Sunday, January 27, 2013

Musical Mamma

The Summer of 1978. I was 11. That was the summer my parents let me go to San Jose solo for a couple of weeks, and that's how I discovered my love for Broadway musical soundtracks. My sister spent the summer with my grandparents in Texas (I keep telling her it wasn't so bad, she got to learn how to drive a tractor afterall...) while I spent several weeks in San Jose with my diaper buddy Lori and her cousin Deb, who was visiting from the Bronx. The three of us spent our days at the park playing Mancala using an egg carton and marbles while I tried to imitate Deb's thick New York accent, and our nights fighting over who got to play Breakout on the family's new Atari 2600 console. The rest of the time we were rehearing for our musical.

Yes, we had mighty big plans for a big musical production. A Really Big Shewww.

Grease - which was first a hit on Broadway in 1971 - had just come out that summer on the big screen, and I knew every word to every song. I bought the soundtrack for my little sister for her birthday, and then borrowed it back from her and took it with me down to Lori's where we spent countless hours every day choreographing and singing songs from the film (my favorite was singing Stockard Channing's character in "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee").  Lori had the soundtrack to "A Chorus Line," so we also worked a few numbers from that album into our production, which I'm not sure we ever actually put on for anyone. The plan was, as I recall, to put on a show for my little sister as a late birthday present when she showed up with the folks after her cross-counry road trip back from Texas to take me back to Oregon. My sister says she might have a vague memory of watching us gals doing our best Fosse moves in Lori's living room. And then again, maybe she's just finally worked up a visualization of the story I've told many times over the years (pretty much every time I hear anything related to Grease, John Travolta, Stockard Channing or Olivia Newton-John, that story comes out of my mouth). But we sure had a lot of fun getting ready for the performance that may or may not have actually occurred.

Since then, I've always had an affinity for musicals. Broadway shows, big screen musicals, I love them all. These days, however, I've become a Musical Mamma. However, instead of learning all that choreography myself, I'm living vicariously through my teenage daughter, who has been performing in musicals since the 2nd grade. First it was Annie, followed by Aladdin, then 101 Dalmatians. In more recent years she was in Once Upon A Mattress, Willy Wonka, Annie (for the 2nd time), and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Although I don't keep up with the dance moves or her lines, I've found that I can't help learning all the lyrics to the songs in the show. It's probably because, like the overly involved devoted Musical Mamma that I am, I play the music from whatever production my daughter is involved with on the car stereo every morning on the way to school so she can work in a few extra minutes of rehearse time.  I wake up with these songs in my head, even months after the show is done. Musical soundtracks are so catchy. So annoyingly catchy. So aggravatingly stick-in-your-head-and-pop-up-at-all-hours-of-the-day-and-night catchy.

We've already established how much I love Grease. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was when Jefferson Public Radio brought the sing-a-long version of the film to the Cascade Theatre last year. For most people, the film was a lot more than just a passive event. My daughter and I spent the afternoon scouring local thrift stores for costumes, and we weren't the only ones. There were leather motorcycle coats & slicked back do's, poodle skirts, pedal pushers and pink satin jackets. Everyone danced in the aisles (seriously, how often are we encouraging dancing in the aisles at the Cascade?) to Greased Lightning, and there were a few opportunities for audience members to get up on stage and strut their stuff on mic. There were contests, prizes and I had at least two Pink Ladies. The drink, I mean.

Because we had so much fun the last time, JPR is bringing another sing-a-long broadway musical to the Cascade Theatre's big screen this month with Mamma Mia! This gives me two great opportunities with today's MotM. The first is to share my favorite broadway/big screen musical hits playlist with you, and the second is to offer one lucky reader a chance to win a pair of tickets to the event, which is a lot more than a's more of a disco-themed costume party mixed with karaoke and dancing.

For those not yet in the know, Mamma Mia was the smash Broadway hit musical based entirely on songs made famous by the Swedish disco-era superstar pop band ABBA. The musical, set on a Greek island and featuring about 25 of ABBA's best known songs worked into the story line, came out in 1999. The film adaptation, about ten years later, stars Oscar winner Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski and the always hilarious Julie Walters. Now there's a sing-a-long version, and the Cascade will show it on the big screen Sunday, February 10th at 7:30pm.

