a part of his own anatomy. A ballad about being alone, but the separation is temporary. A hit in late 1964.
On The Street Where You Live – That life of fantasy before anything happens, if anything ever does happen. A hit for Vic Damone, Eddie Fisher, and Lawrence Welk in 1956, and for Williams in the fall of 1964. This is really lush.
Don’t You Believe It – Rumours fly. Don’t believe them, he says. I don’t know. I’d be suspicious. Think of Cliff Richard doing Don’t Talk To Him. From the fall of 1962.
And Roses And Roses –It started with yellow roses, and went from there. Yellow roses are supposed to represent friendship. This is from the spring of 1965, around the same time that Red Roses For A Blue Lady was a hit. This is a bit sappy.
(Where Do I Begin) Love Story – From the movie. I remember the hit version by Henry Mancini, but this version was a top 10 hit as well. That was in the spring of 1971. I remember that all the girls in my class saw the movie 94 times, and they purported to cry each time. I saw the movie eventually, on TV, and I didn’t cry. I was still in high school, and I don’t remember thinking much of it.
MacArthur Park – A hit for Richard Harris in 1968, written by Jimmy Webb, and the song everyone loves to hate. I don’t hate it. The Four Tops redid it, and so did Donna Summer. Andy starts in the middle, and his version is not bad, but it requires a bit more drama than he brings, I think; Harris has it, and it’s why everyone hates it.
Music From Across The Way – Ruminative and high drama in turns. Another song of loss and longing.
Music To Watch Girls By – A hit without words for The Bob Crewe Generation, a kind of Tijuana Brass soundalike record. Andy sings the words, and it was better without. From the spring of 1967.

Love Theme From “The Godfather” (Speak Softly Love) – This always confused me, because it’s a love song, and the movie is about murder and violence. But I guess there was love in the movie too, and that’s the part they picked for the theme song. It’s a nice song, and Williams does it well. It was a hit in the spring of 1972 but I don’t remember hearing it. I don’t remember any Andy Williams songs, except Happy Heart. I remember reading the book, though, and I watched the movie on TV. IT was an anticlimax, I thought, after hearing so much about it.
A Song For You – A song of dedication in the face of challenges. From the summer of 1971.
The Impossible Dream (The Quest) – It’s amazing how many singers were inspired to do this one. Ol’ Andy doesn’t do a bad job. It was only Jack Jones, though, who had the hit.

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