Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"The Look Of Love"

OK, more 60's: Burt Bacharach intended this '67 classic romantic ballad to be an instrumental when he wrote it for "Casino Royale" inspired by Ursula Andress(!). Hal David added lyrics later on to be sung by Dusty Springfield as it appeared on the movie's soundtrack. Her version was Oscar-nominated and made the Top 40. Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66's cover with Janis Hansen on vocals peaked at #4 in '68. Diana Krall's '06 rendition hit the Top 10 and went Platinum. Part of the 1st Austin Powers film ('97) sung by Susanna Hoffs.

Yesterday's answer: "My Guy" by Mary Wells. From Jon Passow: "Smokey Robinson, "America's poet laureate of love."! He could certainly write from any perspective. :)". Me: Well said, Jon! "The Tracks of My Tears" (1965), "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" (1962), "The Tears of a Clown" (1967), the list goes on and on!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"My Guy" by Mary Wells.

OK, more 60's: This '64 Smokey Robinson composition was the biggest hit and signature song for a 19 year-old Detroit native who became Motown's first female star. It was also her last release on the Motown label. Background vocals by The Andantes. Topped the Pop and R&B charts and broke The Beatles' famous Top 5 monopoly in '64. A girl's total commitment to her man. Inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in '99. Song? Artist?

Yesterday's answer: Tony Peluso (1950-2010). Saw The Carpenters in '73 at the Academy of Music in Philly - one of my favorite concerts ever! Tony Peluso blew me away!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tony Peluso (1950 - 2010)

OK, back to the 70's: Karen Carpenter phoned this electric guitar phenom shortly after Richard and John Bettis had written "Goodbye To Love" in '72 and asked him to add a fuzz guitar solo in the middle. It thus became the first "power ballad" of the 70's, peaking at #7. They received hate mail for "selling out" to hard-rock and many adult contemporary radio stations refused to play it. He left us last year at the age of 60.

Yesterday's answer: "Mustang Sally". I'm partial to The Young Rascals' version. Sally's Mustang was a '65 when Pickett sang it but was "updated" to a '66 by The Rascals. The working title was "Mustang Mama" and was changed at Aretha Franklin's recommendation.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Mustang Sally"

OK, more 60's: Bonny ("Sir Mack") Rice penned and first recorded this 1965 funk/soul classic (#15 R&B) inspired by Della Reese and renamed as suggested by Aretha Franklin. Wilson Pickett's '66 version peaked at #6 R&B. A girl lives the wild life in her sports car. #434 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. The Young Rascals also covered it that same year. Part of "The Commitments" and "Miss Congeniality" soundtracks.

Yesterday's answer: "Good Day Sunshine" by The Beatles. Macca played it live to the crew of the International Space Station in '05 - the 1st ever live concert link-up to space!

"Good Day Sunshine" by The Beatles.

OK, more Fabdom: This 1966 Macca composition from "Revolver" was inspired by The Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream" and "Do You Believe In Magic?". It "radiates optimism and good vibes". Only Paul and Ringo play instruments - John and George add background vocals and handclaps. Used as wake-up music during many space shuttle missions and in various TV commercials.

Yesterday's answer: "Bluer Than Blue" by Michael Johnson. Nothing like a Wendy's Double Cheese and a Frosty to get those muses going!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Bluer Than Blue" by Michael Johnson.

OK, back to the 70's: This touching 1978 soft-rock ballad came to Randy Goodrum while driving. He stopped at a Wendy's and penned the verses while eating a burger, later writing the chorus at a K Mart parking lot. It was Michael Johnson's first Top 40 hit peaking at #12 Pop and topping the Easy Listening charts - his highest-charting single. A man tries to delude himself into thinking that things will be better after being left by his lover.