I don't expect anyone to put together an outfit like these (from the stage musical). But if you happen to have something similar hanging in  your closet, now's the time to dig it out!

The sing-a-long version features some help with a bouncing disco ball following the lyrics on screen (and usually there's someone on stage to get you going too), and everyone's encouraged to put on their dancing shoes and dress the part, dance in the aisles (and sometimes on stage), and get into it Rocky Horror Picture Show-style (without the rice and toast). It's a fun, interactive event for folks who've been waiting for the chance to bust out their best Dancing Queen disco moves from the 70's and aren't afraid of getting silly. And to help get you silly, the bar will be open, serving creative drink specials. Maybe you could even help us come up with some theme drink ideas in the comment section below. Even if you don't have a drink idea to offer, if you leave a comment below, you'll be entered into a drawing for a pair of tickets to the Mamma Mia Sing-A-Long film event! We'll announce the winner next week, allowing plenty of time for you to find a date. Or be a Super Trouper and bring a whole gang!

To purchase tickets, check out the event page at the Cascade Theatre website or give the box office a call at (530) 243-8877.

In the meantime, enjoy today's Broadway & Film musical extravaganza Grooveshark Playlist  here or by clicking on the play button below.

Broadway by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Mamma Mia - Mamma Mia! 
  2. Greased Lightning - Grease 
  3. A Hard Knock Life - Annie 
  4. Cruella De Vil - 101 Dalmatians
  5. Thoroughly Modern Millie - Thoroughly Modern Millie
  6. Popular - Wicked
  7. Sweet Transvestite - Rocky Horror Picture Show the original sing-a-long musical!
  8. Mean Green Mother from Outer Space - Little Shop of Horrors
  9. Master of the House - Les Miserables
  10. If I Were A Rich Man - Fiddler On The Roof
  11. Arabian Nights - Aladdin
  12. You Won't Succeed On Broadway - Monty Python's Spamalot
  13. The Rain In Spain - My Fair Lady 
  14. Good Morning Baltimore - Hairspray
  15. Suddenly Seymour - Little Shop of Horrors
  16. Memory - Cats Can you believe I've never seen this?
  17. Overture & All That Jazz - Chicago
  18. Cool - West Side Story
  19. Hey Big Spender - Sweet Charity  True story: When I was in the 9th grade, my friend Elaine and I would dance our way to school down the street, singing this song at the top of our lungs. Well, this and the Dr. Pepper song.
  20. Razzle Dazzle - Chicago
  21. Any Way You Want It/I Wanna Rock - Rock of Ages 
  22. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything - Veggietales You may be thinking that this doesn't qualify, but it does! The creators of this amazing animated musical series also came out with a live Veggietales stage show some years ago. It even played the Cascade Theatre. Yep, I was there, and yep, I sang this song real loud! I think I still have my backstage VIP pass. Don't judge me!
  23. Fred - Once Upon A Mattress
  24. A Bushel & A Peck - Guys & Dolls
  25. Gigi - Gigi
  26. Oh What A Beautiful Morning - Oklahoma
  27. Sixteen Going on 17 - Sound of Music My mom tells me this is the first musical I ever attended, but since I was still in her womb, I don't really remember it.
  28. Be Our Guest - Beauty & The Beast
  29. Brush Up Your Shakespeare - Kiss Me Kate The first musical I actually remember seeing as a kid, and this song has stuck in my memory for about 40 years.
  30. The Fart Song - Lion King Sorry, couldn't help it. I made chili for dinner tonight.
  31. I Just Can't Wait To Be King - Lion King
  32. Get'cha Head In The Game - High School Musical Kudos to the folks who thought of using the sounds heart on a basketball court as musical elements for this song. 
  33. Take A Chance On Me - Mamma Mia! I hope you'll take a chance on attending this super fun event at the Cascade Theatre. Don't forget...Sunday, February 10th, 7:30pm. Drink specials...costume contests...prizes...dancing is actually encouraged in the aisles! Get tickets here

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I Got Ya Covered

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Today's MotM is all about sincere flattery, and I think you'll enjoy this crazy trip that weaves old and new, amazing and awful and a few little mind blowers. Like, for example, did you know that Manfred Mann's incredible "Blinded by the Light" was actually a cover? And wait til you hear who did it first! Or how about Nazareth's biggest hit being done first by The Everly Brothers? Who woulda thunk it?

