Monday, May 30, 2011

"Rapture" by Blondie.

OK, back to the 80's: This 80'/'81 release was THE FIRST rap-influenced single to top both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts. It was also the first rap video on young MTV. Rap songs until then used pre-existing music that artists would rap over - this was the first number in the genre with its own original music. First rap song ever by a female performer. Song? Artist?

Yesterday's answer: "Happy" by The Rolling Stones. Ya gotta love ol' Keith! He was SO proud of himself for arriving at the studio EARLY for the first time ever.

"Happy" by The Rolling Stones.

OK, back to the 70's: This cut from The Stones' '72 "Exile On Main St." was their first chart hit with Keith Richards on lead vocals, peaking at #22. According to Richards, for the first time ever he got to the studio EARLY before the rest of the band. The guitar riff came to him and he "layered" the song around it with him on acoustic and electric guitars and bass, a session musician on sax and their producer doing the rest. The basic tracks were laid down before the rest of the group arrived. Mick Taylor added lead guitar, Charlie drums and Jagger percussion and background vocals. Considered his "signature" tune in concerts.

Yesterday's answer: "Remember Then" by The Earls. On my "bucket list": Attending the annual "Brooklyn Reunion" doo-wop show.

"Remember Then" by The Earls.

OK, more 60's one-hit wonders: South Philly native Larry Chance attended school with Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon and Danny Rapp (Danny and the Juniors). His family relocated to the Bronx in the mid-50's where he formed The Hi(gh)-Hatters, a vocal ensemble which was "discovered" in '59 while singing in front of a subway station (yo!). They changed their name and recorded their only hit (#24) in '62/'63 - a Powers/Ross/Vincent composition which was to become a doo-wop classic. Group? Hit?

Yesterday's answer: "Four Strong Winds". Ian and Sylvia are way up there among my all-time folkie faves. They opened the doors for other Canadian singers/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot to the American and world audiences.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Hold Me, Kiss Me, Thrill Me".

OK, back to the 50's: Harry Noble penned this classic romantic pop ballad in '52. The original version by one-hit wonder Karen Chandler hit the charts on October 17th that same year (15 days before I was born!) peaking at #7 and remaining in the Top 100 for 18 weeks. Perhaps the best-loved version was Mel Carter's '65 rendition which topped the Easy Listening charts and peaked at #8 Pop.

Yesterday's answer: "Little Green Apples" by O. C. Smith. Always liked that tune.

"Four Strong Winds"

OK, more 60's: Canadian folkie Ian Tyson penned this classic in '61 inspired by "the seasonal movement of workers around the country from one harvest to the next and its effects upon love affairs". A sad musing on a failing romance, hoping for a reunion but coming to terms with the fact that it's over. Published and first recorded by The Brothers Four in '63 and by Ian and Sylvia later on that same year. Named by CBC Radio One "The Greatest Canadian Song Of All Time". A folk and country standard, it has been covered over 50 times, charting by Bobby Bare in '64 and by Neil Young in '79.

Yesterday's answer: "My Grandfather's Clock" by Henry Clay Work. Most authorities believe that the "grandfather clock" got its name from this song. "Until that time, clocks such as the one in the old George Hotel were referred to by a variety of names, but not before Henry Work wrote his song, over a hundred years ago, were they referred to as grandfather clocks."

"My Grandfather's Clock" by Henry Clay Work.

OK, let's go way back: The two Jenkins brothers ran the George Hotel, a 16th century wayfarers' inn in North Yorkshire, England. The upright longcase timepiece in the lobby ran flawlessly for many years until the day one of the brothers died, when it started malfunctioning. Upon the second brother's passing it stopped keeping time and would never run again. A Connecticut-born abolitionist visited the hotel and was inspired to compose his best-loved song about the timepiece. It is written through the eyes of a grandson. Published in 1876, it was first sung by Sam Lucas and sold over 1 million copies of sheet music. Very popular among brass bands and bluegrass circles. Composer? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro. Oh now, just a little sappy, that's all! You know me, I'm a sensitive new-age guy - NOT!

"Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro.

OK, back to the 60's: Named by CNN in '06 "The Worst Song Of All Time", this Bobby Russell tear-jerker about a young husband who loses his wife topped the Pop, Adult Contemporary and Country charts in '68. It became the signature song for a Floridian whose career started out as a guitarist for Roy Orbison in the early 60's. Recorded in one take (!), it was #1 the week when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Song? Artist?

Yesterday's answer: "Hold Me, Kiss Me, Thrill Me" by Mel Carter. Great romantic ballad.

"Little Green Apples" by O.C. Smith.

OK, back to the 60's: This Louisiana-born minister cut his teeth as frontman for the Count Basie Orchestra in the early 60's. His biggest hit came in '68-'69 with a Bobby Russell ballad that peaked at #2 on Pop and R&B, earned him an RIAA Gold Record and won the '69 Grammys for Song Of The Year and Best Country Song. Covered by, among many others, Roger Miller and Patti Page. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Lollipop". Fun memories of Camp Foster when Lauren was in Indian Guides. One of the groups did a hilarious skit to "Lollipop".

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


OK, back to the 50's: Julius Dix(s)on and Beverly Ross penned this '58 pop standard for Ronald and Ruby. Even though they took it to #20, they couldn't perform it in public or appear on TV with it as they were an interracial couple, fairly unusual at the time. The Chordettes' cover became an international hit, peaking at #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and at #3 R&B.

Yesterday's answer: "Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills. I'm sure Bill Murray's Nick The Lounge Singer would have been more than glad to add lyrics just like he did with the Star Wars Theme ("Star Wars/Nothing but Star Wars/Give me those Star Wars/Don't let them end!").

"Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills.

OK, more 70's one-hit wonders: This '78 international megahit was written and recorded by a Canadian pianist in '74. Described as "bubblegum pop", the piano with disco accompaniment instrumental peaked at #3 in the U.S. and consistently charted in the Top 10 throughout Europe and Asia. Hit? Artist?

Yesterday's answer: "Maria Elena". Dedicated to and inspired by Maria Elena, the wife of Mexican President Emilio Portes Gil.

"Maria Elena"

OK, back to the 40's: Mexican composer Lorenzo Barcelata dedicated this '32 pop classic to the then First Lady of Mexico. With English lyrics by Bob Russell, it was first recorded in '41 by Lawrence Welk. The best-loved version was released by Jimmy Dorsey later that same year. With "Green Eyes" as its B-side, BOTH songs topped the charts individually, a VERY rare occurrence. It was "revived" in '58 by Los Indios Tabajaras peaking at #6 Pop and #3 Easy Listening.

Yesterday's answer: "The Summer Wind".

Monday, May 23, 2011

"The Summer Wind"

OK, back to the 60's: A sentimental account of a fugacious love affair, this '65 Johnny Mercer/Heinz Meier collaboration was first recorded by Wayne Newton, peaking at #78. The best-loved version came in '66 by Frank Sinatra - it topped the Easy Listening charts and peaked at #25 Pop. It became one of his most popular concert tunes and is featured on numerous soundtracks.

Yesterday's answer: "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" by The Byrds. From Jeff Bluml: " It was nice to have Roger on Tom's cover from Full Moon Fever". Me: McGuinn's guitar break remains one of my faves ever. He started out as a banjo player and thus he developed his guitar picking technique using a flat pick between thumb and index finger with fingerpicks on the middle and ring fingers accounting for his unique full sound. As many times as I've seen him live it never ceases to amaze me how he does it. Tom Petty is the world's SECOND biggest McGuinn fan after yours truly!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better"

OK, more 60's: This '65 Gene Clark composition was THE first tune by The Byrds written by one of its members to actually be profitable. Inspired by a girl he met at Ciro's in West Hollywood. A mordant view of breaking off their relationship. The guitar line takes after The Searchers' '64 "Needles And Pins". Trademark early Byrds sound with McGuinn's jingle-jangle Rickenbacker-12, Clark's tambourine and McGuinn's, Clark's and Crosby's angelic harmonies. Covered by Tom Petty in '89. Peaked at #103 and is ranked #234 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Yesterday's answer: "Catch A Wave/Sidewalk Surfin' ". From Jeff Bluml: "With global warming they'll soon be the same song."