Yesterday's answer: "A Groovy Kind Of Love". Bayer Sager had just graduated from NYU and was teaching English. One of the first songs to include the newly-minted term "groovy". Los Wellingtons used to do a pretty respectable version.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"A Groovy Kind Of Love"

OK, back to the 60's: Toni Wine was only 17 and in high school when she co-wrote this '65 pop ballad with Carole Bayer Sager (22 at the time) in 20 minutes. Influenced by the Rondo Movement of Muzio Clementi's Sonatina in G major, op.36 no. 5. First recorded by Diane and Annita. The Mindbenders' cover later on that year was their first hit after Wayne Fontana left the group - Eric Stewart is on lead vocals. It peaked at #2 in the U.S. and the UK. Phil Collins' '88 rendition topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yesterday's answer: "I Only Want To Be With You" by Dusty Springfield.
For a good laugh check out Bob Rivers' "Three Inch Tool", a parody of Hootie's version.
Lucecita's version: "Un Lugar Para Los Dos".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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

OK, more British Invasion: This 1963 Hawker/Raymonde composition was Dusty Springfield's first solo single after leaving The Springfields. It peaked at #12 U.S. and #4 UK. The second British Invasion performer to score a U.S. hit after The Beatles, it propelled her career. A '64 Spanish version was Puerto Rican chanteuse Lucecita Benitez's first major hit. Song? For extra credit, title of Lucecita's version?

Yesterday's answer: "Tuxedo Junction". The "Chitlin' Circuit" was a network " of nightclubs and theaters that feature African-American performers and cater especially to African-American audiences. When Jim Crow and segregation were even more prominent in the United States, the Negro race, freed through emancipation, did not have equal access to public “White Only” places. The Chitlin’ Circuit - a connected string of music venues, diners, juke joints, and theaters throughout the eastern and southern United States that catered primarily to African American audiences was created. The ChitlinCircuit was the only option for touring Black entertainers..."

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Tuxedo Junction"

OK, back to the 30's: Erskine Hawkins co-wrote the music for this 1939 "jive" classic with Bill Johnson and Julian Dash. Buddy Feyne added lyrics later on at Hawkins' request. First recorded that same year by Hawkins' orchestra, it peaked at #7. Glenn Miller's version topped the charts shortly thereafter. Dedicated to a jazz/blues club where Ensley Ave. meets 19th St. in West Birmingham, AL - a haven for "race music" in the heart of the "Chitlin' Circuit". It became Manhattan Transfer's theme song in '75.

Yesterday's answer: "I'll Be Back" by The Beatles. In my opinion some of The Beatles' best harmonies.

"Teach Me Tonight" by The DeCastro Sisters.

OK, back to the 50's: The biggest hit (#2) for this Cuban-American female vocal trio came in '54 with a romantic jazz ballad penned by Gene DePaul and Sammy Cahn. Influenced by The Andrews Sisters, protegees of Carmen Miranda and accompanied by Skip Martin's Orchestra. The singer asks a lover for lessons in "affection". Killer version by Al Jarreau (#70) in '81. Trio? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "A Teenager In Love" by Dion and The Belmonts. Doo-wop at its best. Performed by Simon and Garfunkel during their last concert together at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens in 1970.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"I'll Be Back" by The Beatles.

OK, more Fabdom: This poignant 1964 Lennon composition was the last song on the "A Hard Day's Night" soundtrack but was released in the U.S. on "Beatles '65". John based the chord pattern on Del Shannon's '61 "Runaway". Played on only acoustic guitars, it contains two bridges but no chorus. Genial seamless transition between major and minor chords. Masterfully covered by Sir Cliff Richard and by Shawn Colvin.

Yesterday's answer: "New York Mining Disaster 1941" by the Bee Gees. As opposed to "The Bells Of Rhymney", this disaster never happened. I remember listening to this song for the first time with my dear friend Ralph Yunque and wondering where in the world that vibrato came from. The opening chord sounded somewhat like an A-minor but not quite - aha, now we know the mystery! There were rumors early on that The Bee Gees were The Beatles recording under a coded pseudonym for "Beatles Group"!

"New York Mining Disaster 1941" by The Bee Gees.

OK, more 60's: This Beatles-inspired 1967 Bee Gees tune was their first U.S. release and their first chart single in the U.S. (#14) and the UK (#12). A trapped man yearns for his wife as his life fades away. The "mystery" opening chord is played by Barry using an open D tuning but playing a conventional A-minor chord shape.

