Friday, December 21, 1990

Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi” hit #1 50 years ago today (12/21/1940)

First posted 12/21/2011; updated 1/26/2020.

Frenesi

Artie Shaw

Writer(s): Albert Dominguez/Ray Charles/S.K. Russell (see lyrics here)


First Charted: July 27, 1940


Peak: 113 US, 12 GA, 13 HP, (Click for codes to singles charts.)


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


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards:

Review:

Artie Shaw developed a reputation during the swing era (roughly 1935-1945) as one of jazz’s finest clarinetists. He also served as a bandleader, helming five different orchestras over the years, “all of them distinctive and memorable.” AMG He got his start as a teenager with Johnny Cavallaro’s dance band in 1925 and was later associated with Willie “The Lion” Smith. He scored his first hit on his own in 1936 and hit #1 with 1938’s “Begin the Beguine”.

After that song’s success, Shaw struggled with the business of leading a band and moved to Mexico for a couple months. After his return, he recorded a version of the song “Frenesi”, resulting in the biggest hit of his career and one of the biggest #1 songs in chart history.

Alberto Dominguez originally wrote it for the marimba and then others adapted it as a jazz standard. WK The word “frenesi” is the Spanish equal to the word “frenzy” WK but according to the song’s lyrics, “Frenesi” means “please love me.” TY

Shaw’s recording made it the first million-selling song by a Mexican writer. TY The success helped “popularize Brazilian rhythms in jazz and pop music.” JA-60 Others who recorded the song included Les Brown, Dave Brubeck, Betty Carter, Tommy Dorsey, The Four Freshman, Eydie Gorme, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Harry James, Glenn Miller, Cliff Richard, Linda Ronstadt, and Frank Sinatra. WK


Resources and Related Links:

Monday, November 19, 1990

Milli Vanilli is stripped of its Best New Artist Grammy: November 19, 1990

Originally posted November 19, 2011.



German music producer Frank Farian was the creator of Milli Vanilli, a dance-pop outfit from the late ‘80s. They were presented as the duo of Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan and found success quickly. In October 1988, the single “Girl You Know It’s True” hit the UK, peaking at #3. It charted a couple months later in the U.S. and climbed all the way to the #2 spot.

They proved to have ample songs to go the distance. The next three singles, “Baby Don’t Forget My Number”, “Girl, I’m Gonna Miss You”, and “Blame It on the Rain” were all #1 hits in the U.S. A fifth single, “All or Nothing”, went to #4. All five songs appeared on the 1989 U.S. album Girl You Know It’s True, a reworked version of the previously released German album All or Nothing. Not surprisingly, the U.S. album logged eight weeks atop the Billboard 200 and sold six-million copies.

The duo’s commercial clout translated to Grammy clout as well when they took home the 1989 trophy for Best New Artist, beating out Tone Loc, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, and the Indigo Girls. The only problem was that Rob and Fab didn’t sing. While the original German album only featured them on the cover, the U.S. version went a step further and actually credited the pair with the vocals. In actuality, the dancer-models were hired to serve as the public face for Brad Howell, Johnny Davis, and Charles Shaw – the session musicians who did the actual heavy lifting.

Shaw publicly admitted the ruse which supported suspicions that Rob and Fab were lip-synching live performances. The duo pressured Farian to let them sing on the next album. Rather than cave, he confessed the deception to the press. Soon the Grammy cops came knocking and demanded the return of the ill-gotten award. It is the only time the Grammys have revoked an award.


And here are Rob and Fab, uh, not singing at the Grammys.




Resources and Related Links:



Saturday, October 27, 1990

The Righteous Brothers hit #1 with “Unchained Melody” 25 years after it first charted

First posted 10/27/2011; updated 4/12/2020.

Unchained Melody

The Righteous Brothers

Writer(s): Alex North/Hy Zaret (see lyrics here)


First Charted: July 10, 1965


Peak: 4 US, 5 CB, 4 HR, 3 RR, 12 AC, 6 RB, 14 UK, 9 CN, 17 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 1.17 UK, 3.24 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 135.26 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Thanks to Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and a pottery wheel, a bonafide classic was re-introduced to the hearts of radio listeners and record buyers. When Bobby Hatfield belted out “Unchained Melody” in that famous scene from the 1990 movie Ghost, it wasn’t the first time the public heard the song. It wasn’t even the first time they’d heard that version.

By some counts, the song has been recorded over 500 times, making it one of the most recorded of the 20th century. WK However, the one that has become the best known is the 1965 recording by the Righteous Brothers (although technically a solo performance by Bobby Hatfield). WK

The song first surfaced under the Righteous Brothers moniker in 1965 as a B-side to their single “Hung on You.” When DJs took to “Melody” instead, the song climbed to #4 on the U.S. pop charts and #14 in the U.K. A quarter century later, it re-gained airplay thanks to Ghost, but was only commercially available as a single in a newly recorded version. In an unsual occurrence, both versions charted and hit the U.S. top 20. On the AC charts, the 1990 version went #1, while the 1965 version scaled to the top of the U.K. charts.