"Catch A Wave" / "Sidewalk Surfin'"

OK, more 60's: When B. Wilson/M. Love wrote this surf classic in '63 they intended for Dennis to sing lead. Mike, however, laid down the lead track instead while having a cold. Maureen Love, Mike's sister, played the harp. One of the few examples of a six-man Beach Boys lineup with Carl and 15 year-old David Marks playing guitars, Brian on piano and Al Jardine on bass. Jan and Dean reworked the lyrics next year for what was to become a skateboarding anthem, peaking at #25. Beach Boys' song? Jan and Dean's song?

Yesterday's answer: "Under The Boardwalk". We got a little sidetracked by Idol. BTW, Judy and Gina will be in the audience for tonight's finale! The first verse alludes to "Up On The Roof". Love the guiro in the background.

"Under The Boardwalk"

OK, more 60's: The night before The Drifters were set to record this '64 Young/Resnick pop classic their lead singer, Rudy Lewis, was found dead from a possible heroin overdose. They promptly brought in their original frontman, Johnny Moore, to record the lead vocals. This was Moore's first single after returning to their lineup. A romantic summer encounter on the beach (Coney Island vs. Atlantic City - we'll probably never know). The opening line alludes to their previous Goffin/King hit. The mono and stereo versions are quite different from each other. Peaked at #4 pop, topped the R&B charts and is ranked #487 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. Covered by The Rolling Stones and by Bruce Willis.

Yesterday's answer: "Holiday Road". Who can forget the swimming pool scene with Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley?!

"Holiday Road"

OK, back to the 80's: Lindsey Buckingham wrote and released this '83 rocker as a single and it became his biggest solo hit, peaking at #82. Used extensively on "National Lampoon's Vacation" in '83 and subsequently on "European Vacation ('85) and "Vegas Vacation ('97).

Yesterday's answer: "Boys". Beatles gay rumours?! NAH!


OK, more Fabdom: This Dixon/Farrell tune was first recorded by the Shirelles in 1960. The Beatles recorded it in one take in '63 as part of their first album, changing the lyrics as it was originally a "girl" song. This was Ringo's first recorded vocal lead. Before him, Pete Best sang lead vocals on it during their live shows. Ringo also sang lead when performed by Rory Storm and The Hurricanes.

Yesterday's answer: "Baby It's You". I'm partial to The Beatles' version (no surprise!).

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Baby It's You"

OK, back to the 60's: Although this '61 Bacharach/Dixon/David ballad war first recorded by The Shirelles and covered by The Beatles on their first album, the highest-charting version was by Smith in '69, produced by Del Shannon and peaking at #5. The Shirelles took it to #8 and The Beatles to #7 UK and #67 U.S. in '63. The original working title was "I'll Cherish You".

Yesterday's answer: "Pictures Of Matchstick Men" by Status Quo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Pictures Of Matchstick Men" by Status Quo.

OK, more 60's one-hit wonders: Starting out as The Spectres in the early 60's, this British boogie-rock band had 60 chart hits in the UK, more than any other group. Their only U.S. hit (#12) was a '68 Francis Rossi composition which he wrote in the "loo" to get away from his family. Described as "bubblegum psychedelia", it was inspired by the paintings of L. S. Lowry. The original mono version includes the signature wah-wah guitar whereas the stereo version doesn't. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" by The Four Aces. It was one of the first songs written for a movie to top the charts in the same year. The Four Aces' version held at #1 for 4 weeks.

"Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" by The Four Aces.