The idea for today's playlist comes from my family's current favorite TV show, The Voice. For those who aren't in the know, The Voice is a singing competition program on NBC with 4 famous coaches who lead their vocal teams into a final showdown resulting in one winner, with the help of voting from viewers. I know, I's not an original idea. American Idol has been doing basically the same thing for years. And just like American Idol, none of the songs performed on the show seem to be originals either. But that's okay, because sometimes the original idea is more like a rough draft. A bit flawed. It's not til the next generation, or the one after that, when genius really strikes.

So back to The Voice. A few weeks ago as Season #3 was narrowing down the competition, there was an incredible performance from cutiepie Dez Duron. Hailing from Louisiana, Duron was the QB for Yale's JV football team before he quit to follow his dream of singing. He belted out an incredible song I'd never heard before, and it was amazing. If I didn't know better, I would've thought it was a cover of Harry Connick Jr or Michael Buble. Well, I didn't know any better. I'd never heard the song. I had no idea it was from Justin Bieber. Yeah. Bieber. But the thing is, the song was amazing when it was recycled and adultified a bit, and even my Bieber-bashing teenage daughter had to admit how great it was. That Dez sang it exactly the way it should have always been done. Check it out:

In Season #2, we rooted for former Mouseketeer Tony Lucca. Under the tutelage of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, Lucca performed better-than-the-original renditions of Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time," and Jay Z's "99 Problems." But his best performance that made me absolutely sure he was a winner (he wasn't), turned out to be a cover of The Heavy's "How You Like Me Now."

It's not available on Grooveshark, but you can watch his performance here, and I hope you do, because it's really really really good. I dare you to disagree with me! Even Blake Shelton called the performance badass. It got me to thinking about all the cover songs I've loved over the years which were actually better than the original. A few great examples from today's playlist:

Blinded By The Light Amazing song by Manfred Mann. Who knew that Bruce Springsteen actually wrote and sang it first? I didn't...and it's nowhere near as good. You'll have to check it out for yourself.

Wild Thing My favorite version was a dance mix from 1985 by the punk band X. But everybody knows from a few decades earlier....however, did you know the original version was recorded by a band called The Wild Ones in 1965? Thank goodness The Troggs thought they could improve on it just a year later, because the original is absolutely awful. Just to show you, I've included all 3 versions on today's playlist.

Goo Goo Muck My mind was officially blown when I discovered that what I thought was the quintessential original Cramps song was a cover of an obscure tune from 1962, done originally by a band out of Bakersfield called The Gaylads (not to be confused with a later Jamaican reggae band with the same really bad name). Blown, I tell ya! And this whole time I thought Lux Interior and Poison Ivy were so creative and came up with those bizarre lyrics on their own.

Hey Joe What? Jimi Hendrix didn't do it first? No! Say it ain't so, Joe. But fortunately he came along and did it justice. I think you'll agree.

Love Hurts Another shocker. After growing up with the 70's Nazareth version of this rock ballad, it was a little shattering to find that The Everly Brothers did it first in 1960. This is a song that just screams to be featured on an episode of That 70's Show when Donna dumps Eric and he's moping in the basement, not crooned to an acoustic guitar on a beach around a bonfire in an Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon beach party movie. It's just not right, I tell ya.

Can't Get Used To Losing You I was 15. I had ratted out hair and wore purply black lipstick and went to a lot of punk shows, but secretly loved ska and reggae. Well, not so secretly. One day I was in the kitchen singing along to this song by The English Beat, when my dad walked by and stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me funny.
"Whuuuuut?" I said, all surly and Moon Zappa like.
"I just didn't figure you for an Andy Williams fan," said he.
I didn't think he knew what he was talking about.
He did.

