Thursday, November 24, 1983

Nov. 24, 1933: Bessie Smith's final recording session

First posted March 6, 2011. Last updated September 8, 2018.

The Essential

Bessie Smith

Released: Sept. 23, 1997

Years Covered: Feb. 15, 1923 to Nov. 24, 1933


Sales (in millions):
US: --
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): --


Peak:
US: --
UK: --
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “If you’ve never experienced the genius of Bessie Smith, pick this one up and prepare yourself to be devastated.” – Cub Koda, All Music Guide


Genre: blues


Album Tracks – Disc 1:

  1. Aggravatin’ Papa (8/25/23, #12 US)
  2. Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home (9/1/23, #6 US)
  3. ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness if I Do (10/20/23, #9 US)
  4. Jail-House Blues (1923)
  5. Graveyard Dream Blues (1923)
  6. Ticket Agent, Ease Your Window Down (1924)
  7. Boweavil Blues (1924)
  8. Weeping Willow Blues (1924)
  9. Dying Gambler’s Blues (1924)
  10. St. Louis Blues (6/13/25, #3 US)
  11. You’ve Been a Good Ole Wagon (1925)
  12. Cake Walkin’ Babies from Home (1925)
  13. Careless Love Blues (10/31/25, #5 US)
  14. I Ain’t Goin’ to Play Second Fiddle (11/28/25, #8 US)
  15. At the Christmas Ball (1925)
  16. Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town (1926)
  17. Backwater Blues (1927)
  18. After You’ve Gone (8/6/27, #7 US)

Album Tracks – Disc 2:

  1. Alexander’s Ragtime Band (10/15/27, #17 US)
  2. There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight (1927)
  3. Trombone Cholly (1927)
  4. Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair (1927)
  5. A Good Man Is Hard to Find (recorded 1927, charted 3/10/28, #13 US)
  6. Dyin’ by the Hour (1927)
  7. Me and My Gin (1928)
  8. Kitchen Man (1929)
  9. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out (8/31/29, #15 US)
  10. On Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual) (1930)
  11. Moan, You Moaners (1930)
  12. Black Mountain Blues (1930)
  13. Shipwreck Blues (1931)
  14. Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl (1931)
  15. Do Your Duty (1933)
  16. Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer (1933)
  17. Take Me for a Buggy Ride (1933)
  18. Down in the Dumps (1933)

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.

Review:

“Bessie Smith was crowned the Empress of the Blues, and, while this moniker was well deserved, she was much more. A prolific recording artist, Smith was quite an eclectic performer. In fact, she may have been one of the first true crossover artists.” LG “Bessie could sing it all, from the lowdown moan of St. Louis Blues and Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out to her torch treatment of the jazz standard After You’ve Gone to the downright salaciousness of Need a Little Sugar in My BowlCK or other “suggestive material [such] as Kitchen Man.” LG She “could breathe new life into a pop chestnut like Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” LG

The collection works its way through Smith’s entire career, from her very first recording session on February 15, 1923 through her final session on November 24, 1933. DA “This two-disc, 36-song set sweats it down to the bare essentials in quite an effective manner,” CK giving “the listener a good sampling of her wide repertoire.” LG “This is the perfect entry-level set.” CK

“Utilizing the latest in remastering technology, these recordings have never sounded quite this clear and full, and the selection – collecting her best-known sides and collaborations with jazz giants like Louis Armstrong” CK – ‘St. Louis Blues’…features [his] horn work” LG – Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Goodman – is first-rate. If you’ve never experienced the genius of Bessie Smith, pick this one up and prepare yourself to be devastated.” CK “The title of this album says it all.” LG


Review Source(s):

Awards:


Related DMDB Link(s):


Saturday, July 9, 1983

The Police hit #1 with “Every Breath You Take”: July 9, 1983

Originally posted July 9, 2012.

image from 991.com


This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at DavesMusicDatabase.com as a standard book or ebook!

If there was an award for misunderstood songs, “Every Breath You Take” would clearly be vying for the prize. Police drummer Stewart Copeland explains, “People often choose this...as their wedding song. They think it’s a cheerful song. In fact...it’s a very dark song.’” KL

Dark indeed. Sting, the band’s primary singer and songwriter, penned his very un-romantic song in the wake of his broken marriage to Frances Tomelty. Sting told Rolling Stone that it is actually “‘a fairly nasty song…about surveillance and ownership and jealousy.’” BR1 Ah, nothing expresses wedded bliss like a tale of an obsessive stalker.