OK, back to the 50's: Sammy Fain and Paul F. Webster wrote this romantic 1955 classic as the theme for a movie sharing the same title. It won the Oscar for Best Song. A Philly-based vocal quartet recorded the best-selling version. It topped the U.S. charts and peaked at #2 in the UK, becoming their signature tune. Part of the "Grease" movie soundtrack. Song? Group?

Yesterday's answer: "Moments To Remember" by The Four Lads. From Adrienne Adams: "You started me off on a Wikipedia treasure hunt, where one page leads to another and I found out that "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" was a hit for them in 1953. I never heard it before They Might Be Giants. I love learning new stuff."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Moments To Remember" by The Four Lads.

OK, back to the 50's: This Canadian vocal quartet met during choir practice at St. Michael's School in Toronto (so did The Crew Cuts). First named The Otnorots (Toronto spelled backwards!), then The Jordonaires (NOT Elvis' backup group!) and finally The Four Dukes before settling on their eventual name. Their biggest hit was a Robert Allen/Al Stillman composition which peaked at #2 in '55. Covered by The Statler Brothers and by The Vogues in '69. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" by The Walker Brothers. Bob Gaudio's catalog is beyond spectacular. BTW, if you get the chance to see "Jersey Boys" don't miss it!

"The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" by The Walker Brothers.

OK, back to the 60's (R.I.P John Walker 5/7/11): Frankie Valli first recorded this Bob Gaudio/Bob Crewe composition in '66 for his first solo album. It didn't chart but The Walker Brothers' "wall of sound" version from later that same year topped the UK charts and peaked at #13 in the U.S. Also covered by Cher, Neil Diamond, The Ides Of March, Jay and The Americans and The Lettermen.

Yesterday's answer: "26 Miles (Santa Catalina)" by The Four Preps. Just saw it in the distance while visiting Gina a few weeks ago.

"26 Miles (Santa Catalina)" by The Four Preps.

OK, more 50's: While recovering from a bike accident, 15 year-old Bruce Bellard was given an ukulele as a present. The first 4 chords he learned are the opening for this sunny '57/'58 Southern California classic. Band mate Glen Larson came up with the chorus while body-surfing with Bellard inspired by an island in the distance. Peaked at #2 Pop and at #6 R&B, sold over 1 million copies and his group performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show. The song influenced Brian Wilson and Jimmy Buffett. Song? Group?

Yesterday's answer: "I Put A Spell On You". I am partial to the CCR version.

"I Put A Spell On You"

OK, more 50's: Arguably one of the first, if not THE first "Shock-Rock" performer, "Screamin' " Jay Hawkins penned and performed this blues classic in '56. His version failed to chart but Nina Simone's cover hit #23 in '65 and CCR's peaked at #58. One of The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped R&R and #313 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All time. Bette Midler sang it on "Hocus Pocus". KILLER version by Casey Abrams on "Idol" a few weeks ago.

Yesterday's answer: "People". Just watched "Funny Girl" and "The Way We Were" back-to-back. Dang, can she sing, dahlin'!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


OK, more 60's: Jules Styne and Bob Merrill penned this "special love song" in 30 minutes in '62 for the stage version of "Funny Girl"('64) starring Barbra Streisand (like buttah, I'm getting a little verklempt, talk amongst yourselves...). It almost didn't make the script until Streisand finally belted it out on stage and the rest is Broadway history. It became her signature song and her 1st Top 40 hit, peaking at #5. Styne and Merrill were Tony nominated for it. Streisand shared the '68 Best Actress Oscar with Katharine Hepburn ("The Lion In Winter") for her role in the film version. Covered by Dionne, Aretha, Ella and Perry, among many others. The Supremes' version featured Florence on lead vocals - one of their very few recordings to do so.

Yesterday's answer: "Be Bop A Lula" by Gene Vincent.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Be Bop A Lula" by Gene Vincent.

