Ruminating on Pancreatic Cancer and Me

ELDER MUSIC: Strange Days

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

These are certainly strange days we’re living through, and that means I get to play some strange songs. Okay, not necessarily strange songs, but those with strange in their title. Quite a few of these are blues which seems strangely appropriate.

Given the title of the column, many people could guess that THE DOORS would lead off proceedings. They are right.

The Doors

They actually have a song called Strange Days, taken from their second album also called “Strange Days”, but that song was a bit too strange. Instead, I’ve gone for one of their more famous songs, People are Strange from the same album.

♫ The Doors - People Are Strange

PATSY CLINE is always welcome in my columns and judging from past comments, you readers rather agree with that.

Patsy Cline

On this song I think that Patsy sounds like Tami Neilson. Of course, Tami wasn’t even born when Patsy died, so it should be the other way around. If you have a chance check out Tami’s music (particularly her song Cry Over You) I suggest you do that to see what I’m talking about. Anyway, here’s Patsy with Strange.

♫ Patsy Cline - Strange

ELMORE JAMES was a particular favorite of the British bands of the Sixties, especially Brian Jones who developed his guitar playing style from listening to his records.

Elmore James

Elmore worked in an electrical store early on and devised his own electric guitars that were in advance of the standard versions of the time. It took years for the others to catch up. He had a wide variety of styles which is probably why he was so influential. Here he performs Strange Kinda Feeling.

♫ Elmore James - Strange Kinda Feeling

Love is Strange was a big hit for the Everly Brothers. However, before them MICKEY & SYLVIA also hit the charts with the song.

Mickey & Sylvia

Bo Diddley claimed that he wrote the lyrics and Mickey and Sylvia also claimed to have done so. Bo was the first to record the song, but his version didn’t see light of day until a recent box set of his complete recordings. Buddy Holly also recorded it, but he didn’t claim to have written it. I’m going with Mickey & Sylvia.

♫ Mickey & Sylvia - Love Is Strange

JAMES HUNTER has recorded Strange But True twice.

James Hunter

The first time was on his album “Kick it Around” with a band and backup singers. He later did it again on “The Hard Way” with minimal accompaniment. I like the stripped back version, but the other isn’t bad either. Actually anything that James records is worth a listen.

♫ James Hunter - Strange But True

OTIS SPANN was easily the finest post war Chicago blues pianist.

Otis Spann

Besides his solo work, he was also Muddy Waters’ pianist for many years. He was also involved in one of the two or three best blues albums ever (“Super Black Blues”) with T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner. That’s another one to check out.

Here is Otis, with some of Muddy’s band, with Strange Woman.

♫ Otis Spann - Strange Woman

NICK CHARLES is a particular favorite of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, such that we’ve seen him live many times over the years.

Nick Charles

Besides playing in Australia, he’s performed all over the world and played at some of the best blues festivals around the world. He’s a superb acoustic guitar player and quite a decent singer. Here he is with a reasonable sized band backing him with Strange Things Happen at Night.

♫ Nick Charles - Strange Things Happen At Night

Racism has always been present in yours and my societies, but it’s been somewhat hidden until recently when the American president essentially gave licence to the darkest elements of society to raise their heads and spew their vile filth over all of us.

The next song by BILLIE HOLIDAY is as relevant today as it was 80 years ago.

Billie Holiday

The song is Strange Fruit, written as a poem by Abel Meeropol and put to music by him and his wife, Laura Duncan.

♫ Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

From his fine, but rather underrated album “Believers”, DON MCLEAN gives us the song Isn't It Strange, one he wrote himself.

Don McLean

It is a wry, ironic song about love and the way that men and women see their relationships. On the surface is a pleasant gentle song, but digging deeper into the lyrics reveals the clever and bittersweet exploration mentioned before.

♫ Don McLean - Isn't It Strange

I’ve always thought of CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE as an old bluesman, however, when I investigated him I discovered that he’s only a year older than I am. Okay, that could still make him an old blues man, but not in the way I had in mind.

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie’s instrument is the harmonica and he also sings a bit (not while playing the harp, of course). He came to prominence in the early sixties with other white blues players like Michael Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield.

Although mainly a bluesman, he has also played with such musicians as Cyndi Lauper, Hot Tuna and Jools Holland. To fit into the column he performs Strange Land.

♫ Charlie Musselwhite - Strange Land

I’m really surprised to find a song by ELVIS from the Fifties I didn’t know.

Elvis Presley

Yep, that can happen even to your musical guru (“That’s a joke, Joyce” – that’s for my Australian readers). The song I discovered hidden somewhere on my computer is Is It So Strange.

♫ Elvis Presley - Is It So Strange

JIMMY JOHNSON is a blues guitarist, and a fine one at that.

Jimmy Johnson

A couple of decades ago he recorded an album called “Johnson’s Whacks” (ho ho) which contained a blues guitar rendition of Paul Desmond’s jazz classic Take Five. It’s worth seeking out. This has nothing to do with today’s selection, I just thought I’d mention it.

From a completely different album (“Every Day of Your Life”), Jimmy plays and sings Strange Things Happening.

♫ Jimmy Johnson - Strange Things Happening


Always enjoy your selections, some familiar, some . . . er, strange, at least to me.

What a great theme, and collection. I usually start listening at the bottom & work my way up, but when I saw Patsy Cline at the top I couldn’t wait—she’s like a big, warm summer breeze. Loved the Otis Spann song, but he made me want a cigarette & I quit smoking many years ago! And I can see why Norma is such a fan of Nick Charles—never heard of the artist, but this was a great song. Love his voice.

Thanks very much for this strange Sunday morning, Peter :^)

Peter and Norma,
Sunday afternoon delights :)
You guys are the best!
PLEASE don't ever stop creating this content.

Great list of wonderful music. I just loved it today. I understand you wanting to take a break from the column but I will miss all the great music and comments.
I have a suggestion for you if you haven't already heard them: Birds of Chicago. They are a husband wife duo and write their own songs. We got to hear them live here in Carlsbad a few years ago at The Museum of Making Museum. Great voices and very original. I especially love "American Flowers"...beautiful and it made me proud, something we are short of feeling right now in America.

"Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Strange days indeed"
John Lennon - Nobody told me

Love today’s (I mean yesterday’s) offerings, and thank you for introducing me to Tami Neilson!

I think Nina Simone did a rendition of the haunting Strange Fruit, also.

Great list, I was a bit shocked at the reference of Charlie Musselwhite being an "old" bluesman. I remember getting his 1st two albums and he was pretty young. Then I looked i n the mirror, damn! Sure went by fast. Thanks again.

Such a very fine compilation of amazing songs. "Strange Fruit" always brings me to tears.
But wasn't Laura Duncan a vocalist and Abel's wife named Anne?
Strange times, strange songs ... but thank heavens for music and you and Norma, dear Peter.

The comments to this entry are closed.