For the 45th song of the year I’m playing Ton Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco, dating from 1953. Tony Bennett said of the song, “that song helped make me a world citizen. It allowed me to live, work and sing in any city on the globe. It changed my whole life.” Since the first recording it has been recorded by hundreds of artists, and it’s worth mentioning comedian Steven Allen’s parody, I Left My Nose in San Diego!
Song 40:365 is Cole Porter’s song True Love, introduced in the musical High Society in 1956 by Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby. True Love is also the name of a yacht on which two of the characters in The Philadelphia Story, on which the musical was based, and it was the name of Crosby’s yacht.
Song 31:365, the final song of January, is the beautiful song Caledonia written by Dougie MacLean in 1977. He apparently wrote the song in less than 10 minutes on a beach in Brittany, France. He’d been busking with some Irish friends and was feeling homesick. He wrote the song and took it back to the youth hostel where they were staying. Having shared the song with his friends and realised the feeling of being homesick was mutual: by the next day they were heading home.
I think this is one of the best Scottish songs of modern times and whenever I’m away from home it’s one song which always makes me homesick. I may even have been known to line up versions of the song performed by different artists on Spotify…
My original 2010 version included my accordion, but I thought I’d rerecord this today, mainly because I wanted to play the song again. I’ll include both versions below – let me know which one you prefer!
Here’s Caledonia 2017 version:
And here’s the original 2010 recording with accordion:
Song 24:365 is The Dark Island, the second song of my Scottish trilogy this week in honour of our national poet, Robert Burns. I’ve had quite a revelation tonight as I’ve been looking into the history of this song as I had expected it to be a traditional Scottish song. It seems, however, that the song was written for a 1963 BBC film of the same name which was shot in South Uist and tells the tale of a mysterious torpedo found on the shores of Benbecula. The tune was originally called Doctor Mackay’s Farewell to Creagorry, and the most well-known words were written by lyricist David Silver.
I should also mention that this recording features my accordion – for which I should probably apologise!
Song 18:365 is From a Distance, made popular by Nashville singer Nanci Griffith in the year I claim is the best year in history for music, 1987 – just click on my 1987 songs to see what I mean! It was later covered by Bette Midler and Cliff Richard, but I think Griffith’s version is much better. I hope you like mine!
I’m staying with Andrew Lloyd Webber for song 17:365 which is Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from the musical Phantom of the Opera. If Past the Point of No Return is the musical’s “eleven o’clock number”, the traditional show-stopping performance towards the end of the second act, then I think Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again must be the 10:45pm number!
The song is sung by Christine and is a lament for her father who died seven years previously. I’ve always liked the way this song goes between the minor verse and major chorus, and the extended section after the second chorus is beautiful: “No more memories, no more silent tears, no more gazing across the wasted years.”
Over the past twelve months I’ve been playing a song every day and posting it to this blog. I’ve tried to include most musical styles, playing everything from the children’s TV theme tunes to operatic arias and a healthy selection of 1980s pop classics, totalling over 24 hours of music. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing something on the piano most days, but at times it has been challenging, especially since I’ve been travelling a lot in 2015 and a 10-day trip meant recording 11 or 12 tunes while I should have been packing! I’ll not be repeating the challenge in 2016, not least because combined with my 2010 piano tunes, I’ve now recorded over 730 songs in total, and I think that’s enough for now!
When I started wondering about which song to finish this year with, there was only really one option: Billy Joel’s 1977 masterpiece Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. This is a song which I’ve loved for many, many years. I’ve seen Billy perform it three times in Glasgow, once in Birmingham and once in the Hammersmith Apollo. I imagine that a highlight of 2016 will be Scenes at the Wembley concert in September.
Music critic Scott Floman gave a very apt description of Scenes in Goldmine magazine: it’s an “epic multi-sectioned masterpiece which starts as a slow smoky ballad, builds up to a jaunty piano rocker with a New Orleans flavor that also shows off Joel’s knack for telling stories and creating rhymes, before finally returning to smoky ballad territory again.” And where exactly is the eponymous Italian Restaurant? It is apparently Fontana di Trevi, just across from Carnegie Hall where Billy Joel ate during a series of 1977 concerts. Indeed, the line “A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?” was actually spoken to Billy by a waiter at Fontana di Trevi! Oh to see that napkin…
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant isn’t really the kind of piece you can just play on the piano, so I’ve done a full arrangement including bass, guitar, accordion, strings, horns and percussion. I’ve used a brilliantly programmed drum track from a midi file online – I’ve tried to identify who arranged this track but haven’t been able to. However everything else is me, including the dodgy keyboard sax – sorry Joe Moretti!
I hope you enjoy this piece, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my 365songs this year. Happy 2016 to everyone who has listened!
There is, of course, a bit more Billy Joel in my collection and some of my 2010 songs are on this album. If it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project or see all of my December songs here.
It’s Christmas Eve! Today’s festive tune is Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, with a bit of a latino twist! It was written as an instrumental in 1946 and lyrics were added later in 1950 by Mitchell Parrish whose other famous lyrics include Stars Fell On Alabama, Stardust and the English version of Volare!
I hope you enjoy this piece and I wish you all a very happy Christmas Eve! If it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project. For more Christmaciousness, see all of my December songs here.
Today’s song is Coldplay’s 2010 Christmas hit Christmas Lights. The random fact associated with this tune is that in the video which was shot on London’s South Bank, the words Credo Elvem Etiam Vivere are written across the top of the stage where the band are performing the song. This means “I believe Elvis is still alive”, and it’s linked to the mentions of Elvis in the lyrics of the song:
Like some drunken Elvis singin’
I go singin’ out of tune
Sayin’ how I always loved you, darlin’
And I always will.
I hope you enjoy this piece. There’s more Coldplay here, and if it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project. For more Christmaciousness, see all of my December songs here.