The power of Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” lies largely in the cheerfulness of the melody, in juxtaposition to Dylan’s scathing lyrics.
Anita Kerr arranged and produced many vocal groups, as well as collaborating with one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Rod McKuen (see my July 8th “On The Road” posting). In 1966, Kerr’s project, The Living Voices, recorded this gem for the album Positively 4th Street and Other Message Folk Songs. They take Dylan’s sarcasm to the next level in this sickly-sweet version of “Positively 4th Street.” Easy-listening with punch. Their version of “Universal Soldier” blows me away, too.
In the same vein of “Wow, what a weird reading of a song” is Noel Harrison’s version of “Whiter Shade of Pale.” Harrison, son of Rex, AKA Dr. Doolittle and Henry Higgins, is most famous for his version of “Windmills of Your Mind”, from the soundtrack to the original The Thomas Crown Affair. This is off his album Collage, which has an awesome trippy cover, which is why I originally bought it.
Here’s “Whiter Shade of Pale”, along with the title track off his album Santa Monica Pier.
Santa Monica Pier was built in 1909 and was one of the original amusement piers in America. By the 1970s it was in shambles and near demolition, when preservationists saved it. Where would Jack, Janet, and Chrissy (in the Three’s Company opening) galavant and drive bumper cars if not for those concerned citizens saving Santa Monica Pier?
Some good things can’t be saved. New Orleans had an amusement park named Pontchartrain Beach, on Lake Pontchartrain, which was closed in 1983, due to dwindling ticket sales and the competition from the forthcoming World’s Fair of 1984.
People used to swim in the lake, but not since I can remember.
Here’s a 1962 radio commercial for Pontchartrain Beach from WTIX:
Pontchartrain Beach was “whites only” until 1964. Lincoln Beach was a smaller-scaled amusement park for non-whites, and featured live performances from great artists such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Neville Brothers, and Sam Cooke. It was also the site of the annual Negro State Fair, and was one of the only beaches open to African-Americans in the country. Here’s a clipping from a 1954 issue of Jet Magazine covering the “Miss Lincoln Beach” competition.
Lincoln Beach closed in 1965 mainly due to desegregation. It fell into disrepair, and was further damaged by the floodwaters of Katrina, which heavily affected New Orleans East. Here’s the old rusted sign and pavillion to Lincoln Beach now.