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Peter Neushul's Musings; There is something very important about singing harmony. The most important thing about it is that it isn't important at all. As American children we are taught that we should only work and win and never just enjoy ourselves. Even our recreation seems to be about winning some sort of contest. Growing vegetables turns out to be a competitive sport, my car is bigger than your car, my lawn is greener than yours, etc. Even the sublime art of barbershop quartet singing is perverted into a huge contest where the best stadium shouting freaks usually win. 139th is about pure pleasure for pleasure's sake. We picked songs because they were amusing or interesting for some reason. I think that there is a big difference between art and drafting. Art is what you do and drafting is what someone else tells you to do. This is not to say that drafting isn't attractive or that art is always good art. I suppose art could be an oil painting or drawing with crayons on butcher paper or even a barbershop quartet. 139th St quartet almost always went wherever their artistic bent took it. It didn't always work but here it is as well as we can present it. We didn't have studio recordings of everything so some of it is recorded a bit rough but it will give you an idea of what we had in mind. The quartet sang from 1975 until 2000 something. In fact it still gets together (2007) and sings. We even wrote and sang a new intro to a song in 2005. Something that I don't think many people understand is that the quartet was about exploring various areas of music. If you look at the entire CD set you can sort of work it out. We started singing a lot of Harry Von Tilzer upbeats like Can You Tame Wild Wimmin, Don't Put A Tax On The Beautiful Girls, etc. Then we listened to what George Burns was singing and cadged a few of those like "Where Did You Get That Girl." Another area that interested us was the very old barbershop standards like "Down By The Old Mill Stream" and "Swanee." We also wrote several and sang some originals that people gave us. Most of the originals were semi-autobiographical. We went through a long Ragtime craze that went on for years and is still my favorite. There are several classical and classical put-on songs that we found funny. When we sang with Larry we did quite a few slurpy ballads that he and Jimmy liked. We sang a few modern numbers as well. We did lots of silly stuff and we sang with quite a few others, Hal Purdy, our kids, Neil Diamond, et al. Mostly we did songs that we loved. • Life is very short and if it isn't amusing, what is it for? Oh wait, (for) is a preposition and a preposition is something you should never end a sentence with. Life is very short and if it isn't amusing then for what is it? That isn't right either is it? • There is a lot of humor arranged into the songs. It isn't jokes necessarily but musical things that made us laugh, like changing the key on the last note of Crazy Words. We couldn't seem to get a good tag and Larry was noodling on the keyboard and made the key change and we all fell on the floor. It stayed. We also thought that the itinerant baritone pick up on the third of the chord was very amusing. We used that a lot. Before anyone else, we started sporting spectator shoes. Today there probably isn't a championship barbershop quartet singer who doesn't have a pair in his closet. We wore them as a joke not a fashion statement! The little whistle on an ess sound is there because someone laughed when we did it in a rehearsal. Doug used to put in unfeasibly high Chinese sevenths with the baritone singing a high L (sometimes it sounds like L) and the tenor even higher just to spice things up. That quirkiness did not go over well with the judges and the contests that we entered but they seem to have worn well. Another thing that I think we were the first to do was to sing a major chord with the third and fifth on top. (The tag on My Mother's Eyes) It is now pretty much standard but at the time we were severely criticized. Anyway, here it is. We hope you are amused. Remember, no one's last words have ever been; "Gee I wish I had spent more time at work." CD#1 Notes on some of the songs; 1) Coney Island Medley; Doug and I got together one night and tried to think of every New York song that we knew and then he strung them all together. It has our first ever, irrelevant baritone pick up on the third. I accidentally did it while we were rehearsing and everyone laughed so it stayed in. I still think it is funny. This is probably our most imitated piece, probably because it is fairly easy. We later put a bass re-bum-biddley-bye run on the tag just for old times sake. It's Jim Mehan singing lead. 2) Wait 'Til The Sun Shines Nellie; A great old Barbershop song with no gymnastics. Just singing it as straight as possible. Larry is the lead. 3) Bach's Fugue; It was originally Vivaldi. Bach stole it. Vivaldi's was an Italian military song called, "She Was Nice To The Regiment But Rotten To The Corps." This was a bear to learn but about the easiest thing to do after that. Larry maneuvered it around so that it would fit our voices. If I ever do it again I am going to write some words for it. Perhaps it will be about my dog Max. 4) Down By The Old Mill Stream; Another