Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Act Naturally"

OK, more Fabness: This '63 Russell/Morrison composition was inspired by the excuse Johnny Russell gave his then girlfriend as to why he was going to L.A. Buck Owens and The Buckaroos' 1st #1 hit. The Beatles' cover was sung by Ringo and was the B-side for "Yesterday". It peaked at #47. Buck Owens and Ringo released a duet record and video in '89, peaking at #27 on the Country charts.

Yesterday's answer: Joni Mitchell's "Free Man In Paris". I saw her doing it live at The Spectrum in Philly in '76 - blew me away!

"Free Man In Paris"

OK, more 70's: This Canadian singer/songwriter penned this '74 release after a trip to Europe with music agent/promoter David Geffen. He was unhappy despite his wealth and power - it speaks of the pressures the music industry exerts upon artists. Peaked at #22. Jose Feliciano happened to be in the studio and laid a 2nd guitar track over Larry Carlton's. David Crosby and Graham Nash sing backup vocals. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "A Hazy Shade Of Winter". From Dan Rogers: "I could be the most devoted fan on my block for Paul Simon. And I sort of like the Bangles, with qualifiers. Song was 'A Hazy Shade of Winter'. Classic Paul Simon phrasing: But look around, leaves are brown now And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.". No qualifiers - Susanna Hoffs rocks! This song was one of those "tests of manhood" growing up - you HAD to be able to play the lead guitar riffs and sing the words if you wanted to call yourself a geeeetar player. No doubt about it - Paul Simon is one of the musical geniuses of our time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"A Hazy Shade Of Winter"

OK, more 60's: This '66 Paul Simon composition appeared in "Bookends" in '68. It speaks of looking for something or someone ideal as time runs out and seasons pass by. Peaked at #13 on Billboard. The Bangles' hard-rock cover for the film "Less than Zero" hit #2 on the charts. Most of the bridge was removed in their version. Les Fradkin did a wonderful Rickenbacker-12 rendition on his '06 "Jangleholic" album.

Yesterday's answer: "It Won't Be Long". One of my favorite early Beatles tunes. Always grateful to George for teaching us how to use 6th and 9th chords! Lily Pappas from Iowa City recently released a beautiful acoustic version backed by my good friend Harry Hoffman on acoustic guitar.

"It Won't Be Long"

OK, more Fabness: This '63 Lennon composition was the 1st track of their 2nd album and the 1st original tune written for it. John's lead vocals were double-tracked and it features call-and-response between him and Macca/George, with 56 "yeahs" (!). First song ever performed live by Neil Young - at his high school's cafeteria. Covered by Evan Rachel Wood in "Across the Universe" (2007).

Yesterday's answer: "Turn, Turn, Turn! (To Everything there Is A Season)". This song was my first exposure to The Byrds by a very dear childhood friend (you know who you are!) and it was the beginning of a lifelong passion with the group and its music. Everything except "I swear it's not too late" comes from the Old Testament. Featured in "Forrest Gump".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

" Turn Turn Turn"

OK, a little jingle-jangle: This King Solomon(!?)/Pete Seeger '59 composition was 1st recorded by The Limelighters in '62 - their backup banjo player, Jim McGuinn originally arranged it for Judy Collins. To this day Seeger gives 45% of the royalties to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions as he feels he only wrote 6 words of the song (Ecclesiastes 3:1). 3rd single for The Byrds - #1 in late '65.

Yesterday's answer: "I Think I Love You".

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"I Think I Love You"

OK, a little bubblegum: This '70 Tony Romeo composition was released the same day as the TV debut of "The Partridge Family", being played twice during the 1st season. It topped the charts two months later. Only David Cassidy and his real-life stepmother Shirley Jones participated in the recording - the rest were studio musicians. The "group" had 6 more Top 40 hits between '70 and '74.

Yesterday's answer: "Black Betty" by Ram Jam.

"Black Betty" by Ram Jam.

OK, more one-hit wonders: This short-lived NYC band's only hit came in '77 (#18 Billboard) with their adaptation of an 18th Century African-American marching cadence work song. Lead Belly's version was sung a capella - the song is often credited to him. Odetta covered it in '64. Still unclear as to whether the title refers to a girl, a flint-lock musket or a whip. Boycotted by the NAACP. Band? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "And That Reminds Me". Kay Starr's version was titled "My Heart Reminds Me".

