Friday, November 15, 2013


Ta Da! It's the fifteenth of the month AGAIN, ALREADY! You know what that means don't ya? It's time for another BATTLE OF THE BANDS.

Time sure flies when you're fighting with a new computer operating system that you have no idea who to drive having fun. Ah well, you guys know me. This dumb blonde and Windows 8 = a mild computer meltdown.

So whaddaya say we just get on with the BATTLE. But first a little info on the song I've choosen for you today 'Mack the Knife'. Think this is a toe tappin', finger snappin' kind of song. Well, just in case you never actually listened closely to the lyrics, read on and learn yerself somthin'. OK, I have no idea why this dumb machine bright and shiny new piece of crap computer won't print this in my signature blue, but we'll be here until 2020, if don't just type on.

The Threepenny Opera

A moritat (from mori meaning "deadly" and tat meaning "deed") is a medieval version of the murder ballad performed by strolling minstrels. In The Threepenny Opera, the moritat singer with his street organ introduces and closes the drama with the tale of the deadly Mackie Messer, or Mack the Knife, a character based on the dashing highwayman Macheath in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (who was in turn based on the historical thief Jack Sheppard). The Brecht-Weill version of the character was far more cruel and sinister, and has been transformed into a modern anti-hero.

The play opens with the moritat singer comparing Macheath (unfavorably) with a shark, and then telling tales of his robberies, murders, rapes, and arson.

The song was a last minute addition, inserted just before its première in 1928, because Harald Paulsen, the actor who played Macheath, demanded that Brecht and Weill add another number that would more effectively introduce his character.[1] However, Weill and Brecht decided the song should not be sung by Macheath himself, opting instead to write the song for a street singer in keeping with the moritat tradition. At the première, the song was sung by Kurt Gerron, who played Police Chief Brown. Weill also intended the Moritat to be accompanied by a barrel organ, which was to be played by the singer.[2] At the premiere, though, the barrel organ failed, and the pit orchestra (a jazz band) had to quickly provide the accompaniment for the street singer. [3]

"Mack the Knife" was introduced to the United States hit parade by Louis Armstrong in 1956, but the song is most closely associated with Bobby Darin, who recorded his version at Fulton Studios on West 40th Street, New York City, on December 19, 1958 (with Tom Dowd engineering the recording). In 1959 Darin's version reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and number six on the Black Singles chart, and earned him a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Dick Clark had advised Darin not to record the song because of the perception that, having come from an opera, it wouldn't appeal to the rock & roll audience. In subsequent years, Clark recounted the story with good humor. Frank Sinatra, who recorded the song with Quincy Jones on his "L.A. Is My Lady" album, called Darin's the "definitive" version. Darin's version hit #3 on Billboard's All Time Top 100.[7] In 2003, the Darin version was ranked #251 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list. On BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, pop mogul Simon Cowell named "Mack the Knife" the best song ever written.

The song has been parodied many times. Steve Martin parodied "Mack the Knife" in his opening monologue to the premiere of Saturday Night Live's third season in 1977. In the mid-1980s, McDonald's introduced Mac Tonight, a character whose signature song was based on "Mack the Knife." American political parodists the Capitol Steps used the tune for their song "Pack the Knife" on their 2002 album When Bush Comes to Shove. (courtesy of Wikipedia - if you can believe them)

Alrighty then. As finger tappin' and toe snappin' as this song might be, it certainly leans to the morbid side of silly. I especially like the idea of the 'Mac Tonight' parody, which BTW was mentioned to me yesterday while discussing this BOTB with a friend.

Well, here they are the two 'originals' (as least according to Wikipedia).

First up Satchmo, or Mr. Louis Armstrong:

Next Mr. Sandra Dee or I mean Bobby Darin:

Now, without a moments hesitation hurry on over to Tossing It Out the home of the inquisitive and controversial Mr. Arlee Bird and Ferret Faced Fascist Friends the home of that 'That Man About Town with an Ace up his Sleeve', Mr. Stephen t. McCarthy, and see what they have cooked up for us in their Battle of the Bands numero ocho!

Check out the comment section for other participants and those of you participating leave a comment to direct others to your site - come on now, just do it, don't be shy.

Just realized that because I'm on a stupid new new and improved computer, I can't easily publish the rules to the official contest, but I'm trusting that Mr. McCarthy will have them up on his blog - please go over there for a quick review.

Now vote and let me know what you think!


  1. Somewhere in my collection of music I have a recording of the song as intended with the barrel organ and I do like that version.

    Simon Cowell is nuts if he thinks this is the best song ever written, but he's kind of nuts in his musical taste anyway. I should be so nuts as to be as wealthy as he is.

    Darin's version is good--so slick and polished. I can see where this one is the source of parodies since it does border on the absurd when considering content vs presentation.

    But Armstrong is the king and wins this contest in my ears. I like his playing and his gravely delivery comes closest to the story in the song.

    Louis Armstrong is my pick.

    Tossing It Out

  2. This is a tough one. Louis is a fave of mine, and I do like the the Bobby Darin Version. However, Louis' version retains the flavor of the three-penny opera and his horn playing just perfects it.

    Bobby's version, like Sinatra's version, tends to have that night club essence, all polished and smooth, none of the original grit. (Mr. Sandra Dee, indeed. Makes me think of 'Grease'.)

    My vote is for Louis Armstrong!!