classic ballad. We thought it would be amusing to add the birds. That's Dan singing lead. There is something that I find very clever about the way that Doug arranged the tag. Listen closely, the bass (Jimmy) descends chromatically, i.e. in half notes for an octave. It is really interesting but makes the baritone part is a killer trying to stay out of his way. 5) 1927; Doug is a history teacher and was interested in 1927 so we got a book of 1927 newspapers and wrote down pretty much everything that happened that year. Larry, Doug, and I wrote it. 1929 was the Stock Market crash in case you forgot. Howard Scanlan was a great old friend of ours. He could sing more obscure songs than anyone I ever knew. We took him with us on several trips and he stayed up the latest and sang the longest of any of us. 6) Don't Put A Tax On The Beautiful Girls; In 1917 the Income Tax was begun. This song was a reaction to that. We changed the melody some to accommodate us and got in some ca-fuffle with the judges of barbershop at the time. As a result we skipped the 1978 International contest. The judging system has since changed. We haven't. 7) Jean; At least I hope it is Jean and not Gene. Larry loved the slurpy ballads and this is he doing one. It is a pretty song that went over well with audiences. 8) I'm Just Wild About Harry; This is my favorite song. We heard the Amherst Saxophone quartet do a version of this one and we just had to do it. Larry got so into it that he stayed up all night making our version. We have always been interest in Ragtime and this in one of many that we did. I love it. 9) Girl Friend Of A Boy Friend; I really love this song. It was originally done by Eddy Canter. It was from a 1930 musical called "Whoopee", I think the lyrics are really terrific. We also managed to sneak in the irrelevant baritone pick-up as well. 10) Lulu's Back In Town; This is a little upbeat song with lots of high parts for the baritone and tenor. Sing this more than twice and you can't talk for about a week. 11) My Mother's Eyes; This is an early ballad that we learned. Doug put in the 1-1-3-5 tag on it and we we're severely criticized for it. Of course today it is de rigeur for all the top quartets to hang one out like this. 12) My Dear Old Irish Mammy; We wrote this because it seemed that every old barbershop ballad was either about Ireland or the South. We thought that it would be amusing to combine the two. We over-dubbed the spoken "In Tuscaloosa" about 25 times just for laughs. 13) Good Old Zenith; In 1988 we did a three month run of Sinclair Lewis's "Babbit" at the Los Angeles Music Center. It was an original adaptation of the book which is about the emptiness of small town American boosterism. With us was Sundance: Jan Wycoff, Maryls Sams, Gerry Papageorge and Sally Mathews. The two quartets were like a Greek chorus and we sang for an hour each show. It was an interesting show but was never picked up to go to New York. I think it was a bit dark. Larry did all of the arrangements. 14) Blackbird; I think this is interesting because it is a five part arrangement. It has the key note sung as a drone though-out. I sing the melody as well as the drone. Actually singing one note is not as easy as it would appear. I had to record it several times to get it right. 15) I Get Around; We had a lot of fun with this one. Larry is from Chicago and he didn't know any of the surfer argot we told him to say. He didn't know what a 39 Woodie was, shoot the curl, or choose off some hoodads, etc. Meant. We never told him. More silliness. 16) Old Enough To Know Better; This is one of the first songs that we learned. We were listening to George Burns and he sang it. 17) Didn't We; This is a slurpy ballad of the sort that Jimmy and Larry loved to sing. I think the tag is interesting. 18) I Got Rhythm; I had forgotten that we recorded this and when I heard it I really laughed. I think Dan's crappy accent is a riot. I also think that the party in the backround is amusing. I almost got in two successive irrelevant baritone pick-ups except on the second one Jimmy sang it with me. We made Dan a Carman Miranda hat that weighed in at about ten pounds of plastic fruit. 19) Kids; Doug, Jim and myself were all Mr. Moms at some stage of the quartet so we always had children in tow. Our solution was to have them sing with us. At the time the airlines would sometimes let you take you child along with you at no extra charge so our kids got to see a lot of the country. The intro was sung by Jason Kline. I don't remember who sang the chorus. 20) My Alabama; This is an original ballad that Larry arranged. It sounds like an old song but it isn't. 21) French Medley; This is more silliness with Dan. It is a WWI song. At the beginning when he says something in French he is saying; "You don't sweat much for a fat girl." Later it is just jibberish. It is more of Dan's cornball accents only this time it is French. I think the tag is fun. We held out the tag forever. We thought it was funny at the time. The bombs and machine guns are just to remind us about how much fun war can be, killing people and all that. Daddy Dear Old Daddy; Here is another crusty old barbershop ballad. We tried to sing it absolutely straight with little or no embellishment. I think it is the appropriate way to do one of these. No pyrotechnics, just sing it like it was written. CD # 2; 1) Sing an Old Barbershop Song; This is an original song arranged by Larry. I always thought that the bass singing re-bum-biddly on the tag sounded like a real Barbershop Quartet. We would open with this number to set us up as a real Barbershop quartet. Then we would sing a bunch of non barbershop songs like Bach's Fugue. 