OK, back to the 50's: This young sailor met Don Graves while they were both patients at a Naval Hospital in '54. He wrote the melody and Don the lyrics inspired by the newspaper cartoon Little Lulu. The sailor's eventual manager, Bill "Sheriff Tex" Davis, bought out Graves' songwriting credits for $25 (!). He recorded this rockabilly classic in '56 with his group the Blue Caps, named after Ike's golf headwear. It peaked at #7 Pop, #8 R&B and #5 C&W. Covered by Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles and The Everly Brothers (#74 in '60). #102 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. THE first record Paul McCartney ever bought AND THE first song he ever heard John Lennon sing.

Yesterday's answer: "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison. His voice never ceases to amaze me. We just saw his exhibit at the Grammy Museum in L.A. - fabulous!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"In Dreams" by Roy Orbison.

OK, more "Big O": This '63 "operatic ballad of lost love" came to Roy Orbison upon awakening one morning and he penned it in 20 minutes. It peaked at #7 in the U.S. and stayed in the UK charts for 5 months while he toured with The Beatles. Ringo was quoted as saying: "Roy Orbison was the only act that The Beatles didn't want to follow." In 2:48 min. he goes through 7 distinct "movements", each with unique melodies and chord progressions, utilizing 2 out of his 4-octave range! #312 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. Figures prominently during the climax of David Lynch's '87 "Blue Velvet".

Yesterday's answer: "Party Doll" by Buddy Knox. From Dan Rogers: "Really fit with the music of Buddy Holly, etc. Nice period of music!" Me: "Buddy" must be a Texas thang - are you sure you're not "Buddy" Rogers?

"Party Doll" by Buddy Knox.

OK, more 50's one-hit wonders: This Happy, Texas native (pop. 690) co-wrote his only hit in '48 with Jimmy Bowden when he was only 15. A rockabilly classic, it topped the charts in '57 and has sold over 10 million copies since then. Backed by The Rhythm Orchids, he became the first Texas rockabilly artist to earn a Gold Record. THE first artist of the Rock & Roll Era to write and record his own #1 hit. Considered a pioneer of what evolved into the Tex-Mex sound. Steve Lawrence's cover peaked at #5. Part of the "American Graffiti" soundtrack ('73). Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Baby Talk" by Jan and Dean. I had the privilege of seeing Jan & Dean opening for McGuinn, Clark & Hillman in '79. Incredible concert! The sad thing was that, because of his accident, Jan Berry had memory loss - he had to re-memorize all the lyrics right before going on stage. He had visual cues with their keyboard player so that when he would forget lyrics the keyboardist would seamlessly fill in.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Baby Talk" by Jan and Dean.

OK, back to the 50's: Originally known as The Barons, this iconic West L.A. surf duo started out by harmonizing in the locker room after high-school football practice. Their second Top Ten hit (after #8 "Jennie Lee" in '58) was a collaboration with friends Herb Alpert and Lou Adler which peaked at #10 in '59. Written by Melvin Schwartz and 1st recorded by The Laurels in '58. They performed it during their first appearance on "American Bandstand". THE first song that incorporated all the elements of the nascent surf music genre - close harmonies, interweaving of major and minor chords and falsetto doo-wop runs. Later covered by young Simon and Garfunkel, then known as Tom and Jerry. Duo? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Try A Little Tenderness". From David Buskin: "I guess the lyric was in keeping with the times, but its patronizing tone is kind of a stone age relic now."
LOL! Never thought about it but you're absolutely right - NON-P.C.!

"Try A Little Tenderness"

OK, back to the 60's: This '32 Campbell/Connelly/Woods love ballad was first recorded by The Ray Noble Orchestra with Val Rosing on vocals. Subsequently covered by the likes of Crosby, Sinatra and Torme. The staff at STAX Records convinced a reluctant young Otis Redding to record it with a novel soulful twist, starting out slowly and building to an explosive and feverish R&B climax. Arranged by Isaac Hayes and backed by Booker T. and The M.G.'s. It became his signature song and his best-selling record, peaking at #25 in '66. #204 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Three Dog Night's '68 cover was their 1st Top 40 hit.