Every Breath You Take

Often mocked for pretentiousness, Sting whittled the lyrics for “Breath” down to bare essentials as well. The words are “pulled from the rock & roll cliche handbook” RS500 or “straight out of a rhyming dictionary.” TB The song came out of one of those few-minutes-of-writing sessions in the middle of the night and, according to various claims, was influenced by the Gene Pitney song “Every Breath I Take,” Leo Sayer’s “More Than I Can Say,” and the opening lines of Judith Merrill’s sci-fi short story “Whoever You Are.” WK Structurally, the song thrives on its simplicity. To avoid distracting from the song’s “hypnotic bass line,” RS500 the Police jettisoned an intricate synthesizer piece.

Regardless of where it came from, “Every Breath You Take” became the biggest pop song of 1983. WHC To continue the grand that-song-came-from-this-one tradition, it was memorably sampled in “I’ll Be Missing You,” the chart-topping 1997 tribute to slain rapper the Notorious B.I.G. helmed by Puff Daddy.


Awards:


Resources and Related Links:

Friday, June 17, 1983

The Police's Synchronicity Released: June 17, 1983

Originally posted on 6/17/2011. Updated 3/9/2013.


Released: 17 June 1983
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. Synchronicity I 2. Walking in Your Footsteps 3. O My God 4. Mother 5. Miss Gradenko 6. Synchronicity II (7/16/83, #16 US, #17 UK, #9 AR) 7. Every Breath You Take (5/28/83, #1 US, #1 UK, #5 AC, #1 AR, sales: 1.0 m, air: 8.0 m) 8. King of Pain (7/9/83, #3 US, #17 UK, #1 AR, #33 AC) 9. Wrapped Around Your Finger (7/9/83, #8 US, #7 UK, #9 AR, #13 AC, air: 1.0 m) 10. Tea in the Sahara 11. Murder by Numbers

Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 0.3 UK, 16.5 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 117 US, 12 UK

Rating:


Review: June 17, 1983: The Police released Synchronicity. In The Review’s 2001 feature on “The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time”, Clarke Speicher called it “the most compelling work of [their] career and one of the signature albums of the ‘80s.” Amazon.com’s Al Massa calls it “a benchmark album from a tremendously influential band [that] will stand the test of time as a genuine classic.”

The album was loosely built around Carl Jung’s synchronicity concept which suggested an interconnectedness amongst seemingly non-related occurrences. The only songs to expressly reference this idea are “Synchronicity I” and “Synchronicity II.” The latter was a top 20 single in the U.S. and U.K. and lyrically told an odd story of suburban life in juxtaposition with the Loch Ness monster creeping from its lake.

However, the songs were loosely tied by their thematic lyrics. As Rolling Stone’s Stephen Holden said, “paranoia, cynicism and excruciating loneliness run rampant” throughout. Ironically, such an agenda didn’t slow the album’s success. The first single, “Every Breath You Take”, was a dark tale of a stalker which has often been misinterpreted as a love song. It was #1 for 8 weeks in the U.S. and rates in the top 10 in the book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

Every Breath You Take

The album’s staying power, however, was due to its depth. “King of Pain”, a less than joyous look at despair and abandonment, climbed to #3 on the U.S. charts. “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, a study of the suffocating aspects of marriage, was also a top 10 hit in the U.S. and U.K.

Wrapped Around Your Finger

Other standouts include “Murder by Numbers”, an ironically bouncy number about a contract killer, and “Tea in the Sahara”, which Holden calls the album’s “moodiest, most tantalizing song.” The song relays a story inspired by Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky novel. Three siblings wait in the desert for a mysterious stranger with whom they’ve made a deal, but he never returns. Holden says the song could be interpreted as “England dreaming of its lost empire, mankind longing for God, and Sting himself pining for an oasis of romantic peace.”

Of course, the album was far from peaceful and the band was not at peace either. The tension of their working relationship in the studio and a lengthy world tour drove wedges between them. Sting would venture out for a solo career and an attempt to reunite in 1986 was short-lived.


Resources and Related Links:


Award(s):


Monday, June 13, 1983

June 13, 1983: Stevie Ray Vaughan's debut album, Texas Flood, released

Originally posted October 4, 2010. Last updated September 7, 2018.

Texas Flood

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

Released: June 13, 1983


Sales (in millions):
US: 2.0
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 2.0


Peak:
US: 38
UK: --
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “This album is the kind of raw double shot of blues and rock that made Vaughan one of the 1980s’ best in-concert performers.” – Ted Drozdowski, Amazon.com


Genre: blues rock


Album Tracks:

  1. Love Struck Baby
  2. Pride and Joy (8/13/83, #20 AR)
  3. Texas Flood
  4. Tell Me
  5. Testify
  6. Rude Mood
  7. Mary Had a Little Lamb
  8. Dirty Pool
  9. I’m Cryin’
  10. Lenny

Notes: A reissue adds an interview (SRV Speaks) as well “Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place in Town),” and live version of “Testify,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and “Wham!”


Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.

Review:

While he became “the fallen torchbearer of the ‘80s-‘90s blues revival,” TD2 “Stevie Ray Vaughan was already an underground hero in blues circles and had begun earning national attention for his hard-edged-but-tasteful playing on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album” TD1 when “this legendary 1983 debut” TD2 arrived. “Blues was no longer hip, the way it was in the ‘60s. Texas Flood changed all that, climbing into the Top 40 and spending over half a year on the charts, which was practically unheard of for a blues recording. Vaughan became a genuine star and, in doing so, sparked a revitalization of the blues.” STE

“Produced by legendary talent scout John Hammond,” TD1 Texas Flood “captures the rising guitar star” TD1 “as rockin’ blues purist, paying tribute in his inspired six-string diction to his influences Larry Davis (who wrote the title track), Buddy Guy, Albert King, and Jimi Hendrix.” TD2 In fact, “critics claimed that, no matter how prodigious Vaughan’s instrumental talents were, he didn’t forge a distinctive voice; instead, he wore his influences on his sleeve, whether it was Albert King’s pinched yet muscular soloing or Larry Davis’ emotive singing.” STE “That was sort of the point of Texas Flood. Vaughan didn’t hide his influences; he celebrated them, pumping fresh blood into a familiar genre.” STE

However, “Vaughan's true achievement was finding something personal and emotional by fusing different elements of his idols. Sometimes the borrowing was overt, and other times subtle, but it all blended together into a style that recalled the past while seizing the excitement and essence of the present.” STE

“This album is the kind of raw double shot of blues and rock that made Vaughan one of the 1980s’ best in-concert performers.” TD1 When Vaughan and his band “cut the album over the course of three days in 1982, he had already played his set lists countless times; he knew how to turn this material inside out or goose it up for maximum impact. The album is paced like a club show, kicking off with Vaughan’s two best self-penned songs, Love Struck Baby and Pride and Joy, then settling into a pair of covers, the slow-burning title track and an exciting reading of Howlin’ Wolf’s Tell Me, before building to the climax of Dirty Pool and I’m Crying.” STE

“Vaughan caps the entire thing with” STE “his own contemplative Lenny, a tribute to his wife at the time, … [which] suggests a jazz-fueled complexity that would infuse his later work.” TD2

“Vaughan’s guitar and vocals are a bit brighter and more present” TD2 and “sounds even more dramatic in its remixed and expanded edition.” TD2 “And the newly included bonus numbers (an incendiary studio version of the slow blues Tin Pan Alley that was left off the original release, and live takes of Testify, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and the instrumental Wham! from a 1983 Hollywood concert) illuminate the raw soul and passion that propelled his artistry even when he was under the spell of drug addiction.” TD2


Review Source(s):

Awards:


Related DMDB Link(s):


Saturday, April 30, 1983

“Beat It” becomes Michael Jackson’s second #1 from Thriller

image from imdb.com


Michael Jackson “Beat It”


Writer(s): Michael Jackson (see lyrics here)

Released: 2/3/1983, First charted: 2/26/1983

Peak: 13 US, 11 RB, 14 AR, 3 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 391.4


Review: Michael Jackson was already a star before 1982’s Thriller, but the 1-2 punch of “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” from that album sent him into the superstar stratosphere. Only a one-week run by Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen” prevented “Beat It” from bumping “Billie Jean” from the top of the U.S. pop charts. It was the first time since the Beatles knocked themselves from #1 in 1964 that an artist followed one chart-topper so quickly with another. BR1-571

More importantly, the song “rocked more than anything else Jackson had ever done,” RS500 largely because it “mated the top pop hero of revitalized Top 40…with Edward Van Halen, guitar king of heavy metal.” MA-351 He refused pay for his services, unless one couts the two six-packs of beer producer Quincy Jones brought to him in the studio. SF Eddie told Q magazine in 2009 that he thought, “maybe Michael will give me dance lessons someday” SF and informed Musician magazine, “I didn’t care, I did it as a favor.” BR1-571

That favor gave Michael garnered a rarity for a black, R&B/pop artist – airplay on album-rock stations. The song also snagged a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal. Jackson said, “I wanted to write the type of rock song that I would go out and buy…but also something totally different from the rock music I was hearing on Top Forty radio.” RS500

Also crucial to promoting “Beat It” to iconic status was its video. With “Billie Jean”, the King of Pop broke down the racial barriers of the new video era. With “Beat It”, he became the king of the video, giving viewers a mini-movie version of West Side Story with rival gangs facing off in a choreographed rumble. The dancing drew raves from Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, and Fred Astaire. BR1-571


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Award(s):