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First posted August 31, 2011. Last updated September 2, 2018.
Dirty Dancing (soundtrack)
Released: Sept. 1, 1987
Sales (in millions):
The fall of 1987 marked the onset of my junior year in college. One of the hottest movies around was Dirty Dancing. I wasn’t interested, but ended up going – with five women. Hey, who would turn that down? Well, I thought the movie was cheesy and eye-rolling, but my movie companions loved it. They swooned over Patrick Swayze and all but danced in the aisles to the music.
Ah, yes. The music. As popular as the movie was and as much as women loved Swayze, this wasn’t the formula for a monster soundtrack. In the mid-‘80s, soundtracks to movies like Flashdance, Footloose, and Top Gun became huge sellers on the strength of well-done pop songs by acts who weren’t necessarily top rung, but were known commodities. Each album mustered a couple of top ten hits and at least one #1 each and then peppered the album with filler.
Dirty Dancing opted for artists best known for decades-old hits. Eric Carmen hit #2 in 1975 with “All By Myself” while Bill Medley had huge hits as part of the Righteous Brothers duo in the 1960s (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, “You’re My Soul and Inspiration”, “Unchained Melody”).
The best-known commodity was Medley’s duet partner, Jennifer Warnes, who had topped the charts in 1982 with “Up Where We Belong,” a duet with Joe Cocker from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. Sure, she’d had a #1 hit, but who would’ve gambled that she had any more hits in her?
In addition, there were still a couple fillers…and even what would have seemed a cringe inducing concept of handing a song [“She’s Like the Wind”] to “Patrick Swayze, who played the male lead in the movie.” TH
On top of that, the album sprinkled in some well-known hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s, which certainly fit the setting of the movie, but didn’t seem like a winning formula for a successful soundtrack.
Somehow, though, it worked – primarily because these are well-done slices of pop music from the present and the past that, unlike many soundtracks, often tie in well with scenes in the movie. “While this may not be ‘the time of your life,’ as the album cover advertises, it is a fun collection.” TH
Review Sources/Related DMDB Links:
Complete Recordings/ King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. 1/ King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. 2
Recorded: Nov. 23-27, 1936 in San Antonio; June 19-20, 1937 in Dallas
Released: 1961 K1, 1970 K2, August 28, 1990 CR
CR The Complete Recordings
Sales (in millions):
Quotable: “If you are starting your blues collection from the ground up, be sure to make this your very first purchase.” – Cub Koda, All Music Guide
“Robert Johnson virtually defined the blues.” BL This Mississippi-born blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player only had one minor hit – “Terraplane Blues” BH – but his influence has been immeasurable. Robert Johnson is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and four of his songs have been named to their Top 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll list (“Cross Road Blues”, “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Hellhound on My Trail”, “A Love in Vain”).
Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards said, “You want to know how good the blues can get? Well, this is it.” RJ Eric Clapton called him “the most important blues singer that ever lived.” WK The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls his work “the bedrock upon which modern blues and rock and roll were built.” RH
His brief 27 years have fueled popular myth. Legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to develop his guitar-playing ability. He was poisoned with strychnine by a jealous husband after flirting with the man’s wife. As Johnson was dying, John Hammond, a legendary talent scout with Columbia Records, was trying to track Johnson down for a gig at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. RJ
His slim body of work consists of 29 songs captured in two series of recording sessions. The first occurred in 1936, taking place over three days (November 23, 26, and 27). During those sessions in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas, Johnson laid down the classics Cross Road Blues, Sweet Home Chicago, and Ramblin’ on My Mind.
His second series of sessions happened June 19-20, 1937 in Dallas. Here he laid down thirteen more songs, including Travelling Riverside Blues and Love in Vain. 22 of the recordings were released on eleven 78 rpm records within his lifetime. RJ “If we didn’t have these scratchy etchings it would have been necessary for someone to fake them. This is how the blues sound in the root of every imagination.” NC
“The revisionist history is that he wasn’t really the greatest blues musician of his era, he was just lucky enough to get recorded. The response to both stories is simple – just listen to his songs.” TL “Whether the devil made him do it or not, these songs…certainly hit otherworldly extremes. On first hearing this music, Keith Richards assumed Johnson had two guitars.” BL
The King of the Delta Blues Singers album, released in 1961, jump-started the whole ‘60s blues revival.” CK “The majority of Johnson’s best-known tunes, the ones that made the legend, are all aboard” CK “and the apocalyptic visions contained in Hellhound on My Trail are the blues at its finest, the lyrics sheer poetry.” CK
King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. 2 followed in 1970 and boasted “the first album appearance of…a number of other blues classics penned by the artist.” AG “The music is…impeccable – the self-accompanying bassline boogie was one of Johnson’s greatest contributions to the blues, and it’s displayed in all its beauty here. To top this, there’s the beauty of his melodic work, and the interplay with his semi-gruff voice that help to make his songs memorable.” AG
Then in 1990, The Complete Recordings was released. It contained everything ever recorded by Johnson, “including a generous selection of alternate takes.” STE It “is essential listening, but it is also slightly problematic. The problems aren’t in the music itself, of course…[but] in the track sequencing.” STE “All of the alternates are sequenced directly after the master, which can make listening to the album a little…tedious for novices. Certainly, the alternates can be programmed out…but the set would have been more palatable if the alternate takes were presented on a separate disc. Nevertheless, this is a minor complaint – Johnson’s music retains its power no matter what context it is presented in. He, without question, deserves this kind of deluxe box set treatment.” STE
“Johnson’s masterful writing, with its perfect control of images and emotion, and magnificent guitar playing loom large over music to this day.” TL His “guitar is as polyphonic as the wheels of a train, his voice as elemental as the wind; they pass the listener at an unbiddable distance and leave only the faintest trace, like steam on a window.” NC “He is the true legend of the blues, and anyone with even the slightest curiosity in that genre or rock needs to own both this album and its predecessor, or else the box set…that covers both of them.” AG “If you are starting your blues collection from the ground up, be sure to make this your very first purchase.” CK
Saturday, May 16, 1987
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U2 “With Or Without You”
Writer(s): Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. (see lyrics here)
First charted: 3/20/1987
Peak: 13 US, 23 AC, 15 AR, 4 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)
Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 387.0
Review: In the early ‘80s, U2 became one of the bands at the forefront of college rock and the alternative scene. Videos for “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” caught the attention of MTV viewers and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” gave the group their first taste of U.S. mainstream success when the song went top 40.
As seems to be a pattern with songs that go on to be iconic, U2 wasn’t sold on the song originally. Not only were they unsure about releasing it as a single, but questioned putting it on the album. MTV-69 While the group agreed it had a strong melody, they considered their initial efforts too sentimental. They experimented with more bass and a drum kit, eventually crafting “a slow burner, with The Edge’s understated guitar and Bono’s subdued vocals building gradually towards a towering climax.” BBC
Lyrically, the song showcased an ambiguity that allowed for multiple interpretations. For a group considered “the world’s most earnest Christian rock band” TB-228 there was an obvious spiritual interpretation, but there were other possible meanings as well. The Edge, the band’s guitarist, said the lyrics “were sparked by civil-rights heroes and the ‘new journalism’ of the 1960s.” RS500 Meanwhile the band’s lead singer, Bono, has offered different takes on it. He told Billboard’s Timothy White “there’s nothing more revolutionary than two people loving each other” CR-560 but has also shared that lines like “you give yourself away” delve into how he felt baring his soul via lyrics and interviews; BBC as he said, it is “about how I feel in U2 at times: exposed.” RS500
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.