This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
I could have got this one over and done with quickly and easily just by playing Neil Sedaka’s Calendar Girl. That one mentions every month. Some of you may have said, “Is that all there is?” (quoting Peggy Lee). Others, “Phew, that’s a relief. I won’t have to scramble through all those songs.” I’ve decided to go for more than the single tune. It’s the full modo.
I’m doing every month in order, so I’ll start with January (as I’m not going for the financial year). There were fewer songs than I expected for this month but a couple of okay ones turned up. The one I’ve chosen is by STEVE FORBERT.
This is from his second album, “Jackrabbit Slim,” which came out quite some time ago now. Way back in 1979. I still think of Steve as one of the new, young, up-coming singers but given the date of that album, I guess that’s not the case anymore.
The song has the clunky title January 23-30, 1978.
February is the difficult month. That’s probably because it’s so hot everyone just wants to sit around in the shade, vegging out, and not write songs. At least, that’s the way it is around where I live.
I only found two songs in my collection for the month and I’ve already used one of them in another column (not that that’s stopped me in the past). I’ve selected the other one by JULIE LONDON.
Actually, I could have done the whole column using Julie’s songs because I have her album “Calendar Girl” which has a song for each month of the year, so hers is the default position if I get desperate. The song is February Brings the Rain.
SUSANNAH MCCORKLE had everything to live for.
She was proficient in many languages – indeed, she once considered a career as a translator at the U.N. She was fêted in Europe and New York as one of the finest and most interesting jazz singers of her generation.
Unfortunately, she suffered from severe depression and took her own life. Here is Susannah with The Waters of March.
April is the opposite of February: I have far too many songs and good ones at that. You can probably come up with several without trying. I’ve decided to include one that may not be in your list. It’s one by JOHN PHILLIPS.
That’s Papa John of The Mamas and The Papas. The rest of the group were miffed when John released the album “John the Wolf King of LA” from which this track is taken. They thought it should have been a group album as it really was pretty good.
All that probably hastened the demise of the band which was already on very rocky ground by this stage (1970). Mama Cass had already done some solo work and she was recording with Dave Mason from Traffic and the others were off doing their own things.
Here’s John’s song, April Anne.
May always seems to me to be one of those throwaway months, one where nothing much happens at all. It’s not really autumn (well, it is) and not yet winter. It’s not hot and it’s not cold. The few songs seem to reflect that as well.
I decided to go with the BEE GEES in their early incarnation.
This is from when they were a really good pop band before they accidentally discovered disco and made themselves a fortune in the process. The song is First of May. I don’t know what Christmas trees have to do with May, but there you go.
VAN MORRISON gives us
I originally had Bruce Springsteen in here with his 4th of July, Asbury Park, however, Bruce got the flick when I played DAVE ALVIN covering pretty similar territory. At least in its title, the songs are really quite different in sound and content.
Dave’s public musical career began when he and his brother Phil along with a couple of others formed the group The Blasters. They weren’t hugely successful except for those who actually managed to see and hear them.
Dave left the group and played on various other groups’ albums before recording his own solo albums. These are really very good indeed and worth checking out. This is Dave with Fourth of July.
Okay, I’m really desperate here. Only two songs for August, one by MICKEY NEWBURY and the other by Julie London, of course.
I originally dismissed Mickey’s as it was far too long, way over 10 minutes.
However, I played it and found it was really two songs jammed together. Mickey had a habit doing that sort of thing. I split them as the second had nothing to do with August anyway, and wasn’t a great song either. Here is 33rd of August.
We have a lot of September songs. My first thought was Carole King’s It Might as Well Rain Until September. However, the songs today seem to be rather downbeat so I thought I’d continue in that vein and go with September Song.
Of course, choosing which particular version to include became a bit of a headache – there are more of them than most of the other months had songs. In the end I went for the obvious, and classic, version by FRANK SINATRA.
October really is the laid-back month, no matter which hemisphere in which you happen to live. The songs seem to reflect this, particularly the one I’ve chosen. Here is ROSEMARY CLOONEY with When October Goes.
The music is this week’s column couldn’t really be classified as a cheery bunch of tunes. This next one though really takes the cake. It’s from one of my old favorites (well, I have a lot of those), TOM WAITS.
His song is simply called November and it does have some interesting instruments playing along. Check out the musical saw.
I would have thought that December would have thrown up more songs than I found. There really were only half a dozen or so. Before this I’d have thought it would have been on a par with April or September. Just goes to show.
Anyway, looking through my short list I decided to end with a bit of country music, indeed, the finest male singer in that genre, MERLE HAGGARD.
His song is If We Make It Through December. However, he doesn’t sing of a December that I know. I wonder if I can make it through December without major sun burn, whether my apartment can cool down just slightly so I can sleep at night and whether I have enough chilled chardonnay to get me through the month (let alone January and February which are worse).
Anyway, here’s Merle.