This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Shhh! Can You Keep a Secret? It's My Birthday

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...
Candles spell out the traditional English birthday greeting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      I don't want this getting out all over the place so I'm only telling you--today's my birthday.

      I'm keeping this a secret so don't be spreading this all around, you know like sharing it on social media. I mean I'd hate to get a barrage of FaceBook birthday greetings or have the link to this post all over Twitter. I keep a low profile, you know, and don't like to be promoting or marketing my brand or my blog or having my name Arlee Bird broadcast all over the internet. It's not like I'm trying to build a platform or anything like that. I'm just a quiet guy who wants to remain invisible.

     Well, that is, except for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. You can blurt that all over the place. Sign-ups can be found here or here or at the many sites of the A to Z Team of Co-hosts. So I guess for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge cause I'll forsake my anonymity and give you permission to send this post everywhere. All over the world even. Don't forget to tell your family, friends, neighbors, and anyone you see passing on the street.

      So since the word is out anyway I guess if you want to send me presents you can.  Gift cards are fine.  Cash is preferred.   No bills under twenties please...

        Sorry didn't mean to get out of hand there...

         Instead, to celebrate my birthday I'm going to do the unthinkable and accept a couple of awards in my own unorthodox rule-breaking method.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

       I normally don't do the awards on my site anymore so I rarely get them offered to me, however Chrys Fey presented me with this Very Inspiring Blogger Award and how can I turn down an award with that kind of title it being my birthday as well as opening week of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge sign-ups. 
The Rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog. (see above)
2. Display the award logo. (it's up there too)
3. Nominate 15 other bloggers (more or less) and provide a link where they may be found. (here's where I break a rule--if you've signed up for A to Z then the award is yours)
4. Go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated. (I'm telling you now)
5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.  (see below)
Three things that have inspired me recently:
1.  Getting up this morning (and every morning)
2.   The great response to A to Z sign-ups for the opening week.
3.   The beauty of God's creation and His infinite mercy.

     Thank you, Chrys for thinking of me for this award!

The Liebster Award

       This Liebster Award has been sitting in my post files for some time now so I could use it for a post like this one.  This award appeared on A to Z co-host John Holton's blog The Sound of One Hand Typing and he offered it to anyone with under 3000 followers, which unfortunately is a category I still fall into, but that fortunately allows me to accept the award to be able to blab about me since it's Me Day being my birthday and all.   I just answer questions about me and give the award to whomever I like.   If you're an A to Z participant feel free to accept this award on my behalf.

         Here is a mix of questions asked by John as well as some questions asked by previous award presenters:
  1. What is your ideal vacation?   The answer involves many variables for me, but if I exclude my typical vacation of visiting family then an ideal vacation is one that requires minimal investment for me with the value of learning the most and gaining the most good memories.  It also would be a vacation shared with those I love or people who will enrich me with their presence.
  2. If you had to live somewhere else, where would you move?  I've often somewhat jokingly said that I'd like to live in Grand Island, Nebraska.  I don't know why I'm so intrigued by the place, but it just always seemed kind of hometown U.S.A. to me.   I'm fairly adaptable and there are many places that might attract me and it's hard to beat the weather here in Southern California, but East Tennessee or somewhere near that has the greatest lure for me.
  3. What was your first job?  The first job that I got on my own efforts was in Knoxville, Tennessee working at a wholesale carnival supply company by the name of Acme Premium Supply.  Everyone always makes the Wiley Coyote connection and no, this is not the company where he got his doo-dads, but it's kind of like that one.  We mostly sold stuffed animals and other carnival game prizes.
  4. If you’re a writer, what genre do you write? What would you like to write?  Like I write on Tossing It Out, my other writing tends to be fairly eclectic.  I like to experiment with different styles and explore many topics.  My favorite thing to write is anything memoir related.  You can find some of that at my other blog Wrote By Rote.
  5. What is your claim to fame?  If you Google Arlee Bird you'll mostly find links related to my blogs with a larger number of links talking about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge which I started in 2010.  So I guess that's my biggest claim to fame in recent years.   If you want to sign up for this April's Challenge, visit or click on the related tab at the top of this page.
  6. What type of music do you like?   Maybe it's easier to tell what kinds of music I don't like.  I love music as might be indicated with my focus on the Battle of the Bands posts that I do on the 1st and 15th of each month.  The next Battle of the Bands post will appear here on this blog this coming Sunday February 1st.  Oh, and if I were to pick one predominate favorite music genre that would be Classical--primarily from the 1700's to mid 1900's.   
  7. What motivates you to post on your blog?  All the stuff that's in my brain overflows into the pages of this blog and my brain is constantly filling up with new thoughts.   I'm also building my platform you might say.   Why I'm building that platform will hopefully become more clear in the future sometime.   
  8. What’s your favorite holiday, and why?   Thanksgiving has remained a big favorite in my adult years and even as a child.  Some of my best memories stem from Thanksgiving.  It's a mostly relaxing time with food that I enjoy.   I love that Thanksgiving dinner!  And these days I'm usually the one who cooks most of it.
  9. Did you believe in Santa Claus when you were a child?  I believed until I was about nine years old.  Then until about age 12 I played along with the concept so I'd be sure to get presents. After that I became an agent for Santa as I helped my mother shop for presents for my younger brothers and sisters and wrapped presents and assembled stuff on Christmas Eve so the younger kids would have a great time--and I still got presents myself.  That's when Christmas became the most fun and it was a win-win situation for me and my parents.
  10. Who is your favorite writer?   The writer I immediately name is Flannery O'Connor, but I'm also a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner.  Hmm--I guess I have a preference for Southern Literature.
  11. What would be your dream job?   My dream job is similar to the touring stage production job I had back in the 70's and 80's.   The job would involve plenty of travel to places I wanted to go, meeting the public, and doing something related to performing music and/or promoting my books.  Oh, so I guess that dream job would involve a lot of writing as well.  Yeah, I could live with that kind of a job.

