Monday, September 19, 2011

"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" by James Brown.

OK, back to the 60's: This 1965 James Brown composition is widely recognized as the first "funk" tune, defining the genre. The old man is bold enough to show off some dance moves. Topped the R&B charts and was his first Pop Top 10 hit at #8. It pioneered his funk sound with heavy horns and driving electric guitar. He recorded the vocals in one take and the instruments in less than one hour! Ranked #72 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time and was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in '99.

Yesterday's answer: "Lily The Pink" by The Scaffold.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Lily The Pink" by The Scaffold.

OK. more 60's: This Liverpudlian comedy/poetry/music trio's only #1 UK hit came in late 1968 with their adaptation of "The Ballad Of Lydia Pinkham", a traditional 19th-century rugby and pub song. Pinkham was an early entrepreneuse, manufacturing a "women's tonic". One of their members, Mike McGear (born Peter Michael McCartney) was Sir Paul's younger brother. It sold over a million copies and was Certified Gold. Graham Nash, Tim Rice and Reg Dwight (aka Sir Elton John) lent background vocals and Cream's Jack Bruce added bass. The Irish Rovers' cover was a minor U.S. hit. Group? Hit?

Yesterday's answer: "In The Quiet Morning" by Mimi Farina. Folk music at its best!

Friday, September 16, 2011

"In The Quiet Morning" by Mimi Farina.

OK, more 70's: This Palo Alto-born singer/songwriter penned a tribute to Janis Joplin shortly after her untimely death in 1970. Her older sister Joan Baez recorded it as part of her 1972 album "Come From The Shadows". She left us in 2001 at the age of 56. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell". A classic! In my book Jimmy Webb is arguably our greatest living popular composer.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell.

OK, more 60's: Jimmy Webb wrote this '68 classic ballad while driving along the Kansas-Oklahoma border. He saw a telephone repairman perched atop a pole and thought about his first love affair with a woman whom eventually married another man. A tale of loneliness and yearning for an absent lover. Glen Campbell recorded it with Webb on the Hammond organ. It received 4 Grammy nominations and won one. Topped the Country and Easy Listening charts and peaked at #3 Pop. Ranked #192 among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Yesterday's answer: "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" by Chuck Berry. John Fogerty's seminal "Centerfield" was his best-selling post-CCR album. He played every instrument, did all the vocals and, other than for 2 "bonus tracks", wrote all the songs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" by Chuck Berry.

OK, back to the 50's: Chuck Berry wrote and recorded this controversial '56 rock-and-roll/R&B classic after witnessing a California policeman arrest a Hispanic man for loitering only to release him after a woman vouched for him. Berry was widely known for bragging about his penchant for white women. He packs 6 verses into 2:15 minutes! The 5th verse was inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's "Venus In Furs" and the last verse influenced John Fogerty's '85 "Centerfield". It features Willie Dixon on bass. Buddy Holly's cover was a posthumous hit. Peaked at #5 R&B and is ranked #374 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Yesterday's answer: "O-o-h Child" by The Five Stairsteps".

Monday, September 12, 2011

"O-o-h Child" by the Five Stairsteps.

OK, more 70's one-hit wonders: This Chicago-based Burke family quintet was self-dubbed "The First Family Of Soul". They got their name from the way they looked when they stood in line by age. Their only major hit (#8 Pop, #14 R&B) came in '70 with a Stan Vincent composition. An uplifting tune of comfort, hope and optimism during times of adversity. Has been extensively covered and is ranked #392 among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "I'm Down" by The Beatles. One of the most frenetic Beatles tunes. A staple on the tableside jukeboxes at Mastro's Pizza Palace. Amazing that they recorded those three songs in one day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"I'm Down" by The Beatles.

OK, more Fabdom: Macca wrote this '65 "frantic rocker" inspired by his hero Little Richard. The B-side for "Help", it was never included in any of the original Beatles albums. Recorded on the same day as "I've Just Seen A Face" and "Yesterday"! Sir Paul used it to open his set during the 2001 "Concert For New York City" to benefit the surviving first responders of 9/11/01.

Yesterday's answer: "Livin' thing" by ELO.

"Livin' Thing" by ELO.

OK, more 70's: Rumors abound as to the meaning of this '76 ELO Jeff Lynne composition. Anti-abortion? Loss of virginity? Environmental causes? Lynne himself has said that it is about love gone wrong. Background vocals by Patti Quatro (Suzi's sister - who can forget Leather Tuscadero on "Happy Days"?!). Peaked at #13. Part of the "Boogie Nights" soundtrack ('97).

Yesterday's answer: "Mr. Lonely" by Bobbi Vinton. KILLER falsetto! His other 3 #1 hits were "Roses Are Red", "Blue Velvet", and "There, I've Said It Again".

"Mr. Lonely" by Bobby Vinton.