  3. Bobby Darin has always been one of my all time favorites, and Mack the Knife is one of my favorite songs. I loved Satchmo's, but I've got to give it to Bobby Darin. For me, no question.

    Fun fact: I had karaoke at my wedding, and I sang the Bobby Darin version of Mack the Knife. Most people didn't know I can carry a tune. Brought the house down. Probably one of my fondest memories of the reception.

  4. Now normally I'd be going with the Armstrong version, but this is a song that when I hear it in my head, it has an arrangement like Darin's (although Sinatra is singing it)...

    So Bobby Darin gets a vote from me today (He did not fare so well on the Stephen T. McCarthy contest)!


  5. I'll begin by saying that in my house, when I was growing up, it was my Ma who was the huge Bobby Darin fan. My Pa, not quite so much.

    But I can still remember when Frank Sinatra came out with his version of 'MACK THE KNIFE' and my Pa was somewhat disgusted by that.

    You know how some songs are so COMPLETELY associated with certain performers (sometimes even being the performer's "signature tune", like 'MACK' was for Bobby Darin)? It's as if certain singers or musicians "OWN THAT SONG!" and it's almost an attempted act of theft when someone else records (tries to "steal") the song?

    Well, that's how my Pa felt about Sinatra with that move he pulled. Pa thought it was damned nervy of Frank to record 'MACK' after Darin had so thoroughly made it his own.

    If my Ma had a grave, she'd be rolling over in it due to what I am now about to say...

    BOTH versions of this song are good. Darin's energy is great and that is one truly fantastic band he has backing him! It's no wonder he came to "own" 'Mack The Knife'. And I really like Bobby Darin's recordings generally. (Some of his ballads actually hit me soul-deep.)

    However... to be honest... I'm kinda tired of Darin's 'Mack The Knife' - I've heard it too many times. (Sorry, Ma!!)

    I really like that 'Bourbon Street in New Orleans' horn playing in the background of Satchmo's version (I can easily imagine myself sitting on a bench in New Orleans Square at Disneyland and just lazily wasting the day away).

    But it's when we get near the end and Armstrong tells himself to take a solo on the trumpet ["Take it, Satch..."] that Louis hammers the last nail into the coffin and wins this contest, in my opinion.

    Hate to vote against Bobby Darin on his own 'signature song', but sometimes "Satch happens!"

    And lastly, I want to say that for some bizarre, unexplainable reason, I really LOVE the name SUKIE TAWDRY, which gets mentioned in the song's lyrics. Don't know why, but occasionally, completely out of the blue when I'm not even thinking about this song, I'll find myself mentally saying, "Sukie Tawdry". Ha! I'm so weird that even I don't understand me sometimes.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  6. After listening to Satchmo and Darin duke it out on Stephen's BOTB, I was curious to see which tune you'd selected for the two of them on your blog. I should've known.

    It's a little more difficult for me to chose here, because "Mack the Knife" is SO much Darin's song. I never heard Louis Armstrong do it before, but I still have to vote for him. His voice will (usually) win my vote, and his trumpet-playing never fails to (ahem) blow me away.

  7. Hi All - I'm loving your comments so far and even a bit surprised at how the voting is going.

    I'm such a blabber mouth that I generally 'tip my hand' as to how I will vote somewhere along the line, so I'm trying real hard to just zip it and let you guys have your say.

    I'll get my turn on the 21st.

    BUT, STMc - 'Sukie Tawdry' - SERIOUSLY!

  8. Huh... I coulda swore I posted a comment. Dang -- It was clever and concise and incredibly brilliant, too...

    Ah well -- lost in cyberspace, it must be.

    But I won't try and repeat it -- suffice to say I vote for Satchmo.

  9. Chris - that is too weird. I read your earlier comment and I can even find it in my email (confirmations), but here it ain't.

  10. I'm going with Satchmo. Probably because I heard his version long before I heard Bobby's cause my dad had Armstrong records.

  11. I always loved the old McDonalds "Mac Tonight " commercials, but they aren't on the choice list, so... I never heard Satchmo do this before, but he's got a voice perfect for it. But I think that Bobby's swagger wins me over.

  12. I really liked both versions of this song. It played to both Armstrong's and Darin's strengths. Armstrong's version favors the trumpeting (and it's awesome) and Darin's version favors the amazing vocalizing he does so well - and his band is stellar, too.

    I confess that I never heard the Armstrong version before today, so I came into this biased in favor of the Darin version. And since I am a vocalist at heart, I still lean that way.

    So, Darin gets it for me.

  13. Although I am not a big fan of Bobby-boy, I agree with McCarthy that he "owns" this song. At least in the eye of the public.

    I've never liked the song much. I always thought it was a ridiculous subject for an upbeat, bouncy song.

    In spite of Bobby "owning" the song, I am condemning his property, in the legal sense, and redistributing it (a popular trend these days) to Satchmo.

    A big vote for Armstrong.

    Please, guys... no more doubling down on selections, though! Two helpings of Darin this month was too much!

  14. MJ

    My vote is for Satchmo. He is the only one in my book. I grew up with his version and it is the only one for me

  15. I am gonna go with Bobby Darin, liked it just a tid bit more than Louis. Love Louis but this on just didn't do it for me.

  16. Not an easy choice but I'm going with Bobby Darin.

  17. I'll be these are fun, but my iPad isn't even showing them so I can't listen. *sigh*