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"And that Reminds Me"

OK, more 50's: This pop classic was 1st recorded by Della Reese and The Honey Dreamers in '57 (#9 Billboard). The melody comes from "Autumn Concerto", an Italian instrumental by Camillo Bargoni. English lyrics by A. Stillman and P. Siegel. Kay Starr's version under a slightly different name also peaked at #9. The Four Seasons' '69 cover reached #45 and happens to be my all-time fave song of theirs.

Yesterday's answer: "Hi Lili, Hi Lo". Featured in the 1953 Leslie Caron film "Lili".

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Hi Lili, Hi Lo" from "Lili".

OK, back to the 50's: This classic pop tune was written in '52 (GREAT YEAR!) by Bronislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch. First recorded in '52 by Dinah Shore. Featured in a '53 Leslie Caron film and recorded by her and Mel Ferrer that same year (#30 U.S.). Covered by Richard Chamberlain (yes, as in Dr. Kildare!) in '63 (B-side "All I Have To Do Is Dream"), peaking at #64 US and #20 UK. Song? Film?

Yesterday's answer: Hank Cochran. Amazing catalog! His list of interpreters reads like a who's-who in Country Music. He'll be missed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hank Cochran

OK, In Memoriam: This Mississippi-born Country Music giant left us one week ago at the age of 74. Best known as a prolific composer, he was also a respectable recording artist, charting 7 times between '62 and '80. Credited with discovering Willie Nelson at Tootsie's Orchard Lounge in Nashvillle. Some faves include "I Fall To Pieces", "Make The World Go Away", "A Little Bitty Tear" and "The Chair", my #1 George Strait tune.

Yesterday's answer: "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Last night I rented "The Runaways" - not bad!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"I Love Rock 'n Roll" by Joan Jett.

OK, more 80's: This Merrill/Hooker rock anthem was 1st recorded by The Arrows in '75. A young Philly native saw them in England while touring with her 1st band, The Runaways. She recorded her 1st version in '79 with Sex Pistols S. Jones and P. Cook. She re-recorded it in '81 with her own band, spending 7 weeks at #1 and RIAA Certified Platinum. The orig. video was retooled with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey for "Wayne's World 2". Song? Artist?

Yesterday's answer: "Needles and Pins" by The Searchers. Jingle-jangle at its best!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Needles and Pins"

OK, back to the 60's: This Sonny Bono/Jack Nitzsche collaboration was 1st recorded by Jackie DeShannon in '63 (#1 UK, #84 US). The Searchers' '64 version (#13 US, #1 UK) features 2 6-string guitars played in unison with the echo switch accidentally left on, sounding like a 12-string! The squeak heard throughout the song is from a faulty bass-drum pedal. Very respectable cover by Los Challengers in P.R. in '69.

Yesterday's answer: Opus 17 (Don't You Worry 'Bout Me). I don't know about any other guitar players out there but I HATE key changes! I think those mean old piano players do it just to irritate us!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Opus 17 (Don't You Worry 'Bout Me)"

OK, back to the 60's: This '66 Linzer/Randell composition peaked at #13 on Billboard's Hot 100 for The Four Seasons. Their 1st hit with new bassist/bass-vocalist Joe Long. Ties Bobby Darin's "Mack The Knife" for the most key changes in a pop song (5!). Starts on F# and ends in B! (Obviously NOT a guitar player's tune!!!)

Yesterday's answer: Actually, this is WAY out of my comfort zone but some of my "younger"(!) friends have complained that my music is TOO OLD! "Bye, Bye, Bye" by NSYNC from their "No Strings Attached" album.

"Bye Bye Bye" from "No Strings Attached" by 'N Sync.

OK, back to the 00's ("aughts"?): This Lundin/Schulze/Carlsson composition was the 1st single released from this boy-band's 2nd album (best-selling album of the 2000's at 10M.+). Peaked at #4. Still unclear as to whether it deals with their breaking from their manager and record label OR a boy who wants to leave a GF he once loved. Added to a record 200 radio stations' playlists in 1 week. Song? Group? Album?

