Wednesday, April 13, 2022


Another rabbit warren of antique archaicism to fall down today, as we grasp at the few straws offered by Tin Pan Alley to the Pauls of this world. Johns, and Johnnys are, of course, two a penny, and even Williams get more action, if more frequently foreshortened to Billy. So, then, pop pickers, who remembers “Tall Paul”? Don’t worry, I don’t either, but it was 1959 when Annette Funicello took it to the Billboard chart, where it reached number 7. 

There’s a nice tale about the song, suggesting it was written for Paul Anka, not least as he and Funicello were briefly an item. Anka responded vigorously to deny this, citing he was not remotely tall, an inescapable truth. Funicello was an erstwhile Mousketeer for the Mickey Mouse club, long before, I should add, any more recent incumbent, and the song was written by the Sherman brothers, Robert B. and Richard M., who specialised in writing for Disney, and penned most of the soundtrack for Mary Poppins. The song? Well. It ain’t up to much, typical fare for the times, but it did provoke a response. 

The tradition of a song producing a response, unrelated, from another group or singer is long and celebrated. Possibly the best example would be the songs traded between the star crossed squeezes, Neil Sedaka and Carole King. “Oh, Carol” was a massive hit for the former, and “Oh Neil”, her reply, was not, perhaps explained by her, in the interim, having married Gerry Goffin. More recently there was the somewhat more nuanced bromance between Morrissey and Billy MacKenzie. The Smiths brought out “William, It Was Really Nothing”, the seemingly somewhat a little infatuated Associates singer, with the explosive H bomb of a voice, riposted with “Stephen, You’re Really Something.” Probably more a little bit of celebrity one-upmanship, it makes for a great tale, if largely and likely apocryphal. 

Anyway, “Tall Paul” too garnished a reply, from a songwriter, Ray Hildebrand, who elected to give it a duet status, enrolling the niece of his landlord, Jill Jackson, to help him sing it. Picked up by showbiz mogul and producer, Major Bill Smith, who, despite outranking Colonel Tom Parker, was in an entirely different league. He gave Ray and Jill the name Paul and Paula, and a hit was born, hitting the number 1 spot in 1962. I was confident that was that, but it appears they went on to have a career of sorts, with further hits and a few albums, ahead of Hildebrand quitting the glitz, returning to college and embracing the Church. A later “Dear Paula” did not chart. 

Coming soon, in a future theme entitled Bernard, will be more enticing tales of derring do, but, until then, grab ‘em while you can…… 

Tall Paul 

Hey Paula

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Paul Songs: Broken Bones & Pocket Change

St. Paul & The Broken Bones: Broken Bones & Pocket Change

When a musician leaves the stage and heads into the crowd, you never know what is going to happen. That’s probably why you don’t really see it very often, and when it does happen, there’s usually a phalanx of security guards to protect the musicians from bodily harm. I’ve written about one time that I saw The Decemberists leave the stage in Amsterdam to reenact the 1667 Battle of Chatham, and another time that Buddy Guy jumped off the stage in Central Park and eventually approached my wife and I, and our two-month-old son, who was at his first concert (not including a couple he attended in utero). And I recall seeing the Blind Boys of Alabama do it, also in Central Park. I’m sure there are more examples, but the only other one that I can specifically recall was when I saw St. Paul & The Broken Bones at the Capitol Theatre in 2019.  Although I feel like that is something that Bono has done on occasion, and we all know what his real first name is, right?

I’ve mentioned in passing before that I occasionally blog about shows at the Capitol Theatre, the storied venue in Port Chester, New York. When they announce shows, I can request a ticket, and if I am chosen, I get to go for free, and write about the show. They then post what I wrote, usually with a bunch of nice pictures taken by a professional photographer, on their website, in a section called the “Squirrel Blog.” Squirrels are important to the Cap. I blogged that show, so let me borrow from what I wrote back then, when it was fresh in my memory: 

After Janeway introduced and thanked the band, they launched into the emotional “Broken Bones & Pocket Change,” as Janeway plunged into the crowd before walking upstairs, singing from the side boxes, traversing and nearly climbing off the balcony, and ending the show from the boxes on the other side. 

You can see a video of that part of the show here. I don't think you can see me in the video, but I'm standing in front of the soundboard, because someone once told me that it was the best place to stand.

The “Janeway” that I referred to is Paul Janeway, the titular "St." Paul, who had trained as a preacher before eventually turning to music. The band’s name came from our featured song, the first that Janeway wrote with bassist and co-founder Jesse Phillips. They formed the group in 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama, and soon became an 8-piece soul band that included guitarist Browan Lollar, who had been part of Jason Isbell’s band The 400 Unit and keyboard player Al Gamble (whose brother Chad is the drummer in the 400 Unit). Their first full album, Half The City, which contained our featured song, was released on Single Lock Records, which I only mention because one of the owners is John Paul White (of The Civil Wars), and then, only because we are focusing on “Pauls.” 

Here's how I described their performance that night: 

Janeway regally commanded the stage, a shiny cape over his shoulders like Solomon Burke, and the crowd was in his hands from the start. 

Good performers feed off the energy of the crowd—great ones take that energy and send it back, magnified, and that’s exactly what Janeway and the band did, holding nothing back through the hour and a half set. His voice is a freak of nature, rich and soulful—think Al Green or Otis Redding—with an otherworldly falsetto that thrilled the crowd. 

It was a great show, I got to see it for free, the lead singer left the stage and climbed into the balcony, and nobody got hurt. If that's not a great night, I don't know what is.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Paul Songs: Paul Kantner


purchase [  Volunteers ]

From what I have read, Paul Kantner was the driving force behind the Jefferson Airplane/Starship. Obviously neither was a one-man show, but aside from his credits as co-founder of the band, he is also credited as the one who rescussitated the band following their height of fame years. Sure ... there were other equally important "Jefferson" members (wouldn't want to belittle any of them, but Grace Slick and Marty Balin probably come next in the list for both incarnations).

While there are a number of other bands that came out the mid 60s/Summer of Love era in and around San Fransisco, for psychedelia, two stand out in my personal preferences, and they couldn't be more different in approach. (I know, this is a gross simplification that leaves out the more than 100 other Bay Area bands from that time, but .. Sly, Santana, Creedence don't really fit the psychedelia filter). So ... more different. The Dead = laid-back, rambling, a tinge of country: Airplane= in-your-face, hard-edged, with a sharp message: "Tear down the walls, m***f***s ")

Was Kanter a great guitar player? (One of the Google questions you'll see if you go digging.) Aside from asking for your personal opinion, I'll give mine. Considering the state of guitars, guitar playing, rock music in the late 60's ... I would say "good, not great". Having never seen him live (where you can really get a sense of one's skills), he did a good job with what he needed to do. Not flamboyant, but consider the effect (that is what counts?) of the guitar (opening guitar) on the Volunteers song: Nothing incredible - except that it is just what the song - and the song's message - needs.