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, October 29, 1983

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton hit #1 with “Islands in the Stream”

First posted 3/21/2020.

Islands in the Stream

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

Writer(s): Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb/Maurice Gibb (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 27, 1983


Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 2 RR, 14 AC, 12 CW, 7 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.6 UK, 4.7 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 90.82 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

The Bee Gees were one of the most successful acts of the 1970s, but by 1983 they were a relic of the then-passe disco era. Had anyone bet the trio would ever again top the U.S. pop charts – much less the country charts – any sensible person would have taken that bet. Those people would have lost – kind of.

Even at their peak, Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb wrote for others, including #1 songs for Yvonne Elliman, Samantha Sang, Frankie Valli, and their brother Andy. In the 1980s, they wrote Barbra Streisand’s #1 pop hit “Woman in Love” (1980) and the #1 adult contemporary hit “Heartbreaker” for Dionnne Warwick (1982). Their most successful non-Bee Gees song, however, was “Islands in the Stream,” a #1 pop, country, and adult contemporary hit for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. The tune, whose title came from a 1970 Ernest Hemingway story, would be the last country song to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 17 years, when Lonestar hit #1 with “Amazed.” SF

Rogers had been interested in working with Barry Gibb a couple of years earlier. He envisioned recording a duets album singing with Gibb, Parton, Willie Nelson, and others. While that project didn’t work out, Rogers still kept Gibb in mind and when he was looking for a new collaborator, he tapped him as the producer for his first album on the RCA label. BR1

The resulting Eyes That See in the Dark album was introduced with the single “Islands in the Stream,” a song originally written in an R&B style for Marvin Gaye. WK It was the first time Rogers and Parton worked together, but both had plenty of success on their own. Both artists had topped the country charts multiple times and each had hit #1 on the pop charts in 1980 – Rogers with “Lady” and Parton with “9 to 5.” It ended up the only song in 1983 to be certified platinum. BR1 It also won the American Music Award for Best Country Single and the Academy of Country Music’s Single of the Year and Vocal Duet of the Year. In 2005, it topped CMT’s poll of the best country duets of all time. WK


Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, July 9, 1983

The Police hit #1 with “Every Breath You Take”

First posted 7/8/2012; updated 4/8/2020.

Every Breath You Take

The Police

Writer(s): Sting (see lyrics here)


Released: May 13, 1983


First Charted: May 28, 1983


Peak: 18 US, 17 CB, 18 RR, 5 AC, 19 AR, 1 CO, 14 UK, 12 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 1.6 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 14.0 radio, 634.16 video, 531.0 streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

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.

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.


Resources and Related Links:

  • The Police’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • DMDB page for parent album Synchronicity
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 574.
  • KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 291.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 205.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 112.
  • WK Wikipedia.org

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):