Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Go Away, Little Girl"

OK, more 60's: This Goffin/King ballad remains the only song to make the U.S. Top 40 3 times by 3 different artists: Steve Lawrence (#1 in '62), The Happenings (#12 in '66) and 13 year-old Donny Osmond (#1 in '71 - Certified Platinum). It was also the first of only 9 songs to reach #1 by 2 different artists (the other ones being "I'll Be There", "Lady Marmalade", "Lean on Me", "The Loco-Motion","Please, Mr. Postman", "Venus", "When A Man Loves A Woman" and "You Keep me Hangin' On").

Yesterday's answer: "MMMBop" by Hanson. Saw them recently on "Dancing With The Stars" - they had to lower the key by 5 semitones as they're not little boys anymore.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"MMMBop" by Hanson.

OK, back to the 90's (no excuses, Gina!): Inspired by The Beach Boys, these 3 brothers were 16, 13 and 11 in '97 when they wrote and recorded their first and biggest hit. Talks about ephemeral friendships and trying to hold on to the things that really matter. It topped the charts in 27 countries and ranked #20 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs Of The 90's". Received 2 Grammy nominations in '98. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "If you Don't Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes.

"If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes.

OK, back to the 70's: This soulful Gamble/Huff R&B ballad was written for Labelle (Patti's trio) but they never recorded it. A Philly-based group (originally known as The Charlemagnes) with Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals took it to #3 in '72, becoming their first and biggest hit. Simply Red's '89 cover topped the charts in the US and peaked at #2 in the UK - their best-known recording. Named one of the "Songs Of The Century" by RIAA. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small.

OK, more 60's one-hit wonders: This Levy/Roberts bluebeat/ska classic is considered to be the first international ska hit - groundbreaking in that it introduced the world to the Jamaican beat. First recorded in '56 by 14 year-old Barbie Gaye. A young Jamaican girl's '64 version peaked at #2 in the U.S and the U.K. and sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling reggae/ska recordings ever. It was rumored that a young Rod Stewart had played the harmonica solo for this recording but this was later disproved. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Feelings" by Morris Albert. from Jeff Bluml: "I've seen Dan Cassady walk into a piano bar and put $20 in the tip jar and say...'Don't Play Feelings'." THE sappiest of all songs - with my apologies.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Feelings" by Morris Albert.

OK, more 70's one-hit wonders (spare my life, please!): Brazilian singer/songwriter Mauricio Alberto Kaisermann penned and recorded this sappy romantic ballad in '74. It peaked at #6 Pop and #2 Adult Contemporary in '75. Grammy-nominated in '76 for Song Of The Year and Best New Artist. French composer Loulou Gaste sued him for plagiarizing his '56 "Pour Toi" and won 88% of royalties. A perennial inclusion in "Worst Songs Ever" lists, it also figures among Rhino Records' "70's Party Killers". Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Pink Shoelaces" by Dodie Stevens.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Pink Shoe Laces" by Dodie Stevens.

OK, more 50's one-hit wonders: Chicagoan Geraldine Ann Pasquale cut her first record at age 8 as Geri Pace. Her one hit came in '59 when she was only 13 with a Mickie Grant composition. She took it to #3 and became the youngest female to sell one million copies of a single. Co-starred with Fabian in his first movie, "Hound Dog Man". Later in her career sang backup with Sergio Mendes and Brasil '77, Loretta Lynn, Frankie Avalon, Boz Scaggs and Mac Davis. Artist? Hit?

Yesterday's answer: "Hey There Lonely Girl" by Eddie Holman. Great falsetto!

"Hey There Lonely Girl" by Eddie Holman.

OK, more 70's one-hit wonders: Described by Smokey Robinson as "The man with the voice of an angel", this Norfolk, VA native grew up in Philly and cut his teeth singing for The Delfonics and The Stylistics. Soulful R&B falsetto. His only hit came in early '70 with a reworded version of a '63 #27 hit written by Carr/Shuman and recorded by Ruby and The Romantics. At first he was reluctant to record it but his wife/producer convinced him to do so ("yes, Dear!"). It peaked at #2 and was RIAA Certified Gold. One of the most popular smooth romantic R&B ballads of the 70's. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Harden My Heart" by Quarterflash. I had totally forgotten about that tune until I heard it at "Rock Of Ages" in DM. Talking about sax players, check out Paul McDonald's on Idol.

"Harden My Heart" by Quarterflash.