The song originated in an obscure prison film called Unchained in 1955. Todd Duncan sang it for the film, WK but three other renditions charted on the U.S. pop charts, most notably a chart-topper by Les Baxter. Al Hibbler’s top 10 version also reached the summit of the R&B chart. Both were million sellers. TY In the U.K., Jimmy Young took it to #1. All told, the song can make the unique claim of topping four different charts with five different versions in three different decades.


Resources and Related Links:

Sunday, June 10, 1990

2 Live Crew were arrested for obscenity: June 10, 1990

Originally posted June 10, 2012.

image from top40db.net

In 1989, rap group 2 Live Crew released their album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. Propelled by top 40 hit “Me So Horny,” the album went platinum. However, the American Family Association didn’t think the parental advisory sticker on the album adequately warned listeners of what they deemed obsence content. The case was presented to Florida Governor Bob Martinez to see if the album met the legal definition of obsence. At the local level, County Circuit Court judge Mel Grossman ruled there was probable cause for obsenity violations and local sherriff Nick Navarro warned record stores that selling the album might be a prosecutable offense.

Then federal district judge Jose Gonzalez ruled that the album was obsence and therefore illegal to sell. Local retailer Charles Freeman was arrested two days later after he sold a copy of the album to an undercover officer. On June 10, the group itself was arrested for performing some of the material at Club Futura after two police officers brought a tape recorder in to catch the band.

Lawyers for 2 Live Crew essentially presented a case that the first amendment protected the group’s free speech and that even though people might see the lyrics might be lewd, they were meant in jest. It didn’t help that the officers who arrested the group in the club had taped the performance but it was of such poor quality that most of it was indecipherable.

That October, a jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, acquitted 2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell, Chris “Fresh Kid Ice” Wong Won, and Mark “Brother Marquis” Ross after only two hours of deliberation. They faced a year in prison. Freeman had been convicted earlier in the month but his case was overturned on appeal. It wasn’t until May 1992 that a court finally overruled the original finding that Nasty was obscene.

Banned in the U.S.A, written in response to the ordeal


Resources and Related Links:

Friday, March 30, 1990

MC Hammer charted with “U Can’t Touch This”

First posted 3/23/2020.

U Can’t Touch This

M.C. Hammer

Writer(s): Stanley Burrell/Rick James/Alonzo Miller (see lyrics here)


Released: January 13, 1990


First Charted: March 30, 1990


Peak: 8 US, 4 CB, 11 RR, 11 RB, 3 UK, 8 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.4 UK, 1.09 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 583.52 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

When Stanley Burrell emerged from the West Coast rap scene in the late ‘80s, he took on the name MC Hammer in celebration of a nickname from his youth. As a bat boy for the Oakland A’s baseball team, he was nicknamed “Hammer” because of his similarity to baseball legend “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron. After the 1987 independent release of Feel My Power and his major label debut with Let’s Get It Started in 1988, Hammer made it big with his third album, 1990’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em.

To market the album’s first single, “U Can’t Touch This,” the record company sent out cassette singles to 100,000 kids asking them to request MTV to play the video. It worked – viewers embraced his dance-oriented performance in outrageously baggy pants and made it the network’s most-played video of 1990. SF It also won the network’s 1990 video awards for Best Rap Video and Best Dance Video. The song, which won Grammys for Best R&B Song and Best Rap Solo Performance, was also the first rap song to be nominated for Record of the Year. WK

Despite the huge success of the video, the song only reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was before the company developed technologies to track actual sales and airplay and relied on figures given to them by record stores and radio stations. While audiences clearly embraced the song, the music industry wasn’t quite ready to accept the commercial viability of rap music. However, there was no denying the song’s impact. Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em spent 21 weeks atop the Billboard album chart and spawned two more top-ten pop hits with “Have You Seen Her?” and “Pray.”

The song is “the perfect good-time song for nostalgia parties or mere reminiscence of the era that brought us In Living Color and Vanilla Ice.” AMG Hammer “borrowed the monster hook from Rick James’ ‘Super Freak’ and layered a few solid rhymes over it, his somewhat gravelly voice and supreme confidence covering up any deficiencies in lyric or delivery.” AMG James had consistently turned down rappers who wanted to sample his music. According to James, his lawyers authorized the use of “Super Freak” without his permission. SF He sued for copyright infringement and received millions in royalties when the case was settled out of court and Hammer agreed to credit James as a songwriter.


Resources and Related Links:

Monday, March 19, 1990

Depeche Mode released Violator

First posted 2/21/2012; updated 2/15/2020.