Guessing Games

       I can't believe that from the clues I offered in my Wednesday post that no one guessed what song I'll be using in my Battle of the Bands post coming up this Sunday February 1st. I actually named the song and part of the name of the artists who originally recorded it.  It was right there!  Maybe that goes to show how closely posts are actually read, but I understand that based on how I read many posts.

         While we're bringing up guessing games I wonder if anyone can guess how old I am today?  While you're thinking about that I'll leave you with a cover version of a song that came out when I was in high school.   This is not part of my Battle of the Bands, but maybe I should have used this song since there are some pretty fine cover versions of it.  Play the song if you like and scroll down while you're listening for some more thoughts on game playing.

          Remember--the song versions  I'll be using on my next Battle of the Bands post will be covers and not the version by the original artist. Or maybe you don't want to guess.   It's donned on me that some of you all might have had your phil of guessing games!   I can hear some of you saying, "How 'bout saying 'bye-bye' to the guessing games!  I don't want any more of them--ever Lee!"

         Please stop by on Super Bowl Sunday or the following couple of days so you can find out what song I've chosen and you can vote for your favorite version.

           Did you guess the Battle of the Bands song I'll be using?   Did you guess my age?   Do you like guessing games?  Can you guess why I have these guessing games in some of my posts?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (well, not exactly that)

American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, ...
American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, and the American flag
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Why I happened to think of the oft used American expression "Stuck between a rock and a hard place" in regard to what I was going to write for this post now escapes me, but it happened to pop into my mind as I was considering my post for today which I was thinking of as a transition post of sorts.   I could have just as easily said "I'm between my Monday post and the post I'll be putting up this coming Sunday".    What I guess I had on on my mind was the consideration of how to remind readers about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge which opened this past Monday and how to drop a few clues about my next Battle of the Bands post which will be coming up this Sunday February 1st.

        Perhaps the more precise way of stating the theme of this current post would be "Stuck between a great big A to Z sign-up list and a rock song".    I guess that wouldn't sound as catchy as an American idiom that has an origin now obscure to most of us, but with a meaning that seems pretty obvious.

           I had to look up that expression out of curiosity and found that it is a theme that appears in nearly every culture dating back to ancient times.   The gist of the saying has to do with being in a dilemma in which any solution is not particularly a good one.  Well!  That being the case the phrase then has no real relevance in relation to my topic for this post.   Imagine me going off on some weird tangent that has little to do with anything.  Yes, that's par for the course I guess--to use a golf idiom that I never paid much attention to the fact that it had anything to do with golf until this moment as I used it.  Come to think of it I don't really say "That's par for the course" very often but there it was just popping into my head.