2) Jump Into My Mammy's Arms; This was one of the very first songs we learned in 1975. It has a nice overtone on "itchin' for." The famous Evans quartet sang another Mammy song and it had the "So won't You Hold, etc" in it. We lifted it out of their arrangement. Thanks guys. We were so naïve that, being from Southern California, we thought mammy songs were about your mother. I guess the song isn't politically correct these days but it sure is fun to sing. 3) I Got The World On A String; We called this our elevator song because we could sing the whole thing during one elevator ride assuming you went several floors. When we recorded it we added several extra juicy parts in a few places. The tag must have 7 or 8 parts. We did get a big laugh out of it at the time. 4) Crazy Words; When we were working on the tag Doug was noodling on the keyboard and put in the key change on the tag. He claims he did it because he wanted Johnny to end up on a high note. I think it was an accident but it seemed to us that the song was crazy, why not a key change? We did get some flack from the chord Nazis but we thought it was appropriate. This is Johnny doing his breaking glass at 40 paces thing. By the way, we did break glass once. There was a wine glass sitting in front of a speaker and it broke when we hit a high hard one. OK it was only the stem but it still broke. 5) Best Times I Ever Had This is a song we wrote about my dad. Most of it is true. When I was about 8 years old I got a bike for Christmas but my Dad had to assemble it and couldn't get the fenders on. I never got left at the County fair but I was regularly forgotten at the city pool. When they sat down for dinner some one would say "Where's Peter?" "Egad, he's still at the pool!" I guess that it was about Doug's, Larry's, and Jim's dads as well. 6) Money Makes The World Go Round; More silliness. We used to carry a guitar case around with all the noise makers in it until Jimmy left it at some airport. I'm still miffed because it had the best cow bell I ever heard in it. We still rib him about it. 7) My Romance The HiLos were our inspiration. They sang a terrific version of it. 8) By The Sea Medley; We competed with this song and before had passed out a bunch of deflated plastic beach balls. When we sang this our friends tossed the balls into the audience and they were batted about by 10,000 people. Afterwards Roger Paine told us that he almost passed out trying to blow the dang thing up in time. 9) I Wish I Was Eighteen Again; This is with Hal Purdy who was about 90 when he sang it with us. Hal would sometimes travel with us. He went to Russia with us and was a huge hit. Hal would sing until the cows came home if you let him. He generally outlasted the likes of us. What a great guy. 10) Don't take Me Home; This is an early recording. This has my favorite middle. It is "Don't you go and take me home now." In 2006 we wrote a new verse which I think is a big improvement. Also, Doug wrote a new infeasibly high tag to go with it. We used the old recording of it because it is with Jim Meehan. If you hear us live we will sing it for you. 11) It's the Wild Wild Women; We wrote the intro. The bridge with all of the girl's name was composed on an airplane flight. Both Doug and I had just had new additions (Tommy and Olivia) and we had a book with names in it so we circled all of the names that vaguely rhymed. We couldn't find anything that rhymed with Prisilla so we thought Goddzilla would be nice. 12) God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; If the voice sounds familiar it is not surprising. It is Neil Diamond. It is on one of his Christmas albums. When he first heard us he asked, "When do you breathe?" We told him "Tuesdays." We did two albums with him but only included one. He graciously let us enclude this one on the CD. 13) Here You Are Back Again; Ah yes, another autobiographical song. We wrote this one. A lot of other quartets and choruses have sung this song. Most of them got it wrong however because it is not another "I wish I Had Died In My Shorts"song. It is rather nasty as it says sorry but I've fallen for someone new, kiss off, later dude, as a surprise at the end. I guess it didn't say it strongly enough for people to get it. It has an interesting tag because Larry and I switch off and both sing the key note. 14) Maple Leaf Rag; As I may have mentioned, we were really interested in Ragtime. This was Scott Joplin's first big hit. It sold over a million copies around 1900. It had some words to it as well. We added some more lyrics so we could sing it. I think it came out pretty well. 15) Bill Bailey Fugue; There was a famous quartet called The Bay Town Four that sang it. We did a show in San Francisco years after they retired and the Bass suggested that we sing it and sent it to us. The original version was by Lambert Henricks and Ross. We added more bafoonery. It has a great last note with Doug hitting a high hard one. 16) Grandpa's Spells; This is a great ragtime song by Jellyroll Morton. It didn't have any lyrics so we wrote some about my Grandfather who was a retired Marine Corps General and could drink more and show it less than any other 10 men that I know. He was so tough that when he died they had to remove his liver and beat it to death. It turns out that Jellyroll wrote this about his grandfather who was into voodoo. Who knew? 17) Chops; This is more from Babbitt. In the show we sat around a table and pretended to eat plastic chops while we sang this song. Singing a high M or what ever hell it is whilst seated ain't easy. The audience always loved it. I think they liked to see me turn red, pass out and fall on the ground afterwards. 