OK, more 80's: This popular sax-heavy Portland, OR pop/rock band was formed in '80 through a fusion between Seafood Mama and Pilot. Unusual in that Rindy Ross, their lead singer, was also their very able sax player. Their biggest hit was a Marv Ross composition recorded in '81 which peaked at #3 in early '82. One of the 1st videos on the then-new MTV. Considered by many to be one of the best break-up songs ever. Band? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "It's Impossible" ("Somos Novios") by Perry Como. Even though the English translation has nothing to do with Manzanero's original lyrics, they're still both great romantic tunes. Manzanero doesn't have the greatest voice BUT his romantic ballads are so fabulous that he still pulls it off.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"It's Impossible" ("Somos Novios") by Perry Como.

OK, back to the 70's: Prolific and melodic Mexican bolero composer/singer Armando Manzanero penned this romantic ballad in the late 60's. Sid Wayne ("See You In September") added English lyrics. It was released by Perry Como in '70 peaking at #10 Pop and topping the Easy Listening charts for 4 weeks signaling a "mini-comeback". His 1st top 10 hit since '58 and his 14th Gold Record. Also covered by Elvis, Andy Williams and Andrea Bocelli. Song? Spanish title?

Yesterday's answer: "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow. The sound of the 80's.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow.

OK, more 80's one-hit wonders: Originally performed by The Strangeloves in '65, this #11 Berns/Feldman/Goldstein/Gottehrer composition is an excellent example of Bo Diddley beat. A 16 year-old Annabella Lwin backed by former Adam and The Ants members covered it in '82. Although it only peaked at #62, it has become an 80's New Wave classic due in part to its early MTV video. Featured in "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion". #86 on VH1's Greatest Songs of The Eighties and #8 on The 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of The Eighties. Song? Group?

Yesterday's answer: "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Sir Cliff Richard.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"We Don't Talk Anymore" by Sir Cliff Richard.

OK, more 70's: Born Harry Webb in British India, this singer first joined the Dick Teague Skiffle Group in '57 only to leave a year later to form Harry Webb and The Drifters, an ensemble which evolved into The Shadows, his long-time backup band. His biggest worldwide hit came in '79 with an Alan Tarney composition that topped the charts in the UK, peaked at #7 in the U.S. and sold over 5 million copies. This coincided with his being named Member of the Most Excellent (Bill and Ted?!) Order of The British Empire (OBE). He was knighted in '95. Him and Elvis (!) are THE ONLY two acts to make the UK singles charts in SIX consecutive decades (how about Slim Whitman?!)! Artist? Biggest hit?

Yesterday's answer: "You Keep Me Hangin' On". Love the way Diana delivers "there ain't nothing I can do about it"!

"You Keep Me Hangin' On"

OK, back to the 60's: The working title for this '66 Holland/Dozier/Holland R&B classic was "Pay Back". It became The Supremes' 8th #1 hit. Dozier came up with the signature "stuttering" guitar line played by The Funk Brothers' Robert White after listening to the Morse code-like radio signal before news flashes. Also known for Diana Ross' poignant spoken line after the 2nd bridge. Vanilla Fudge's '67-'68 6:45 min. cover was recorded in one take (!), became their 1st single and peaked at #6. The ONLY song ever to be in the Top 40 by 4 different artists (Rod Stewart and Kim Wilde). Grammy Hall-of-Famer and #339 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Yesterday's answer: "Keep On Dancing" by The Gentrys.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Keep On Dancing" by The Gentrys.

OK, more 60's one-hit wonders: This Allen Jones/Willie David Young composition was first recorded in '63 by the Avantis but failed to chart. A Memphis-based septet of high school friends took its cover to #4 in '65. Memorable drum roll at the beginning and after the "fade". A very short recording, it repeats itself to fill a 2:08 min. time slot. A #9 hit for The Bay City Rollers in '71. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Beyond The Sea". When you think Bobby Darin you DON'T think Kevin Spacey but he's such a doggone good actor that he pulls it off in "Beyond The Sea".

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Beyond The Sea" by Bobby Darin.

OK, back to the 50's: Charles Trenet and Albert Lasry penned "La Mer" in '46. It became a pop standard with English lyrics by Jack Lawrence. Charted for Benny Goodman and Roger Williams in '48 and '55 respectively. "A romantic tale of an (oceangoing) lover and a land-locked lover waiting on a golden shore for his return." The "definitive" version came in '59 by DA MAN Bobby Darin, peaking at #6. Kevin Spacey's '04 Darin biopic shares the song's title.

Yesterday's answer: "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)". Gotta love Cher - "Moonstruck" is still one of my all-time favorite movies.

"Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)"

OK, back to the 60's: This '66 Sonny Bono composition was Cher's biggest solo hit of the 60's, peaking at #2 in the U.S., at #3 in the U.K. and selling over 3 million copies. Child's play becomes heartache for a couple that grows up together and later part. Nancy Sinatra's cover from later on that year was featured in Tarantino's '03 "Kill Bill" (love the tremolo guitar!). Dynamite version by Vanilla Fudge in '67.