          Oddly enough I started this post over an hour ago with just the title and went downstairs to watch one of the few TV shows that I follow these days.   The Flash on the CW network is a pretty decent show for the superhero genre which is something I've grown weary of in recent years.  But that's another story for another day (is that another idiom?).  The point I wanted to make about going to watch The Flash after composing the title for this post was that among the opening lines of dialogue in this particular episode one of the characters said they were "stuck between a rock and a hard place" and I found that to be a bit weird considering the circumstances.  Serendipitous perhaps.  I don't know, but at least this gave me a reason to use one of my favorite words "Serendipitous" (or any variation of that word).  Just thought I'd toss that out to you.

          So looking back to Monday, did you get your name on the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Linky list yet?   As I write this, the list is stalled at #330, but I'm sure that as you read this the list will have progressed much more.  The list will be open until April so if you haven't decided whether or not to participate you do have time.  However, get into the community spirit and join now so you can mix and mingle and start making new friends and reacquainting yourself with old ones.  If you don't join in before the list closes you might be a bit blue thinking about the relationships that might have been and you missed out on.   Well maybe that's a bit dramatic, but it's my sales pitch.  I'll be doing that now and then between now and April, brothers and sisters, cause I don't want anyone to cry or feel left out of the fun.

         Maybe you've been catching hints of song clues along with lots of herrings, red and every other color you can think of, and the reason for the clues has to do with Battle of the Bands.  I was shocked that my previous Battle of the Bands post likely broke a record of most votes so far for any Battle of mine and maybe any other Battles of participating bloggers.  A total of 40 votes were received on that Battle.  I had fears that the voter turn-out would be far lower since I broke my own rules and used 3 song versions including one that lasted about 10 minutes.   Thanks voters!  I'll be taking this same route one more time (please bear with me) with 3 songs with one clip that is again about 10 minutes.  Never fear though, there will be two short ones and you can just vote between those if you'd like.

           That's about it for me here at Tossing It Out for today.  I won't even mention that Friday will be my birthday and I'll have a special little post to commemorate that event.  Oh, I guess I did mention it.  I didn't mean to do that--yeah right!   Even if you miss my birthday don't miss my Battle of the Bands post on Sunday or I'll be feeling blue.   Guess I'd better say bye-bye.  Love you, brothers and sisters.

             Did you join the A to Z list yet?    Do you ever wonder about the idioms that people often use?    Can you guess what song I'll be using on my Battle of the Band post?

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Big Sign-Up Day Is Here At Last! ( #AtoZChallenge )

       Six years ago while trying to come up with something that might boost my blog following and readership, I came up with the first Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.   Thinking that the concept was nothing more than my own personal stunt to get some attention for my own blog, the interest that others had in joining me in the event caught my attention.   I realized that this blogging event was something that others could enjoy and also reap the benefits for their own blogging.   This was how it all began and now here we are ready to head into our 6th annual April Blogging Challenge!

       With five Challenges behind us and thousands of bloggers having participated in one or more Challenges, the A to Z Challenge community is now extensive with members coming from all over the globe.   The Challenge of 2015 might just be the biggest ever.   If you are planning to join us then today is the first day to get on the list.  The sign-up list will be open until April for any of you who want to think some more about joining.  You have plenty of time, but don't wait too long or you might forget.   No point in waiting when you can sign up now.

          The A to Z Challenge has become so big that there is no way that I could keep this going on my own at the large scale it now is.  I am deeply indebted to the A to Z Team for all the work they have been doing so far and will be doing in the months to come.  Later in this post you will find a list of these A to Z Co-hosts and the links to their blogs.  Show your appreciation to them by following each of their blogs and getting to know them.  This is a great Team!   And of course this Challenge wouldn't be the success that it is without all of you wonderful bloggers.  Thanks to all of you!

          Read on for some important guidelines on participation and hints to make your Challenge experience the best it can possibly be.

Please read and follow the sign-up instructions outlined below so you sign onto the list correctly!

The premise of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE

We recommend short posts, turn off Word Verification, and visit five blogs (or more) a day beginning with the one after yours on the list.

Blogs must be on an open platform – no Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. – and comments enabled.

To streamline legitimate blogs from advertisement blogs, the Co-Hosts will be visiting each blog on this list throughout the Challenge. Blogs on the list showing no activity once the Challenge starts or miss five days in a row will be removed.

Please note your blog name and number in all correspondences. Remember that as blogs are removed, your number will change.