This is just the tip of the cover song iceberg, but you'll hear many more on today's playlist by clicking the play button below or visiting Grooveshark. I know there's more awesome cover songs than I could ever include in today's playlist, but feel free to add your favorite in the comments section, and I'll try to add them on, because I kinda like you guys, and um... well... I got ya covered.
Covered by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Dez Duron - U Smile I won't even bore you with the original.
  2. Manfred Mann - Blinded By The Light 
  3. Bruce Springsteen - Blinded By The Light
  4. Carlos Santana - Black Magic Woman Fleetwood Mac did it first in '68. Santana did it better two years later, and it turned into a classic.
  5. Aaron Neville - Everybody Plays The Fool The Main Ingredient (which featured actor Cuba Gooding Jr's father, btw) got a Grammy nod for this tune in 1972, but I still like Neville's version from 1991 better.
  6. English Beat - Tears of a Clown Did you know that Stevie Wonder co-wrote this song? It was Smokey Robinson & The Miracles who recorded it in the 60's, and lots of folks have covered it (including Phil Collins & Petula Clark) but you know I've got a thing for The English Beat.
  7. UB40 - Many Rivers To Cross Jimmy Cliff's version is awesome, but this is the one I cut my teeth on, and will always be my favorite.
  8. Annie Lennox - Train In Vain I didn't think this classic from The Clash could be improved, but I was wrong. Supposedly Dwight Yoakam & Third Eye Blind did versions too.
  9. English Beat - Can't Get Used To Losing You
  10. Andy Williams - Can't Get Used To Losing You
  11. Nazareth - Love Hurts
  12. Everly Brothers - Love Hurts
  13. Gloria Jones - Tainted Love This tune was a commercial flop when first recorded in 1965. Soft Cell gave it the sound it needed in 1981.
  14. Tony Lucca - 99 Problems Besides the original from Jay-Z, country band Hugo recorded it as well, and it's that version that inspired Tony Lucca. 
  15. X - Wild Thing
  16. The Troggs - Wild Thing
  17. The Wild Ones - Wild Thing
  18. Wall of Voodoo - Ring Of Fire I admit this version could never top Johnny Cash's original, but I had to include it, because it's so interesting and cool. And a huge part of my teenage years.
  19. Johnny Cash - Hurt When I heard Johnny Cash had recorded a Trent Reznor song, I was just hoping it wasn't "Closer." Cash really nailed it.
  20. Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus Depeche Mode's version is great, but again...Cash nailed it.
  21. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah Possibly the most covered song of modern times.
  22. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over The Rainbow My daughter grew up listening to this version, and didn't realize it had been made famous more than 50 years earlier. 
  23. Richard Cheese - Bohemian Rhapsody I wanted to share Jake Shimabukuro's solo ukelele version of this Queen classic (which is spectacular), but this'll's not better, but it's kind of funny!
  24. Cheap Trick - Don't Be Cruel 
  25. Devo - Working In The Coal Mine Allen Toussaint did this in '66, and Devo did it in '81.
  26. The Cramps - Goo Goo Muck
  27. The Gaylads - Goo Goo Muck
  28. The Leaves - Hey Joe At least I saved the worst for last...
Bonus: Wait, don't go yet! I've got one more that I wasn't able to include on the Grooveshark playlist either because of availability. Chester See is an  artist most of you have probably never heard of. His gig is covering other people's songs on YouTube. In the following video, he partners up with another talented fella, Andy Lange, to create a really cool version of  'Madness' that is, I think, better than Muse's. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Some people call me a control freak, and mostly that's true. But sometimes, you just have to surrender to the things you can't control. The last edition of Mistress of the Mix was a perfect example of that, when certain events completely out of my realm of control (like the rumored ending of the world), pre-empted my originally scheduled column for December 21st for one that was more appropriate to all that breaking news of the day.

But now that's all over, we've had a couple of amazing holidays since then. Even the fiscal cliff didn't happen (which was far more likely, in my opinion, than the Mayans correctly predicting the end of the world). So I guess it's back to our regularly scheduled programming, and my favorite story about the lack of light.

December 21st. The Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year. The one really great thing about the shortest day is that every day after that (for the next 364 days) is longer. Aaaah, more sunlight...the stuff that makes Redding the 3rd sunniest spot in the nation. I can never get enough of it, perhaps because I was deprived of it for so long.

During my 13 years in Petersburg, Alaska, there wasn't a whole lot of sun. And in the winter, not a whole lot of light. To the best of my recollection, around the Winter Solstice, it was total darkness until 9am, and became total darkness again around 3. So dark that you'd think it was 3am if you didn't know better. The lack of sunlight, by the way, can wreak some serious havoc with some people. You've probably heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which can exhibit itself during the winter months with serious mood changes, depression, lack of energy, and a tendency to sleep much more than usual...symptoms that might explain the following story about a particularly dark Winter day in Alaska.