Yesterday's answer: "Nature Boy". Definitely a one-hit wonder. "Lonely Island" hit the Top 40 by Sam Cooke but "Nature Boy" was indeed his opus magnum.

"Nature Boy"

OK, back to the 40's: Nomadic beat poet and pre-hippie Eden Ahbez wrote this pop/jazz ballad in '47 taking the name from his L.A.-based musical group. It contains thematic elements from Dvorak's Piano Quintet No. 2 in A and from Yablokoff's "Shvayg, Mayn Harts". When Nat King Cole heard it he wanted to record it right away but Ahbez could not be found to sign papers. He was finally located camping out under the 1st "L" of the Hollywood sign! It launched Cole's career, peaking at #1 for 8 weeks. Became the theme for the '48 film "The Boy With Green Hair". KILLER version by Casey Abrams on vocalese and upright bass last week on "Idol". Yesterday's answer: "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight (Tonite)" by Boyce & Hart. Incredible catalog but this was their only hit as performers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite" by Boyce and Hart.

OK, back to the 60's: This prolific songwriting duo was best known for penning most of the Monkees' hits and their band, The Candy Store Prophets, for being The Monkees' "ghost band" early on. Their biggest chart hit as performers came in '68 with one of their own compositions which peaked at #8, sold over one million copies and was Certified gold. Duo? Song? Yesterday's answer: "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore.

"You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore.

OK, back to the 60's: Philly composers Madara and White penned this classic for neighborhood friend Maureen Gray. Quincy Jones had a 17 year-old songbird record it instead, taking it to #2 in '64. It became an early anthem for the nascent Women's Lib movement. Covered by Dusty Springfield and by Joan Jett. Part of "The First Wives Club", "Hairspray" and "Dirty Dancing" soundtracks. Song? Artist? Yesterday's answer: "Cruel To Be Kind" by Nick Lowe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Cruel To Be Kind" by Nick Lowe.

OK, more 70's one-hit wonders: Nick Lowe co-wrote his only solo U.S. hit in '79 with former band-mate Ian Gomm. Based upon a line that Hamlet delivered to his mother (Act 3, scene 4), it peaked at #12 both in the U.S. and the U.K. One of the first music videos shown on MTV. Yesterday's answer: "Hurt So Bad" by Little Anthony and The Imperials. Teddy gave us "Goin' Out Of My Head", "It's Gonna Take A Miracle", "Runaround" and his own "One More Chance" among many others.

"Hurt So Bad" by Little Anthony and The Imperials.

OK, back to the 60's: The late great Teddy Randazzo co-wrote this '65 soulful ballad with Bobby Weinstein, Bobby Hart (as in Boyce & Hart) and Little Anthony as a follow-up to "Going Out Of My Head". A man feels intense pain when he sees his old flame. #10 Pop, #5 R&B. The Lettermen took it to #12 in '69 and Linda Ronstadt to #8 in '80. Yesterday's answer: "The Way You Look Tonight". Call me a dinosaur but song like these deserve an Oscar as opposed to '06 "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" (what happened?!). From Jeff Bluml: "At the time Martin Scorsese hadn't won an Oscar. I thought it was hilarious yet sad after Three 6 Mafia got done performing "the Oscar award winning song," that John Stewart steps up to the mic and says.... "here's a strange thought, Oscars... Three 6 Mafia 1, Martin Scorsese 0. What's wrong with that picture." Me: "LOL! Don't get me started! How about Paul Anka and Neil Sedaka not being in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame???!!! (am I starting to sound like a broken record?!)"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"The Way You Look Tonight"

OK, back to the 30's: Kern and Fields wrote this romantic ballad for the film "Swing Time" in which Fred Astaire sings it to Ginger Rogers. It won the '36 Oscar for Best Original Song. The Lettermen's first hit, reaching #13 in '61. Memorable covers by Sinatra, Fitzgerald and Bennett. Featured on the "Father Of The Bride" soundtrack. Yesterday's answer: "Nights On Broadway" by The Bee Gees. Check out the '97 DVD "One Night Only" recorded live at the MGM Grand in Vegas - The Bee Gees at their best!

"Nights On Broadway" by The Bee Gees.

OK, more 70's: Arguably about a stalker, this '75 Bee Gees smash introduced Barry Gibb's trademark falsetto, becoming the forerunner of their "new sound" during the Disco era and a turning point in the group's history. Their producer asked him, "Can you scream in tune?" and the rest is the sound of the 70's! Peaked at #7. Yesterday's answer: "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. Only one Grammy for Best Disco Recording was ever awarded - dang! Polyester lives on!!!