There are categories for those looking for like-minded blogs. Select ONE category code and enter it after your blog’s title/name. The code applies to your blog, not your theme for the Challenge and is purely optional. See the first few blogs on the list for examples. However, if your blog has adult content, you MUST mark it (AC) or it will be removed from the list. Codes are as follows:


Be sure to grab the badge and display it in your sidebar so we know you are participating and link to the A to Z Challenge Blog.

For more information we recommend you follow the A to Z Challenge Blog and the hosts:

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy @ Hollywood Nuts
Nicole Ayers @ The Madlab Post
Author Stephen Tremp
Heather M. Gardner
AJ @ Naturally Sweet
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian
Matthew MacNish @ The QQQE
Zalka Csenge Virág @ The Multicolored Diary
S. L. Hennessy @ Pensuasion
C. Lee McKenzie @ The Write Game
Joy Campbell @ The Character Depot
Susan Gourley @ Susan Says
John Holton @The Sound of One Hand Typing
Lisa Buie-Collard, Author

We also have a Facebook Page
Email address is
Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z

Sign up below and join us for a month of alphabet fun!

       Now let's get ready to Blog from A to Z!

       If you're thinking about not participating this year, what's holding you back?   What do you think is the best aspect of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge?      Do you have any questions about this year's Challenge or is anything in this post not quite clear to you?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Are You Ready for Monday? & BOTB Results

Munchkins (specifically the "Lollipop Gui...
I'm keeping things short since it's Friday.
Munchkins (specifically the "Lollipop Guild") as depicted in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
          I'll keep things relatively short today since it's Friday.  Well, don't know what that has to do with anything, but Friday seems like a good day to run quickly into the week-end.   Of course if I keep a post short that might be a noteworthy event.   So I'll try.

Monday's Coming!!

       Duh!   Of course Monday comes after the weekend is over.  What's so great about Monday?   It's opening day for A to Z sign-ups!!  Are you ready to get your name high on the list?   Actually it doesn't matter where you are on the list just so you're on it.    You'll have two months to decide, but get on early and you can start socializing with the others who have joined in early.   Jump in soon and start spreading the word about April!  For more information about what I'm talking about please visit the Blogging from A to Z Challenge Blog.

Battle of the Bands Results

         The results are in for my Battle of the Bands of January 15th.   My 3 way contest experiment went better than I expected.  Several of you did watch the long video of the Dames version of "I Only Have Eyes for You" and that version, which is where my vote went, ended up with an admirable 11 votes.

          The jazz version by Chris Connor and Maynard Ferguson was appreciated by many but still only got 4 votes.

           The winner--and not really a surprise--was the Flamingos version which ran away with 25 votes.   This is the version that most of us are more familiar hearing and it is a pretty great version of the song.

Final Vote

Flamingos          25

Chris Connor       4

Busby Berkeley   11

        Next Battle of the Bands will be on Sunday February 1st.   My next round will be similar to this last one.   And I'll be celebrating a birthday with my next Battle.  No, not my birthday which will be next Friday, but an artist connected to the song I'll be pitting in Battle celebrates his birthday on February 1st.   I'll be once again including a third bonus version of said song along with another movie clip.   It's a good one I assure you.   It's a big classic song so I can't imagine that there is anyone who hasn't heard it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Remembering (and Not Remembering)

The wedding vow kiss.  The white you see in the round window is the blizzard on the beach.
(Sorry about the picture quality--I haven't figured out about editing photos on my new computer and these were the best quality photos I had access to)

          Hands down the best wedding I've been to was that of my daughter Ada and her fine husband Tom Zdanowicz.   Or should I say. since just about all of the weddings I've been to were very nice and I wouldn't want to slight any of them to say one was better than another, Tom and Ada's 2009 wedding was probably the most amazing due to the circumstances surrounding it which also made that event highly memorable.

           In order to make things easier for those of us who were attending the New Jersey event from out of town, the wedding was planned for December 19 in order to coincide with holiday vacations.  My wife and I would have been going back east anyway in order to visit family, so having the wedding during that time seemed like the best way to accommodate us as well as the others coming from California and other places.

          When I say amazing it's because one of the biggest snow storms in recent northeastern U.S. history hit on that wedding day.   Since all arrangements had been made and people had traveled from all over, postponing to another day was not feasible.  Despite the weather the wedding would go on for whomever was able to make it through the snow.  Incredibly nearly everyone did show up, including some who drove hundreds of miles through inclement weather.   What I feared could be a ruined wedding turned out to be a big success with a good crowd who had a great time as the blizzard roared outside.