One mid-December afternoon I was toiling away at the community public radio station, when I got a phone call from Ken. Ken didn't offer his name, but I knew who it was. It was a little town, and after awhile not only do you get to know pretty much everyone (and their bidness), but you also get to recognize their voices. So when I got a phone call from the grouchy night watchman at the cannery who lived in the apartment across the hall from my friend Rachel, I knew it was him even though he didn't identify himself.

Particularly grouchy this time, he just launched into a tirade that started off with "I can't believe I actually got someone on the phone. Usually when I call to tell you numbskulls that you've screwed up your programming, nobody even answers the phone."(I'm cleaning up his language a little bit here, but you get the drift.)

Ken was hopping mad that KFSK (the only radio station on the FM band in those parts) was airing something that he equated with a substance normally excreted out of the human body with the assistance of a toilet. He was referring to the country music program on the air at that moment; a program that I hosted for many years. And he was right, some of that music was total crap, but we were a station that was saddled with being everything to all people. Depending on what day and what time you were tuning in, you might hear light rock or heavy metal, new age or new wave, a Lawrence Welk polka, Handel's Water Music, the crooning of Dean Martin or someone reading a book over the air. And of course there was country, every afternoon from 2:30 to 4pm. Sprinkled within was news....from the BBC, the CBC, NPR and the Christian Science Monitor. We tried to cover it all. A little something for everyone.

I was polite. Perhaps more polite than I should've been, since Ken was ranting and cussing up a storm, yelling about how incompetent the station was because it couldn't even get the right program on at the right time of day, what the hell was wrong with us, and why couldn't we just get it right, and he was fed up with it. That kind of stuff. I just sighed, and let him continue his haranguing while I stared out the window into the pitch black darkness of a December afternoon.

When he finally took a breath, I said, "Uh, Ken? Do you know what time it is?"

A little after 3, he said. News time, he said.

Ayup, said I. And at 3am every day, we air news from the BBC.

That made sense to Ken. That's what he was expecting to hear, so why were we airing all this country music crap instead?

"Because it's 3pm, Ken."



Sometimes I get a little cranky in the winter, just like Ken. There are ways to help alleviate the symptoms, by the way. Light therapy is one. Several of my friends had light boxes in their homes, and even the community mental health clinic had one that anyone could go use. Melatonin therapy is another way, but probably the best thing to do is get thyself to somewhere with more light. And that's just what today's playlist is designed to do...shed a little light on the topic of light. I dedicate this Grooveshark playlist to you Ken, and here's hoping you're sunning yourself somewhere down in Australia right about now.

This streaming playlist should play when you click on the play button below, or check it out directly at Grooveshark.

Lights by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Lights - Grasscut One of my new favorite songs
  2. Turn The Lights On - Big Sugar 
  3. Turn Out The Light - Nelly Furtado
  4. Bright Lights - Cee-Lo
  5. Daylight - Coldplay
  6. Light Me Up - Ween
  7. Put Your Lights On - Carlos Santana
  8. Turn All The Lights On - Oi Va Voy
  9. Spotlight - Mute Math Once more I tip my hat to my daughter for turning me onto this band
  10. Starlight - Muse
  11. Lights - Ellie Goulding I could go for the next six months without hearing this overplayed song again, but I couldn't not include it in today's playlist.
  12. Blinded By The Light - Manfred Mann This song is a hint of things to come! Did you know this is a cover song from a much less famous version by a much more famous star? 
  13. Lights - Bruno Mars
  14. Light It Up - Bootsy Collins
  15. Keep The Lights On - Wave Machines
  16. Lights - Journey
  17. Blue Light - Mazzy Star
  18. Northern Lights - Cider Sky
  19. You Light Up My Life - Debby Boone One of the first songs I learned how to play on the piano (after Beethoven and Chopin) and it surprised me that I can still belt out the words to this after more than 30 years.
  20. Out Go The Lights - Spoon
  21. Boom Boom, Out Go The Lights - Little Walter
  22. Turn On All The Lights - Leon & Eric Bibb
  23. Bright Lights Big City - The Rolling Stones
  24. Bright Lights - Matchbox Twenty
  25. Lit Up - Buckcherry
  26. Hit The Lights - Selena Gomez & The Scene