By Bill Oakey, June 29, 2016
Music fans will be glad to know that there is a new Sarah Sharp album coming. Following her fabulous stint as lead vocalist for the Jitterbug Vipers, her new direction foretells exciting releases in more than one genre. At the end of this blog piece, you will get the inside scoop on an upcoming Sarah Sharp album. What you are about to read first is a very unusual story. It concerns America’s first big adventure in time travel. The reclusive billionaire, Chester A. Thornwright, launched the top-secret project with what he assumed was absolute isolation from media attention. How this blog achieved exclusive access to the proceedings cannot be revealed.
The story unfolds just as Mr. Thornwright addresses the small, but exuberant gathering of time travel participants:
“Ladies and gentlemen…Quiet please…!”
“Ladies and gentlemen…”
“Thank you all for being here for this historic moment. When we first conceived of this remarkable project, our goal seemed to be nothing short of unimaginable. Mankind has written about and dreamed about time travel for centuries. The two most admired time travel novelists, Jack Finney and Stephen King, have told their stories with breathtaking realism.”
“But today, all of us gathered in this room will experience the thrill of actually traveling through time, and doing it in both directions. We will journey to the past and then we will visit the future. Everyone in our special group today has chosen ‘Musical Milestones’ as the preferred theme for both of our journeys.”
“That concludes my introduction. You will notice that each of your seats is bolted to the floor. At this time, I ask that you strap yourselves in and fasten your safety belts. And now, without any further delay, I thank you and humbly invite you to accompany me to the City of Chicago in August of 1941.”
Mr. Thornwright then turned toward the front wall and reached over to open a sliding wooden panel. Behind the panel in an alcove was a small screen, a keypad and a row of electronic switches. He entered a few numbers into the keypad and then flipped three of the four switches. After confirming a message on the screen, he flipped the fourth switch. Then, he joined the group at the remaining seat in the front row and strapped himself in.
A humming sound emerged from the walls, along the floor on all four sides of the room. The walls moved outward, as four large pieces of curved, dark green metal arose from beneath the floor on each side of the room. Each of these four metal slabs arced upward toward the center of the ceiling. A very loud clanging of metal signaled that the slabs had all linked together, to enclose the travelers in a large pod-like chamber. The front section of the chamber contained a glass door. Behind the door, everyone could see the wall with the exposed alcove that housed the keypad, the screen and the row of switches.
Suddenly, the entire outside room beyond the chamber went dark.
Then, the single bright light inside the chamber slowly began to dim. The humming sound that was heard earlier changed to a more strident pitch, and began to fluctuate back and forth between a low and high volume. Within a few moments, the dimly lighted chamber turned completely dark. Nobody spoke a single word, even though Mr. Thornwright had forgotten to ask everyone to remain quiet.
The next sensation that the time travelers noticed was a rumbling sound beneath the floor that caused each of their seats to vibrate. But that didn’t last more than about seven or eight minutes, and neither did the darkness. The light snapped on at the center of the ceiling, and it caught everybody by surprise.
“We are almost there,” Mr. Thornwright announced. “But keep your seatbelts fastened for another minute or two. I will let you know when we have arrived at our destination.” Just when it seemed like everyone could take a deep sigh and relax, the chamber abruptly began to shake. And then very soon after, just as suddenly as the shaking had started, it stopped.
The time travelers stared awe-struck at the lighted sign that they could clearly see, just beyond the glass door of their chamber. It read, “Ambassador West Hotel.” They had arrived in Chicago after nightfall. Mr. Thornwright arose from his seat to speak.
“I would like to welcome everyone to our August 1941 destination, the Ambassador West Hotel in Chicago. Although I have tried to explain it before, it is difficult to describe what you will see, hear and feel. We will not be visible to the people here, and they will not be able to see the chamber that we arrived in.”
“But, in previous traveling encounters, our development team has observed what appeared to be subtle reactions from some inhabitants of the times and places that we visited. These could have been caused by our presence in their time space. So, I must ask that you speak to each other very softly, if you find it necessary to speak at all. Our visit will be fairly brief, and I cannot tell you precisely how long it will last. In a moment, I will open the door and we will enter the Ambassador West.”
“You will not need any further instruction from me, other than to follow very closely behind me. I am aware of the musical milestone that will take place here, but I have left that to be a pleasant surprise for each of you. We will know when our stay is about to conclude, because the room and the images that we see around us will begin to slowly dissolve. At that point, we will be returned to our chamber automatically. So now, shall we begin our visit?”
Mr. Thornwright unsealed the latch to the door, then opened it and stepped out into the Chicago night. The rest of the time travelers followed behind him, in single file at first. Then they spread out into a cluster. The strange experience of walking in a past environment took a little getting used to. The activity of walking could be accomplished easily enough, because of the force of habit. But the sensations of normal weight and gravity were gone. The feel of the ground beneath their feet was unlike anything they had ever experienced. It was as if their bodies were almost, but not quite, lighter than air.
Mr. Thornwright escorted the group through the lobby of the hotel and into a restaurant and nightclub. The sign at the entrance read, “The Buttery.” It was an impressive and elegant room, designed to accommodate patrons accustomed to splendor. At the microphone on a small stage stood a man by the name of Frank Bering, the hotel’s owner. He addressed the audience in a very cheerful, upbeat voice.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please let me have your attention. Tonight, here at the Buttery, we have a very special guest. Many of you may be wondering who Benny Goodman will select to replace Helen Forrest in his band. We cannot confirm that decision tonight, but Mr. Goodman has joined us for dinner and to listen to the delightful and very charming Miss Peggy Lee.”