The happy couple at the head table with the snowy beach in the background with a might blizzard underway.

          Getting to the facility was somewhat scary.  Traffic was light, but the roads were covered in ever deepening snow.  It was slow going, but everyone arrived early with time to mingle and get acclimated to the beautiful facility.  The place where the wedding was held was on the Jersey beach and had large windows through which in the darkness past the raging snowstorm ocean waves could be faintly seen.  What a sight!  Watching the wedding ceremony was hypnotic with the blowing snow seen through the windows that acted as a dramatic backdrop.

         Now here's the part of the story that has to do with my Battle of the Bands post that featured the song "I Only Have Eyes For You".    Earlier in the year Ada and Tom had come to visit us in California at which time Tom was going to ask my blessings for him to marry my daughter and then he would propose to her.   I think Tom is a great guy and I was thrilled that they were going to get married later that year.   Of course I approved!  They were one excited happy couple.

         One evening during their visit I pulled my recently acquired Busby Berkeley DVD box set off the shelf because I wanted them to see some of the great dance numbers found in the films.  They were especially impressed by my favorite piece which happened to be that song "I Only Have Eyes For You".   Then, at the wedding during their dance together, I didn't even realize they were using that same song.  Maybe it was the typical father-of-the-bride jitters or the distraction of the snowy weather.   Or perhaps it was because the version they used was the one by the Flamingos and it was so different that I didn't even make the connection to the original version I had played for them earlier that summer.

         Ada pointed out to me later what song they had used and I was so thrilled that they had chosen that particular song.   Maybe it was a combination of a lot of things that made me miss that song connection, but now I clearly remember what I did not immediately remember that night.  Now I can't imagine ever forgetting that amazing wedding.

Tom and Ada dancing to "I Only Have Eyes For You" by the Flamingos

         As a postscript I should mention that the evening wrapped up successfully though the crowd probably started dispersing earlier than they might have had under different weather circumstances.  We all partied and had a great time, but at about 11 PM the shuttle service which had delivered most of the guests to the site from the hotel where we were staying or parked decided that they should start taking groups back.

         Going back was even scarier than getting there as the snow had not relented and the roads were getting really bad.  Several runs were made by the shuttle vans that had been hired for the occasion.   My wife and I and her family members were on about the third run.  Many in her family had never been in the snow before so I'm sure this was memorable to them.   The next morning we awoke to a fantastical hotel parking lot winter wonderland covered in snow.  Cold, beautiful, and a heck of a good time for all of us.   I don't imagine any of us will ever forget that New Jersey trip and a truly magical wedding.

        Were you in the big winter storm of December 2009?    Have you ever attended an event that you thought might be a disaster but it turned out great?   Are there any songs that you've heard played but didn't recognize because it was a different version than what you had been accustomed to hearing or had expected to hear?

         If you still haven't voted on my most recent Battle of the Bands post you can still have your vote counted if you get it in by tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon after which I will tally the votes I've received up to that time in order to determine the winner.  Please visit "I Only Have Eyes For You" and tell us your favorite version.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Busby Berkeley: Purveyor of the Visual Wow Factor

Busby Berkeley
Busby Berkeley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      Not only have I been impressed about the number of votes my current Battle of the Bands has received, but immensely gratified to see so many visitors taking the time to watch the ten minute clip of the Busby Berkeley production of "I Only Have Eyes for You".  If you have not yet voted on that post I hope you might take the time to listen to the song versions that I've offered and vote on your favorite.

An Innovative Film Pioneer

      One of my favorite parts of my DVD library is The Busby Berkeley Collection boxed set of five of his best musicals and a treasure trove of extras that includes period cartoons and shorts as well as several informative commentaries from film critics and historians.  There are hours of viewing in this set and it's a must have for any fan of Berkeley, musicals, or the movies of the 1930's.   It was a great era of movie making that gave the Depression Era generation an escape from their troubles.  Busby Berkeley was among the biggest names of that decade.

       Born into a show business family in 1895, Berkeley started his career at age 5 and worked in screen and stage productions until shortly before his death in 1976.  During World War I Berkeley served in the U.S. Army directing precision marching drills and military parades.  This military experience had a huge influence on his stylistic approach to staging dance numbers.  Watching these numbers one can easily see a relation to what Berkeley did with the dancers in the film and how soldiers march in precision drill formations.