"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.

OK, more 70's: This Perren/Fekaris '78 disco anthem is a classic example of diatonic circle chord progression, "traveling" counterclockwise from Am to Fmaj7. Discovering inner strength and empowerment after a bad breakup. As opposed to most disco hits, it was recorded without background vocals and with minimal electronic engineering. First and ONLY song to win the Grammy for Best Disco Recording ('79-'80). RIAA Certified Double-Platinum, spent 3 weeks at #1, named "the greatest dance song of all time" by VH1 and is ranked #492 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Artist? Song? Yesterday's answer: "Sloop John B" by The Beach Boys. The a capella chorus towards the end ranks as one of my all-time favorite musical passages ever! Brian's genius!

"Sloop John B" by The Beach Boys.

OK, back to the 60's: Folkie Al Jardine learned this traditional West Indies tune about a sponger boat that sank in the Bahamas in the early 1900's via The Weavers, The Kingston Trio and Johnny Cash. Took a little persuading but he convinced Brian Wilson to arrange and produce it, becoming the fastest-selling Beach Boys recording ever, the biggest commercial hit from "Pet Sounds". Peaked at #3 and ranks #271 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It plays in the background as Lieutenant Dan delivers his famous "welcome to Vietnam" lecture to Forrest and Bubba. Yesterday's answer: "Careless Whisper" by Wham! featuring George Michael.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Careless Whisper" by Wham! featuring George Michael.

OK, back to the 80's: George Michael was an unknown 17 year-old when he co-wrote this ballad with future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. A "cheating" song, it was released in '84 by "Wham! featuring George Michael" and became his first solo hit, topping the charts in over 25 countries, selling over 6 million copies and ranked Billboard's #1 Song of 1985. Memorable sax riff by Steve Gregory. Yesterday's answer: "Part Time Lover" by Stevie Wonder.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


OK, let's go way back: Sir Charlie Chaplin composed this pop standard in 1936 for his film "Modern Times", his transition from "silents" to "talkies". A song of encouragement and hope as one looks for a brighter tomorrow. Turner and Geoffrey added lyrics in '54, the same year that Nat King Cole and a young Petula Clark recorded it in the US and the UK respectively. Clark re-recorded it in '68. Celine Dion sang it at the 2011 Oscars during the "In Memoriam" segment.

"Part Time Lover" by Stevie Wonder.

OK, more 80's: This Grammy-nominated 1985 Stevie Wonder classic was one of the first digital audio recordings made. Inspired by The Supremes, it features Luther Vandross on background vocals. It made him the first artist to have a simultaneous #1 hit on Billboard's Hot 100, R&B, Dance and Adult Contemporary charts! Yesterday's answer: "‎1-2-3" by Len Barry. (you decide!)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"1-2-3" by Len Barry.

OK, more 60's: Philly native Leonard Borisoff started his career as lead singer for Bristol, PA based The Dovells. He co-wrote this '65 #1 hit with Madara and White, recording it in two takes. Sued by Motown's Berry Gordy for the song's similarity to The Supremes' "Ask Any Girl" (you decide!) - it was settled for 15% of royalties. Borisoff's stage name? Hit song? (you decide!) Yesterday's answer: Marty Robbins, "Devil Woman", Chucho Avellanet, "Magia Blanca". Love Marty's voice - like buttah!

"Devil Woman" by Marty Robbins.

OK, back to the 60's: A Glendale, AZ singer/songwriter and NASCAR driver (!) wrote and sang this crossover standard in '62. It was his 7th Country #1 hit and peaked at #16 on the Pop charts. Alfred D. Herger's translation was the first hit for a then-young Puerto Rican singer. Singer? Song? P.R. singer? Spanish title? Yesterday's answer: "Rhinestone Cowboy". Sometimes we forget what an INCREDIBLE guitarist Glen Campbell is!

"Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell.

OK, more 70's: Brooklynite Larry Weiss penned this crossover classic in '74 inspired by his childhood hero Hopalong Cassidy. About a veteran performer who has more than paid his dues but is still surviving. When Glen Campbell heard it he deemed it to be quasi-biographic and immediately recorded it. It topped Billboard's Hot 100, Hot Country and Hot Adult Contemporary charts in '75 - a feat not accomplished since '61. Inspired a (bad!) Sylvester Stallone/Dolly Parton movie in '84. Yesterday's answer: "My Prayer". There' s something about that E-F#-Am chord sequence that's magical - so simple yet so beautiful!