Yesterday's answer: "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum.

OK, back to the 90's: This Minneapolis-based alt-rock, quasi-one-hit wonder band went multi-platinum and peaked at #5 on Billboard's Hot 100 with a folk-rock tune about missing teenagers. Won the Grammy for Best Rock Song of '94. The video showed names and pictures of up to 36 actual missing teens during the chorus and is credited for reuniting some of them with their families. Band? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "The Girl From Ipanema" ("Garota De Ipanema").

Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto (Helo Pinheiro) was the inspiration. The original version by Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Jobim and Astrud Gilberto peaked at #5 in '64. I'm proud to say that my distant cousin Olga Albizu, may she rest in peace, painted the cover for the original Verve album.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"The Girl From Ipanema"

OK, more 60's: This classic bossa nova was written in '62 by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. They would sit at the Veloso cafe/bar in Rio and watch this beautiful bikini-clad 15 year-old "garota" stop by and buy cigarettes for her mother on her way to the beach. First recorded in '62 by Pery Ribeiro. Astrud Gilberto's version won the Record Of The Year Grammy in '65.

Yesterday's answer: "Ruby Tuesday". #303 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All time. What can you say 'bout ol' Keith - they broke the mold! Actually, the restaurant chain DID take its name from the song. From Jeff Bluml: I had heard a story once that Mick used to keep pad and pencil handy at all times as Keith would come up with some of the most incredible riffs or ideas, and unless written down immediately, were gone to the wind within minutes. Since Keith wouldn't... Mick did.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Ruby Tuesday"

OK, more Stones: This '66/'67 Keith Richards composition about a free-spirited girl was based upon a simple melody written by Brian Jones for the recorder. To this day he cannot recall whether he wrote it about his then girlfriend Linda Keith or a nameless groupie - gotta love the guy! #1 U.S. and #3 UK coupled with A-side "Let's Spend The Night Together". Top 10 hit for Melanie in '70. #303 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Song Of All Time.

Yesterday's answer: "Twist And Shout". THAT'S when the Beatles were The Beatles!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Twist And Shout"

OK, more 60's: This Medley/Russell composition was first recorded in '61 by The Top Notes - produced by Phil Spector. The Isley Brothers' '62 version was a Top 20 hit in both Pop and R&B. The Beatles' rendition in '64 with Lennon on lead vocals reached #1 on Cashbox. Highly evocative of Ritchie Valens' '58 "La Bamba". Featured in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and Rodney Dangerfield's "Back To School".

Yesterday's answer: "Luka" by Suzanne Vega. Incredible song - even after all this years it still tears me apart every time I hear it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Luka" by Suzanne Vega.

OK, back to the 80's: This '87 pop classic was its singer/songwriter's highest-charting hit, peaking at #3 on Billboard's Hot 100. It was simultaneously recorded in Spanish. One of the first songs to deal with child abuse and domestic violence. The "happy" music belies its devastating theme. Coincidentally, the title means "bruise" in Malay. Song? Singer/songwriter?

Yesterday's answer: The Rolling Stones. The Marquee Club was a jazz and skiffle joint. The Stones started out as a rhythm and blues band, heavily influenced by the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Rolling Stones

OK, more 60's: On a day like today, July 12, 1962 (48 years ago!) this newly-minted rhythm and blues band played their first live show at The Marquee Club, a jazz and skiffle venue in London. The lineup included, among others, Ian Stewart on piano and Tony Chapman on drums. The rest is rock 'n' roll history!

Yesterday's answer: Elvis' "Mystery Train". Dan Rogers' posting: That one is a MYSTERY that TRAINs my mind to remember that the king was a country star, not just a rock'n'roll star. A good video is where the King is singin' and pluckin' away! Just like eating fried chicken and watching trains go past. What a life. Thank you, thank you very much!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Mystery Train"

OK, more 50's: This 1953 Junior Parker/Sam Phillips tune rockabilly classic was recorded by The King at Sun Studios in 1955 as the B-side to "I Forgot To Remember To Forget". It peaked at #11 on the Country charts. Ranked #77 among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. Scotty Moore's guitar riff evokes Merle Travis' 1946 "Sixteen Tons".