Yesterday's answer: "Teach Me Tonight" by The DeCastro Sisters. From Dr. Dan Rogers: "I wish there could have been a recording of the song by April Stevens; she would have burned it up with her "Teach Me Tiger" sort of voice. But the DeCastro Sisters gave it a really nice sound. Love that song!". Me: Pretty risque lyrics for those days!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"A Teenager In Love" by Dion and The Belmonts.

OK, back to the 60's: Dion DiMucci was just 19 when he and The Belmonts recorded this '59 #5 doo-wop hit (#28 in the UK). Penned by prolific Brill Building songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. The woes of a sensitive adolescent boy. Covered by Simon and Garfunkel during their last concert in Queens ('70).

Yesterday's answer: "Surrender" by The King. "Surrender" by the King. Not quite the Cheap Trick version. The original song was "Torna A Surriento".

"Surrender" by Elvis Presley.

OK, more Kingdom: This 1961 Elvis Presley #1 smash (U.S. and UK) was a Dom Pomus/Mort Shuman re-arrangement of a classic 1902 Neapolitan song by Ernesto and Giambattista De Curtis. One of the best-selling singles of all time. Elvis hit? Original song?

Yesterday's answer: "Another Day" by Sir Paul and Linda McCartney. One of his best indeed! Linda did do a respectable job on backgound vocals.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Another Day" by Paul and Linda McCartney.

OK, more Macca: This 1970 Paul and Linda McCartney collaboration was the first single of Paul's solo career and remains one of this finest post-Beatles works. It peaked at #5 in the U.S. and at #2 in the UK. A woman's seemingly average life belies her disappointments, sadness, isolation, unfulfilled hopes and ultimate breakdown. Part of the "50 First Dates" ('04) and "The Lovely Bones" ('09) soundtracks.

Yesterday's answer: "Seven Year Ache" by Roseanne Cash. In my humble opinion the BEST thing that Johnny Cash ever did was giving us Roseanne! Actually my favorite one of her songs is "If You Change Your Mind" from "King's Record Shop" - one of those albums that I'd like to have with me if I were stranded on a deserted island.

"Seven Year Ache" by Roseanne Cash.

OK, back to the 80's: Roseanne Cash penned this "semi-autobiographical" composition as a poem after a fight with then husband Rodney Crowell at a French restaurant in L.A. It took her 6 month to put it to music. Ironically, Crowell himself subsequently produced the record which became Cash's first #1 Country single in '81. A man of few words runs off to a seedy joint to drown his marital woes. Considered her breakthrough song, it crossed over peaking at #22 Pop and at #6 Adult Contemporary. Covered by Trisha Yearwood in '01 with Cash on background vocals.

Yesterday's answer: "From Me To You" - always playing, along with "Thank You, Girl", on the little tableside jukeboxes at Mastro' Pizza Palace in S.J.!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"From Me To You" by The Beatles.

OK, more Fabdom: This '63 recording was The Beatles' 3rd single release and their first UK #1 hit, topping the charts for 7 weeks and charting for 21. The original release didn't fare well in the U.S. until Del Shannon covered it that same year, becoming the 1st Lennon McCartney composition to chart (#77) in this country. It then charted with "Thank You Girl" as its B-side. One of the very few songs that Paul and John actually co-wrote and it has no lead singer - a duet throughout. First song where Macca introduced is trademark "whoooo" falsetto which he copied from Little Richard. First song published by Northern Songs Unlimited. LAST song released under "McCartney/Lennon". McCartney: "The first time I thought we'd really made it, was when I was lying in bed one morning, and I heard a milkman whistling" this song.

Yesterday's answer: "River Deep, Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner. Old Ike must have been a joy to work with! Pia Toscano did a killer version on Idol this last season.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"River Deep, Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner.

OK, back to the 60's: Even though this '66 recording is credited to Ike and Tina Turner, Phil Spector paid Ike $20,000 cash to stay AWAY from the studio and only Tina' voice appears (the recording cost $22,000 to produce). Composed by Spector/Barry/Greenfield it peaked at only #88 which caused Spector to leave the studio for four years. Eric Burdon successfully covered it in '68, causing the original Turner version to be re-released the following year, becoming one of Tina's signature tunes. Considered by Spector to be his "best work", it is ranked #33 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Leon Russell on keyboards, Glen Campbell on guitar and Hal Blaine on drums.