       Berkeley's legacy in culture has been pervasive with an influence that can be seen in many movies, television shows, music videos, and even commercials.   His iconic visual style has endeared him to audiences even to this day.  In the 60's the Busby Berkeley films took on a cult status on college campuses and as stalwart midnight movie features.

        Though I grew up with an awareness of what Berkeley had done, I was not familiar with who he was until I learned more about him after I entered college in the 70's.  My ability to see his films was still infrequent until cable television and video made them more accessible.  Now that I've got the box set I have watched those films repeatedly and have yet to tire of those great Busby Berkeley dance productions.  The five films in this set represent only a small portion of his body of work.

Busby Berkeley's Influence on Nazi Germany

        Making a connection between Busby Berkeley and the Nazis might sound a bit ludicrous--and indeed Berkeley did not likely have many political interests--but there is no doubt that his work had a prominent influence on the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will which is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of history.  The female director of this film, Leni Riefenstahl, admitted that one of her influences was from the dance numbers of Busby Berkeley.  Watching Riefenstahl's Triumph and her later Nazi propaganda film Olympia one can see much of the Berkeley style.

        Berkeley likewise was undoubtedly influenced by the Expressionistic art movement and notably the film making of German director Fritz Lang who directed the 1927 epic science fiction silent film masterpiece Metropolis.  Of course the art movements of that age had a pervasive influence over many of the films made during that time.  The set designers and art directors all combined efforts with the film directors and the choreographers like Berkeley to turn out films with the distinctive look that they had.

You Want Creepy?

         In her comment on my Battle of the Bands post, Robin from Your Daily Dose mentioned the creepy faces seen in the "I Only Have Eyes for You" clip from Dames.  If you thought those faces were creepy check out the video I've offered below.   Introduced in the film Gold Diggers of 1935, "Lullaby of Broadway" won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and has been recorded by many artists including a number 1 chart hit for the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra.

        The song is a paean to the party crazed people of the night.  This is a somewhat dark, yet joyous sequence.  There is debauchery that borders on insanity yet touches us with images of loneliness and the isolation of urban life.    Film noir fans should appreciate the stylistic approach of shadows and stark linear design.  The group (or shall we say mob) dance numbers display the fascistic motif as embraced by the Nazi propagandists.

         I am greatly amused by the description given by wacko film director John Waters in the commentary on the Berkeley Box Set disc for Gold Diggers of 1935.  To somewhat paraphrase, Waters observes:

        "The dance number of "Lullaby on Broadway" is scary.   It's like a cult--like Jim Jones or the Manson Family.  We see all of these angry tap dancers coming towards us.  They're like a zombie army. It's Night of the Living Tappers.  They want to kill you."

        It's very probable that George Romero was influenced by some of Berkeley's imagery for the Living Dead films.  Michael Jackson surely modeled many of his dance routines after the Berkeley style.

       If you have a moment to indulge in greatness of film choreography, check out this clip below. Nothing wrong with the video at the beginning, it's just a matter of not viewing on a larger screen and even then the clip starts out in the darkness with a tiny white dot at the top of the screen.   Watch the white dot as it continues to grow.  As in all of Berkeley screen dance sequences, the film editing is expertly executed according to Busby Berkeley's precisely planned vision.

       Hope you will take a moment and I hope you will enjoy this classic clip which Berkeley named as his favorite of all of the numbers he created.

         Again, if you haven't voted on my Battle of the Bands contest for the song "I Only Have Eyes for You" I hope you will add your preference to the tally.  There's still time as I won't be adding up the votes until this Thursday in order to announce the winner on Friday.  On Wednesday I'll be relating a personal story about this great song and asking you about similar experiences you've had.  Stay with me as I keep Tossing It Out.

          Were you familiar with Berkeley's work prior to my posts?   What do you think of the Busby Berkeley style and where have you seen the influences?    Have you seen Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will or Olympia?   If so, what is your assessment of those films?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Only Have Eyes for You (BOTB)

        It's time for another Battle of the Bands, the blogging event first introduced by our friends at Far Away Series and  StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens twice each month on the 1st and 15th.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battle action.

        In this round I'm doing something different from my normal approach.  We've been discouraging using more than two versions of a song, but this time I'm going with three and I'll do some explaining later.   Also I'm going to tell you in this post which version I'm voting for, not to influence anyone's vote, but once again for reasons I'll explain after you listen to the first two brief offerings.

