Song Lyrics Sunday: It’s Getting Better


This week in Jim Adams’ Song Lyrics Sunday, we were to post a song with Good/Better/Best/Great. Yes, it was the Beatles song that first made me type in the words “It’s Getting Better” on YouTube. Being a longtime Beatles fan, I thought, yeah, this is one of the theme songs of my generation, of my life. It often comes into my head in the car or whenever someone says anything resembling the title.  But then I found another song with the same title – and I liked it, a lot! So I decided to choose this little known gem sung by Cass Elliot (“Mama Cass” of the Mamas and the Papas). The person who posted it on YouTube with the moniker “wearyoldman” says that the song was recorded in 1969. The Mamas and the Papas were not involved in this recording, although they are shown on the video. Cass Elliot died a tragic death in 1974 and Michelle Phillips is the only surviving member of the band. 

By the way, she never liked the name “Mama Cass.” (Would you, if it was associated with a line in one of their songs And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass??)

It’s Getting Better
Composed by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Sung by Cass Elliot

Once I believed that when love came to me
It would come with rockets, bells and poetry
But with me and you
it just started quietly and grew
And believe it or not
Now there’s something groovy and good
‘Bout whatever we got

And it’s gettin’ better
Growing stronger warm and wilder
Gettin’ better everyday, better everyday

I don’t feel all turned on and starry eyed
I just feel a sweet contentment deep inside
Holding you at night
just seems kind of natural and right
And it’s not hard to see
That it isn’t half of what it’s gonna turn out to be

‘Cause it’s gettin’ better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Gettin’ better everyday, better everyday
Ba da da da da da da da da da da da

And I don’t mind waitin’,
I don’t mind waitin’
‘Cause no matter how long it takes
The two of us know

That it’s gettin better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Gettin better everyday, better everyday…

This song contains so much of the “pop song” spirit of the late 1960s, and as I listen to it, it makes me think of those days when I was a teenager longing for love, even though I don’t remember ever hearing this song before. Maybe it’s the familiarity of her great pop song voice.

The song was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and was included on Cass Elliot’s solo album Bubblegum, Lemonade and… Something for Mama, released in June 1969. The Wrecking Crew, a regular back-up band for the Mamas and the Papas, were among the instrumentalists for this album.

It’s Getting Better, however, was not a new song. The first known recording was by the Vogues on their Reprise Records release, Turn Around, Look at Me in August of 1968. Also in 1968, it was featured on an album by Leonard Nimoy (I never knew he sang!), The Way I Feel, released in October. A New York based trio that recorded many Mann-Weil songs, called The Will-o-Bees, had a singles release of It’s Getting Better on the SGC label. However, Cass Elliot was the only artist with top name recognition that had recorded the song, and it was her version that became well-known.

Since then, though, it has been covered by a number of well-known artists around the world. It’s just a happy, feel-good song, which is how I would like to remember “Mama” Cass Elliot.

Background information was obtained from a Wikipedia article.

See also 50 years ago, July 5, 1969… in Rock & Roll Globe.

Song Lyrics Sunday: Spices

Jim Adams’ topic for this week’s Song Lyrics Sunday is spices/seasonings.

Thanks you, Jim! I get to report about one of my favorite songs as well as many of my favorite spices which are in the song!

I grew up with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Doors, and Simon and Garfunkel. While I love many of the latter’s songs, my favorite is Scarborough Fair/Canticle. It conjures up memories, emotions, places – it gives me goosebumps! I like the juxtaposition of the two songs and how they work so well together.

Lyrics:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt (On the side of a hill in the deep forest green).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground).
Without no seams nor needlework (Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to find me an acre of land (On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Washes the ground with so many tears).
Between the salt water and the sea strand (A soldier cleans and polishes a gun).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine. (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather (War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Generals order their soldiers to kill).
And to gather it all in a bunch of heather (And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Known by its refrain of spices “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” Scarborough Fair is actually a traditional English ballad dating from the 18th century. Its based on an old Scottish folk song The Elfin King. It was performed or recorded by a number of musicians, including British folk song collector and singer A.L. Lloyd in 1955 on his album The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Paul Simon learned it from Martin Carthy, an English folksinger, in 1965. Carthy had learned the melody from a songbook by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and included it in his 1965 album Martin Carthy. Also, Bob Dylan borrowed some of the melody and lyrics from Carthy’s version for his song Girl From the North Country, which appeared on four of his albums.

Canticle is a reworking of the lyrics of an anti-war song called The Side of a Hill, written by Simon, and set to a new melody by his partner, Art Garfunkel. They then brilliantly weave the two songs together.

Scarborough Fair/Canticle was the lead track on Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and was released as a single after appearing on the soundtrack to the movie The Graduate. The copyright for the song was listed on the album only as Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, which was resented by Carthy, who thought the “traditional” source should have been credited. The rift remained until 2000, when Simon invited Carthy to perform a duet with him at a concert in London. Simon performed the song with the Muppets when he was guest star on The Muppets Show.

For more details about the history of Scarborough Fair, see the Wikipedia article of the same name.
For a discussion of the musical structure of Scarborough Fair/Canticle and its place in popular music of the 1960s, see William Hume’s 2018 article.