Yesterday's answer: "Anji" by Davey Graham. Another one of those tests of manhood in the 60's - you HAD to be able to play "Anji" if you were worth anything as a guitarist. I was awed when I saw Paul Simon and his brother play it on the Kraft Music Hall.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Anji" by Davey Graham.

OK, more 60's: A 19 year-old British folk guitarist dedicated this '61 acoustic fingerstyle blues/folk classic to his then girlfriend. Well known for its challenging descending bass line. This piece heavily influenced the 60's British folk revival. He's also credited for popularizing the DADGAD alternate tuning. Paul Simon's version on the '66 "Sounds Of Silence" album is Simon and Garfunkel's ONLY instrumental studio recording. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Twistin' The Night Away" by Sam Cooke. "...the name of the dance is The Peppermint Twist" - where it all started. Sam Cooke was an artist WAY ahead of his time! One can only wonder what he would have done had he not died so young.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Twistin' The Night Away" by Sam Cooke.

OK, more 60's: Sam Cooke wrote this '62 dance classic after watching live footage from The Peppermint Lounge in NYC on "The Today Show". It topped the R&B charts and peaked at #9 on Pop. Covered by the Marvelettes that same year. Part of the "Animal House" ('78) and "The Green Hornet" ('11) soundtracks.

Yesterday's answer: "Johnny Angel" by Shelley Fabares.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"Johnny Angel" by Shelley Fabares.

OK, more 60's one-hit wonders: The only Top 10 hit for this actress/singer came in '62 with a Duddy/Pockriss composition that topped the charts and won her a Gold Disc. The introduced it on her TV program "The Donna Reed Show". Her debut single, it had previously been recorded by Georgia Lee and by Sandy Stewart. A girl has a huge crush on a boy who doesn't know she exists and turns down other boys' offers hoping he'll ask her out. Darlene Love and The Blossoms on background vocals, Glen Campbell on Guitar and Hal Blaine on drums! Covered by The Carpenters in '73 and part of the "Mermaids" soundtrack. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" by Jay and The Techniques. Their only other hit was "Keep The Ball Rolling". Spanish version: "No Te Enamores".

"Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" by Jay & The Techniques.

OK, back to the 60's: This Allentown, PA interracial pop/soul septet's only Top 10 hit came in '67 with a Maurice Irby, Jr. composition that peaked at #6 on Billboard's Hot 100 and earned them a Gold Disc. Covered in '68 by The Fourmost. Group? Hit? Only other hit? For extra credit - Spanish title of their "other hit"?

Yesterday's answer: "Bye, Bye, Blackbird". Great classic indeed!

"Bye, Bye, Blackbird"

OK, back to the 20's: Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon penned this feel-good jazz standard in '26 (the year my Mom was born). That same year it was recorded three times - Gene Austin (#1), Nick Lucas (#4) and Eddie Cantor, spending 18 weeks on the charts. There's speculation about the theme - some say it's about a prostitute leaving "the life" and returning home to her mother while others believe it is about the pleasures of returning home to a loving and understanding sweetheart. Re-popularized in '55 by the Jack Webb movie "Pete Kelly's Blues", set in the 20's, with vocals by Peggy Lee. Next year Miles Davis made it a jazz classic on his "Round About Midnight" album. John Coltrane's '81 version won the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance. Joe Cocker's cover appears in "Sleepless In Seattle", Diana Krall's in "Public Enemies" and Lou Rawls sang in on "The Muppet Show".

Yesterday's answer: "The Longest Time" by Billy Joel. One of his best!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"The Longest Time" by Billy Joel.

OK, back to the 80's: This '84 Billy Joel "quasi a cappella" doo-wop classic from "An Innocent Man" was his 4th single from that album. It topped the Adult Contemporary charts and peaked at #14 on Billboard's Hot 100. The only instruments are electric bass and hi-hat plus hand claps and finger snaps. The lead and 14 backup vocal tracks were all laid down by Joel himself (!). Outstanding video!

Yesterday's answer: "Rapture" by Blondie. She was once dubbed "the female Mick Jagger".