The song of the day for Sunday, September 20, 2015 is “The Rules of the Road.”
Today is Sunday, which means that we take a look at one of Tony Bennett’s songs that he’s recorded several times and listen to and examine them all. And, as it’s my birthday, we are looking at what is probably my favorite Tony Bennett song: “The Rules of the Road.” And yes, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve featured it here.
About This Song
“The Rules of the Road” was written in 1960 by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. Andy Propst, in his recent biography of Coleman, You Fascinate Me So, writes that Coleman was suffering from writer’s block during that period, when Carolyn Leigh was wanting to work on “The Rules of the Road.” When he did find his away around that block, the result was “The Rules of the Road.”
About These Versions
Today we have four recordings of our song. The first is a studio recording from 1961, followed by a live recording from 1962. Then we have two recordings from 1964, one studio and one live, recorded just a month apart. The contrast between the earlier versions and the 1964 versions have always fascinated me.
The first recording was made on April 6, 1961 and was arranged by Ralph Burns. It has the distinctive big band opening that Burns did so well. There are some great musicians from this session: Milt Hinton, Bernie Glow, Urbie Green, and Eddie Costa. Bennett’s voice is big and solid and the song swings nicely. This recording was released on the 1962 Grammy Award winning album I Left My Heart In San Francisco.
The next recording is from his show at Carnegie Hall on June 9, 1962 and was arranged by Ralph Sharon. It has a big, brassy opening that I love. Bennett is just a bit more reserved than the first version, but only a little bit. It was released on Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall, also in 1962.
In March and April 1964, Bennett and Ralph Sharon were in Las Vegas, preparing for a big live show at The Sahara. While there, Tony Bennett recorded When Lights Are Low with the Ralph Sharon Trio, with Hal Gaylord on bass and Billy Exiner on drums. “The Rules of the Road” was recorded on March 26, 1964 and could not be more different from the versions from 1961 and 1962. From the opening bar, we hear a man who knows full well what those rules are and not just from being told–you can hear the emotion and some regret … just in the opening with “… and suddenly this.” One can almost detect a broken heart in there somewhere. This is, far and way, my favorite recording of this song.
Our final recording is the live performance on April 8, 1964, just a couple of weeks after the recording session for When Lights Are Low, at The Sahara. In spite of the bigger orchestra and the Vegas aspect, this version is also introspective as well. At the very end when Bennett sings “… you live and you learn,” I take the singer at his word. The rules of the road. Tony Bennett Live at the Sahara: From This Moment On was not released until 2011 in the Complete Collection and is now available for download from iTunes.
“The Rules of the Road,” as well as I Left My Heart in San Francisco, is available from iTunes.
“The Rules of the Road,” as well as Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall, is available from iTunes.
“The Rules of the Road,” as well as When Lights Are Low, is available from iTunes.
“The Rules of the Road,” as well as Tony Bennett Live at the Sahara: From This Moment On, is available from iTunes.