Mr. Thornwright and his group of time travelers looked on silently from the left side of the room. They were totally mesmerized by the event taking place before them. There were nudges and smiles all around. Peggy Lee shined with her slender figure, adorned in a stunning outfit. She began her musical set with the established Benny Goodman hit, “These Foolish Things.” In her delivery, she displayed the soft, “cool” vocal style that had become her trademark at the Doll House in Palm Springs, California. The audience greeted her with enthusiastic applause.
But, to the amazement of every member of the time travel group, Benny Goodman did not seem the least bit impressed with Peggy Lee’s performance. He seemed to be concentrating more on his steak dinner. He never even cracked a smile. One of the time travelers was just about to whisper a question to Mr. Thornwright about Benny Goodman’s reaction, when suddenly a strange visual experience fell upon the group. The entire room and everything in it began to slowly fade away, as though it were merely the tapestry of a dream.
It wasn’t until they were back in their chamber that Mr. Thornwright answered the anticipated question about Benny Goodman’s cold indifference to Peggy Lee. “Let me point out that Benny Goodman was never the friendliest bandleader to do business with,” he explained. “But he probably considered himself lucky to acquire the talents of Peggy Lee. He hired her the next day after seeing her for the first time at the Buttery.” So, the time travelers had indeed witnessed a great musical milestone.
Soon, the totally enthralled travelers were back at their starting point in the present time space. Only a short period of rest and preparation stood between them and their next big adventure – a journey to the future.
Onward to the Future – A Brief Glimpse of a Moment In 2018
Once again addressing his anxious group of time travelers, Mr. Thornwright begins with an admission. “Future time travel capabilities are unfortunately very limited at this stage of development in our project. We will not be departing in the chamber. We will see and experience a musical milestone in the year 2018. At this time, it can only be viewed on a screen. Therefore, we will hand each of you a very special electronic tablet. These may look like iPads, but our technology far exceeds anything that you have ever imagined or encountered before.”
“On the screens of these tablets, we will be treated to a very unique moment in future music history – if you can appreciate that description. What we cannot tell you right now is precisely what that musical milestone might be. Our development team has thoroughly tested the equipment. But we have yet to refine the process well enough to predict the precise date or the specific event, in advance of our request for a journey.”
“So, I will be joining you in a surprise adventure that will transport our visual senses two years into the future. Is everyone ready to tap the ‘Begin Journey to 2018’ box on your tablet? We must all do it together on the count of three. If any one of us is too far out of range in the launch time window, we could jeopardize the entire project.”
The tablet screens flicker to life. At first, the patterns that appear cannot be discerned. A few oddly discordant sounds emerge, but those too do not seem familiar to anyone in the room. Suddenly, a few lines of what appear to be text begin to show up on each tablet screen. The symbols look fuzzy and disjointed at first, but they do seem to be shaped like English language words.
Mr. Thornwright fiddles with a handheld device that is pointed at a bank of blinking receivers along the front wall of the room. Within a few moments, everyone’s tablet screen pops into crisp, perfect focus. In the upper left corner of the screen are the words, “Location: Austin, Texas.” In larger letters below, across the upper middle sits the heading, “Bill Oakey’s Music Blog.” Then, below that heading is the title of a piece dated April 11, 2018. The blog posting reads, “New Sarah Sharp Album Is the Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.”
The time travelers settle back in their seats to read the description of the album, which begins as follows:
Here we are in the spring of 2018, and there is magic in the air. Following the highly successful launch of Sarah Sharp’s national label debut early last year, her fans will be pleasantly surprised to discover that her new release celebrates one of the most romantic topics ever conceived for love songs. It is all about dreams. The collection of wonderful standards comes wrapped in the simple title of “Dreamland.”
What better way to lead off an album devoted to dreams than the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer composition, “Hit the Road to Dreamland?” Next comes a 1931 song that has been recorded many times over the years by artists as diverse as Ozzie Nelson, Wayne King, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, and Mama Cass Elliot, from the 1960’s group, The Mamas & the Papas. Then, allowing the Louis Armstrong influence to continue, Sarah comes in with the third selection, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.”
You can toss your cares away and let your imagination get the best of you, as you glide through the rest of the album. Frank Sinatra had it right, and Sarah gracefully picks up the cue with “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, And Dream Your Troubles Away.” Not since Sheryl Crow’s stunning 2012 a cappella rendition of “Beautiful Dreamer,” has anyone exceeded expectations for an interpretation of that song until now.
There is no reason to stop dreaming yet. I haven’t told you about “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” that would surely impress Julie London, even though hers was certainly inviting and seductive enough. There may not really be a Munchkin Land or an Emerald City out there somewhere “Over the Rainbow,” but Judy Garland and Rosemary Clooney would be proud to share the stage with Sarah for this beautiful remembrance of magic and fantasy. This is an album that will surely defy the passage of time, and you will not want to come back down to earth after your spirits have been lifted by it.
What Year Are We Really In Anyway?
The full truth is that all of your calendars have the date printed correctly. It is still June of 2016, rapidly approaching the month of July. On a typical Austin morning, Sarah Sharp may come downstairs with her hair pulled up to fix some tea, as she prepares to visit with a guest on her front porch swing. But her biggest fans know that when they listen to her music, she can fly up into the clouds and sweep them away to dreamland.