OK, back to the 60's: Bobby "The Polish Prince" Vinton co-wrote this tear-jerker with Gene Allen in '62 while serving in the Army. First recorded by Buddy Greco (#64 in'62). A soldier overseas with no word from home. Vinton's version was released in '64 as the Vietnam War escalated and quickly topped the charts. The last of his four #1 hits and the only one which was not a cover. Song? For extra credit, his other 3 #1 hits?

Yesterday's answer: "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" by The Miracles. As with so many of their other R&B covers of the day, in my humble opinion The Beatles' version was FAR better than the original!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"You've Really Got A Hold On Me" by The Miracles.

OK, back to the 60's: Smokey Robinson wrote this '62 ballad possibly about his then wife Claudette and inspired by Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me". A man is so taken by a woman that he can't leave her even though she mistreats him. It topped the R&B charts for The Miracles (their 2nd #1 hit after "Shop Around") and peaked at #8 Pop. Originally the B-side to the forgettable "Happy Landing". Famously covered by The Beatles the following year with John on lead vocals, George on harmony and Sir George Martin on piano. Also covered by The Supremes and The Temptations. Mickey Gilley took it to #2 on the Country charts in '84. KILLER version by Haley Reinhart on this year's American Idol. Inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

Yesterday's answer: "Duke Of Earl" by Gene Chandler. Other hit :"Groovy Situation". Sha Na Na performed towards the end of Woodstock "sandwiched" between The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Hendrix (that would be a little intimidating!).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Duke Of Earl" by Gene Chandler.

OK, more 60's two-hit wonders: Chicago native Eugene Dixon was the lead singer for The Dukays in '60 when they recorded this Williams/Dixon/Edwards R&B/doo-wop classic. Inspired by Earl Edwards, the group's founder. Dixon assumed a stage name, left the group and was able to release his first and biggest hit in '62 under his new name. It topped the charts for 3 weeks. Covered by Sha-Na-Na at Woodstock. Stage name? Biggest hit? For extra credit - other hit?

Yesterday's answer: "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield. Mary Isobel Catherine Bernardette O'Brion aka "The Queen of White Soul" left us in '99 at the age of 59. Her first hit came in '63 with "I Only Want To Be With You".

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield.

OK, back to the 60's: 26 year-old contestant Dusty Springfield was sitting in the audience at the '65 San Remo Festival when she heard co-writers Pino Donaggio and Jody Miller perform "Lo Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)" and was moved to tears. Two non-songwriter friends added English lyrics and she recorded her '66 version in one day in 47 takes (!) on a stairwell. A tale of unrequited love, she called it "good old schmaltz". It topped the UK charts and peaked at #4 in the U.S. Ranked #491 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Yesterday's answer: "Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard" by Paul Simon. From Adrienne Adams: "My favorite song in 8th grade! I'll bet Pat Boone would have suggested "Julio and I Down by the School Yard" to appeal to a broader audience. :-)". As with Carly Simon's "You're So Vain", we might never know the truth about this song!

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard" by Paul Simon.

OK, back to the 70's: Considered one of the great enigmas in modern pop music, this 1972 Paul Simon tune was released on his first "Art-less" self-titled solo album. The grammatically incorrect title makes it even more appealing! Two boys from Queens get into some serious mischief but we'll probably never know the nature of the offense. Anti-war protest, homosexuality, drug use...??? Could the "radical priest" be Vietnam War activists Frs. Berrigan or Yale chaplain Rev. Wm. Sloane Coffin? Hmmmm....??? It peaked at #22 U.S. and #15 UK. Just last year Simon called the song "a bit of inscrutable doggerel"!

Yesterday's answer: "England Swings (Like a Pendulum Do)" by Roger Miller. Such a different tune for Roger Miller.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"England Swings (Like A Pendulum Do)" by Roger Miller.

OK, back to the 60's: In the middle of the 60's Nashville Sound era Roger Miller wrote and performed this '65 crossover hit - a stereotypical picture of the London cultural and fashion scene of the day. Peaked at #3 Country, #8 Pop and topped the Easy Listening charts. Covered by Petula Clark and by Pat Boone in '67.

Yesterday's answer: "Operator" by William Spivery. The Manhattan Transfer's debut album remains a masterpiece. We saw them in Des Moines shortly after moving to Iowa in '81. Incredible concert!

"Operator" by William Spivery.

OK, back to the 50's: This long-time Cleveland resident was born in '31 and was an upholsterer and car seat repairman by trade but also penned a Gospel classic in the 50's. It was popularized by and became The Manhattan Transfer's first successful chart single in '75 (#22 on Billboard's Hot 100). It remains a staple in churches and karaoke bars. Other compositions include "Mr. John" ('64), a tribute to JFK and "Non-Violent Man" ('68) about Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He left us in '04 at the age of 73. Gospel hit? Composer?

Yesterday's answer: "It Must Have Been Love" by Roxette. Other 3 U.S. #1 hits: "The Look" ('89), "Listen To your Heart" ('89) and "Joyride" ('91). Anyone who plays a Rickenbacker is OK in my book!