         This post is packed with some great music so let's get on with it!

I Only Have Eyes For You

        I thought I gave some pretty obvious clues in my guessing game of the previous two posts, but no one quite caught on even though this song is such a well known classic.

       "I Only Have Eyes For You" was written in 1934 for the film Dames.  The song is on ASCAP's list of the 25 most recorded songs of the 20th Century.   Several different recordings of the song have appeared on the charts by a number of artists.   The recording by The Flamingos ranks #157 on Rolling Stone magazines 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  

         The song was composed by Harry Warren, a songwriter in whose long career successfully turned out numerous well known songs including 21 that charted at #1 on "Your Hit Parade", and Al Dubin, a lyricist best known for his collaborations with Warren.   

The Flamingos "I Only Have Eyes For You"  (1959)

         Starting off we have what I think is the most romantic do-wop recording ever.   I'm not a big do-wop fan, but this cover of "I Only Have Eyes For You" transcends the genre to create a piece of music that I think would be nearly impossible for anyone not to like.  The vocals are celestial with an insistent hypnotic rhythmic background that draws us into a nearly dreamlike trance.  To me pop music does not get much better than this fine arrangement of an old song.   Yes, this is actually an old song first introduced in a 1934 film.  More on that later.   First the Flamingos.  

Chris Connor with Maynard Ferguson "I Only Have Eyes For You" (1960)

          I'm pretty sure that some of you who were sure they'd vote Flamingos will be faced with an agonizing decision after hearing this next version.   If you've never heard this swinging big band take with veteran jazz singer Chris Connor backed by the legendary Maynard Ferguson, be prepared to get blown away.   Great horn playing with classy swing singing makes this version of the song almost irresistible.   Will you only have ears for this version?    Take a listen.


Busby Berkeley and gang "I Only Have Eyes For You"  (1934)

         There are few things that can make me smile more than this wonderful film clip.  The clip runs a few seconds over ten minutes so it is a long one, but I think it might be worth your time to view whether you've seen it or not.   In a sense this is a compilation of variations of essentially the same arrangement of the song--in the stage musical form combination of conversation and singing, in angelic choral singing, and then in a pop-style near symphonic proportions orchestral arrangement. Smooth vocals of tenor Dick Powell with assistance of the lovely singer, dancer and actress Ruby Keeler makes this production an absolute delight.
         This excerpt of Dames displays movie magic attained not by computer generated images, but achieved with meticulous planning, clever editing, elaborate stage sets, and real people behind everything seen by the viewer.  The camera work is quite striking as well.

        I do enjoy much of the amazing CGI work in today's films, but much of it still has a fake quality that becomes a bit boring to me after seeing so many of these effects driven films.   I'll take work such as these great old Busby Berkeley numbers any day.   I've watched this clip over and over and never fail to grow tired of it.  It's truly amazing!  All I can do is encourage you to watch this clip carefully to see if you agree with what I'm saying about it.

         If you aren't willing to invest the ten minutes it takes to evaluate the clip from Dames then just pick from the first two versions and we'll see how the vote goes in the end.   As much as I like the versions by The Flamingos and the jazzier take of Chris Connor, I'm going with the original Dames version not only for the sentimental reasons from my heart, but most of all for the spectacular song arrangement and the production quality of the scene in the film.   For me it is amazing, romantic, and happy.

        If you are willing then take a listen, but be sure to watch the visuals as well:

Time to Vote!

          Which do you prefer?  I've started off the voting with one vote for the original version from the film Dames which as I said earlier is an optional choice in this contest.   I hope you will consider this one, but I'll understand if you only choose between the shorter versions.  

        Now it's up to you to determine the winner.   Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the one you chose.  Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around.   And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:


 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands



DC Relief Battle of the Bands

        The results of my Battle will be announced on Friday January 23rd.   On Monday January 19th I'll have some more to say about the films of Busby Berkeley and a further commentary about film making in our era.   Stay with me on this, but most of all please vote on this current contest as this one is near and dear to my heart in another way that I'll explain on Wednesday the 21st.

          If you don't like any version of this song, why? (You'd better have a darn good explanation for that one!)   Do you feel that older songs captured the concept of romance better than today's songs?   Why do you think that musicals are less popular in our time than during the first few decades of talking pictures?