Yesterday's answer: "Catch the Wind" by Donovan. Has been used in several TV commercials throughout the years.

"Catch The Wind" by Donovan.

OK, more 60's: Even though this Scottish singer/songwriter's actual first recording was the now extremely rare "Donna Donna/Car Car", his first "official" release was this '65 folk classic. Inspired by Linda Lawrence (then Brian Jones' girlfriend), whom he married in '70. Has been likened to Dylan's "Chimes Of Freedom". Peaked at #4 in the UK and at #23 in the U.S. Heavy echo on the vocals, backed by the strings section of the London Philharmonic and The Ivy League on harmony. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Green Onions" by Booker T and The M.G.'s. Green Onions was a cat that hung around the STAX studio and had a funky stride. BTW, M.G. stands for "Musical Group" NOT the British sports car.

"Green Onions" by Booker T. and The M.G.'s.

OK, more 60's: A 16 year-old Memphis native recorded this soul instrumental classic in '62 with STAX Records' house band on his signature Hammond B-3 organ with its big-a** Leslie Speaker Cabinet. Inspired by a friend's cat with a peculiar walk - NOT a marijuana reference, as it was originally thought. Topped the soul charts and peaked at #3 on Pop. #183 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and Grammy Hall Of Fame inductee. Covered by The Ventures in '63 and featured on the "American Graffiti" soundtrack ('73). Song? Group?

Yesterday's answer: "Tango (Tzigane) Jalousie" by Jacob T. H. Gade, also known as "Jealousy". My Dad was a tango purist and it always baffled him how arguably the 2 most popular tangos in the U.S., this one and "Blue Tango" , were not written by Argentinian composers. "Blue Tango" was penned by Mass. native Leroy Anderson.

"Tango (Tzigane) Jalousie" by Jacob T. H. Gade.

OK, more 20's one-hit wonders: This Danish composer/violinist wrote his only "hit" in '25 as piano accompaniment to "Don Q. Son Of Zorro", a silent movie featuring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Astor. Inspired after reading about a crime of passion in the newspaper. First recorded by Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops. Ever since then it has been featured in over 100 "talkie" movies, most famously Mel Brooks' '76 "Silent Movie". Composer? "Hit"?

Yesterday's answer: "(My) Melancholy Baby". Hence the popular 60's catch-phrase "Do you know 'Melancholy Baby'?".

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"(My) Melancholy Baby"

OK, let's go way back (99 years!): This 1912 Burnett/Norton classic was first performed and popularized by William Frawley (as in Fred Mertz in "I Love Lucy") during his early Vaudeville days. He didn't reveal this until 1965 during an appearance in "I've Got A Secret". In the original "A Star Is Born" a drunk famously asks for this song from Judy Garland and ever since then it has become a jocular cliched request for performers, notoriously on "Hogan Heroes" and "The Monkees".

Yesterday's answer: "Party Lights" by Claudine Clark. From Dr. Dan Rogers: "But she didn't have any pro wrestlers working with her. The reason, I think, that she disappeared by that name was her subsequent attempt at a hit, "Walkin' Through a Cemetery." I have that song in my list of really, really bad recordings, along with "The Bristol Stomp." She had another song that I liked, called "The Telephone Game."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Party Lights" by Claudine Clark.

OK, more 60's one-hit wonders (ready to do the Mashed Potatoes?): Known later in her career as Joy Dawn, this Macon, GA native cut her teeth in Philly and then in NYC, where she was promoted and produced by Peter DeAngelis and Bob Marcucci. Her only hit came in '62 with a self-penned Pop/R&B dance number that peaked at #5. Uncanny resemblance to Cyndi Lauper's '83 "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Go Away, Little Girl". The Goffin/King catalog is mind-boggling! I had forgotten that they had written that song until I heard it on Carole King night on "Idol".