by Paulanne Simmons
As Scott Siegel, host and producer of The Greatest Pop Songs of All Time – The 1960s, pointed out a Feinstein’s/54 Below on Feb. 11, “We never considered many of these songs classics.” In fact, “I’m a Believer,” written by Neil Diamond, was recorded by The Monkees, a group that was conceived as an imaginary band of a T.V. show. Not a very auspicious beginning.
Nevertheless, the song list for the show is impressive, including such hits as “White Rabbit,” “To Sir With Love” and “Both Sides Now.” With Ross Paterson at the piano, the cast, most trained for musical theater, did a commendable job recreating the sound that reigned fifty years ago.
Jenny Lee Stern gave “Leader of the Pack” the ironic treatment it deserves today. And cabaret singer William Blake gave the audience a taste of his magnificent tribute show, “Echoes of Etta,” with his powerful “At Last.”
Siegel maintained audience interest and interaction by awarding prizes to guests who correctly answered questions about music of the 60s (I still want that stuffed white rabbit!). He also provided lots of interesting facts and statistics about the songs and how they charted.
Who knew the motorcycle sounds of “Leader of the Pack” were produced by an actual motorcycle driven through the lobby of the hotel and up to the floor of the recording studio?
It takes a good deal of courage to take on some of these iconic songs. For those of a certain age, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” belongs so completely to Mick Jagger and “Unchained Melody” to Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers, any performance risks paling by comparison.
But these fearless artists gave every song the energy and devotion it deserved. When Brian Charles Rooney sang, “Stand By Me,” the audience was more than willing.
Feinstein’s/54 Below is a 254 West 54 Street, (cellar) NYC
Photos: Stuart Chassen