18) Lovely Way to spend An Evening; This is another nice oldie. We would usually end the evening with it. We do have another story about us singing it at 3:00 AM at a hotel in San Francisco and the woman upstairs going berserk. Ah yes, them were the days. 19) Interview with Hal Purdy; Hal was a grand fellow and we had lots of great times with him. 20) Swanee; Here is another high hard one. 21) Breaking Up Is Hard To Do; Larry played the piano and I played the bass. It was a nice change from a cappella. We would close our shows with it. CD#3 1) Parade Medley; This is one of the few arrangements that we didn't do. It was arranged by Jay Gialombardo. The New Tradition Quartet sang it first. 2) Can You Tame Wild Wimmen; This was arranged by Dave Briner. We actually over-recorded it 25 times so that we would sound like a 100 man chorus but after 6 or 7 times it all sounded the same. We were shot after singing it 25 times in a row. 3) Where Did You Get That Girl; This is one of my favorites and one of the first songs we learned in 1976. I think that Doug and Earl Moon wrote the verse. 4) I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face; We used to call this "I've Sewn A Costume To Her Face." I would call this a little lightweight listening thing. 5) Ivory Rag; This is a live recording that has the obvious faults but we thought it was such a great song that we wanted to include it. I really like the tag. 6) 45 Minutes From Broadway. When we recorded it we put down a piece of plywood and John Sherburn tapped it out about 10 times. 7) Kids Songs; The little girl at the beginning was my 3 year old daughter Olivia. OK she isn't 3 anymore. She is a mom herself now. During a break in recording I picked her up and she sang it. The engineer secretly taped it and played it for us. Larry dashed to the piano and whipped out the backround harmony parts and we recorded it on the spot listening to Olivia on the headphones. This is the one and only performance of Bye Baby Bunting. 8) You Tell Her I Stutter; More non-pc material from your friends at 139th St. Great key change though. 9) Old Folks; I had this great idea that if I put a mute on my bass, I could bow it and make it sound like a fifth voice. I didn't realize that the bass can't sing vowels or consonants. Here is our experiment. I give it a C-. 10) Take Her Down To Coney Island And Give Her the Air; Giving someone the air means to get rid of them. The problem with singing some of these old songs is that the language has passed them by. No one knows what the hell you are talking about. 11) Puttin' On The Ritz; This is Jimmy doing his Fred Astaire bit. Check out the original lyrics sometime. They wouldn't pass muster in today's world. 12) Portrait Medley; More of Larry's ballads. 13) A Cup Of Coffee A Sandwich And You; With a title like that, what's not to like? 14) Moscow Nights; We found out that there was a Russian quartet called the Quiet Don and we finagled to get them to come to the USA and do a tour. They were a monster hit everywhere they sang. We visited them in Russia and this is a song with 139th St, The Quiet Don and their wives who had formed a quartet as well and were very charming and wonderful. This is all of us singing. 15) If I We're You I'd Fall In Love With Me; This is another song that we cadged from Eddie Cantor. I really like the lyrics. He is one of our heroes. 16) I Rather Be A Booster Than A Wise Guy; More from Babbitt. I think that this was originally I'd Rather Be A Lobster Than A Wise Guy. That's Sundance singing with us again. This is what I would call "In Your Face" barbershop. Great fun. 17) Through The Years; This is a great arrangement that we pretty well brutalized. Enough said. 18) One Note Samba; I don't know why we learned this? It was great fun to sing but I doubt that we ever sang it on a show. I do like the song and the arrangement which was done by Neal Tyree. 19) Cheers; We were on several episodes of "Cheers." We thought it would be appropriate to learn the theme song. 20) The entire 20th Century. This is a jaundiced look at the decline of American music in the 20th century. 139th gives a history lesson. 21) Rigoletto; This is an original published arrangement from 1922. After a few of our shows we had some very old fellows come up to us and tell us that they used to sing the same arrangement in vaudeville. Who says we don't preserve the old songs?

Details

Kunstenaar: 139th Street Quartet
Titel: Collection
Genre: Rock
Releasedatum: 27-4-2010
Label: CD Baby
Media-indeling: CD
UPC: 837101367103
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