Yesterday's answer: "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys. I saw them do it live in Vegas in Nov. '88 the night it became #1 - they were pretty happy - the fact that they had the UNLV cheerleaders on stage with them made it even better.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


OK, more 80's: This '88 Phillips/McKenzie/Love/Melcher composition about a fictional place was originally titled "The Beer Song". The Beach Boys' last #1 hit. Part of Tom Cruise's "Cocktail" soundtrack. Only B.B. #1 hit not written or produced by Brian Wilson. Brian was not in the recording either. 1st B.B. #1 since "Good Vibrations" in '66, making it then the longest time span (22 yrs.) between #1's for any act.

Yesterday's answer: Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You" The British Invasion at its best! Extra credit: Lucecita Benitez "Un Lugar Para Los Dos".

Friday, July 9, 2010

"I Only Want To Be With You" by Dusty Springfield.

OK, back to the 60's: This '63 Hawker/Raymonde composition was its British interpreter's first solo single (#12 U.S., #4 UK). 2nd British Invasion artist to have a U.S. hit after The Beatles. For extra credit: A '64 cover in Spanish was this Puerto Rican idol's 1st major hit. Song? Artist? Cover title? PR singer?

Yesterday's answer: "You've Got A Friend". And for a "double dose", their live duet rendition from their current tour is out of this world - heard it on NPR!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"You've Got A Friend"

OK, back to the 70's: This '71 Carole King composition was James Taylor's ONLY #1 hit. He won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and her for Song Of The Year. First recorded by The City and then by Dusty Springfield (unreleased). A beautiful tune about being there for those in need. Covered by, among others, Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Anne Murray and Tom Jones.

Yesterday's answer: "This Boy (Ringo's Theme)" by The Beatles. One of their greatest love ballads. Deceivingly intricate 3-part harmonies even though, as always, they made it look easy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"This Boy (Ringo's Theme)".

OK, for the Birthday bloke (70 today!): This '63 Lennon composition was the B-side to "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in the UK. Performed during the Beatles 2nd appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Emulates Smokey Robinson. First Beatles tune to be commented on by a music critic - "pendiatonic clusters (!)". An instrumental version plays on "A Hard Day's Night" during the dedicatee's "big scene". B-day bloke? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman.

OK, more 80's: This powerful '88 tune won the "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" Grammy that year for its composer and singer. Peaked at #6 on Billboard. At #165, it is the highest-ranked composition performed and written by a female among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs. A song of hope, it is about "... a relationship that doesn't work out because it's starting from the wrong place". Song? Artist?

Yesterday's answer: "A Groovy Kind Of Love". One of the first songs to include the newly-coined term "groovy". Yeah, Baby, yeah!

"Groovy Kind Of Love"

OK, more British Invasion: This Wine/Bayer Sager composition is based upon the Rondo movement of Clementi's Sonatina in G maj. op. 36 no. 5. First released by Diane and Annita in '65. Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders' version hit #2 in the U.S. and the UK that same year. Phil Collins' cover was #1 in the U.S. and the UK in '88. #17 in my all-time makeout tunes hit parade!

Previous day's answer: Paul Simon's "An American Tune". That song has very special meaning for me as I came to the mainland in '73 - to this day I can't play it without getting all choked up (you know me, I'm a sensitive guy!).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"American Tune"

OK, one to wish you all a Happy 4th: This '73 Paul Simon anthem about the American experience - hopes and aspirations - peaked at #35. Based upon J.S. Bach's "St. Matthew Passion", in turn inspired by an earlier Hans Hassler piece. Covered by, among others, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, Indigo Girls and masterfully by the late Eva Cassidy. My favorite Simon solo song!

Yesterday's answer: "Smile A Little Smile For Me" by The Flying Machine. I don't even like the song too much but I heard it yesterday and couldn't get it out of my mind. I hate it when that happens.

"Smile A Little Smile For Me (Rosemarie)" by The Flying Machine.

OK, more one-hit wonders from The Island Of Enchantment: This British pop group started out as Pinkerton's Assorted Colours. Their only hit, a Mcaulay/Stephens composition, peaked at #5 on Billboard in '69 but did not chart in the UK. Group? Song?

Previous answer: "Badge" by Cream.