Violator

Depeche Mode


Buy Here:


Released: March 19, 1990


Peak: 7 US, 2 UK, 5 CN, 42 AU


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 8.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: synth-pop


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. World in My Eyes [4:26] (9/17/90, #52 US, 17 MR, 17 UK)
  2. Sweetest Perfection [4:43]
  3. Personal Jesus [4:56] (8/28/89, #28 US, 31 CB, 3 MR, 13 UK, 44 CN)
  4. Halo [4:30]
  5. Waiting for the Night [6:07]
  6. Enjoy the Silence [6:12] (2/5/90, #8 US, 1 MR, 6 UK, 14 CN, 71 AU)
  7. Policy of Truth [4:55] (5/7/90, #15 US, 1 MR, 16 UK)
  8. Blue Dress [5:41]
  9. Clean [5:32]
  10. Song (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks)

All tracks written by Martin Gore.


Total Running Time: 47:02


The Players:

  • Andrew Fletcher (keyboards)
  • David Gahan (vocals)
  • Martin Gore (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
  • Alan Wilder (keyboards)

Rating:

3.929 out of 5.00 (average of 14 ratings)


Quotable: --


Awards:

About the Album:

Violator was Depeche Mode’s “most mainstream chart-climbing album” AZ and, “the crowning glory of the boys’ black-leather period” RS as far as many DM fans are concerned. It “is a quintessential benchmark of pop, rock and electronic music…because it [seamlessly] marries dance, goth-rock and synth-pop with good ol’ fashioned Motown funk and rock n’ roll.” SL

The group originally came out of the new romantic period in the early ‘80s, but soon veered toward a darker sound. Violator “continued in the general vein of the previous two studio efforts by Depeche Mode: Martin Gore’s upfront lyrical emotional extremism and knack for a catchy hook filtered through Alan Wilder’s ear for perfect arrangements, ably assisted by top English producer Flood,” AMG who also produced and engineered albums for U2, Erasure, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. TB

Violator “was slicker and more accessible than the band’s previous efforts” SL and “song for song…[is] simply the best, most consistent effort yet from the band.” AMG It was “heavily influenced by techno-pop” AZ with half of the tracks “tailor-made for the dance floor.” AZ It was “conceived when dance-club DJs were gaining recognition alongside original composers.” AZ

Lead single Personal Jesus was “the group’s most striking single yet” TB yet was also “the unlikeliest of pop hits.” SL It is “a cynical jab at organized religion and televangelism.” SL Musically, it as “perversely simplistic, with a stiff, arcane funk/hip-hop beat and basic blues guitar chords, and tremendous, thanks to sharp production touches and David Gahan’s echoed, snaky vocals.” AMG “The bluesy guitar line Martin Gore lays down on top of the synth-dominated grooves” AZ is “a particular highlight on this fantastic album.” AZ

Enjoy the Silence was “a nothing-else-remains-but-us ballad pumped up into a huge, dramatic romance/dance number, commanding in its mock orchestral/choir scope.” AMG It remains the group’s only U.S. top ten pop hit. “Beneath its grand synth-pop exterior, though, lay a gloomy pessimism that’s strung throughout the whole of Violator,” SL “like a corpse with a passionate pulse.” ZS

Third single Policy of Truth was “a low-key Motown funk number for the modern day with a sharp love/hate lyric to boot.” AMG A “theme of lies and consequence continue, but this time Gahan/Gore is less compassionate than he is outright jaded: ‘You’ll see your problems multiplied/ If you continually decide/ To faithfully pursue/ The policy of truth.’” SL

“The shuffling beat of Sweetest Perfection (well sung by Gore)” AMG “intertwines sex and addiction” SL and “the guilt-ridden-and-loving-it Halo build[s] into a string-swept pounder.” AMG “When Gahan takes the mic, it’s hard to believe he didn’t write the words coming out of his mouth: ‘You wear guilt…like a halo in reverse.’” SL

On World in My Eyes, “chief songwriter Martin Gore’s voice pads lead vocalist Dave Gahan’s, and then quickly mimes him.” SL That song, as well as “Sweetest Perfection” and “Halo”, “turn teen angst and sexual obsession into grand synth-pop melodrama.” RS

The ethereal Waiting for the NightAMG features “cyclical tinkling bleeps and a minimalist pulsing backbeat percolat[ing] underneath layered voices and haunting vocal harmonies.” SL The “electronic swing number” SL Blue Dress “is at once profoundly sad, sexy and creepy, as Gore croons ‘put it on’ (referring to the titular dress) repeatedly throughout. ‘Something so worthless serves a purpose,’ he sings. ‘It makes me a happy man.’” SL

“The cinematic final track” SLClean wraps up Violator on an eerie note, all ominous bass notes and odd atmospherics carrying the song. Goth without ever being stupidly hammy, synth without sounding like the clinical stereotype of synth music, rock without ever sounding like a ‘rock’ band, Depeche here reach astounding heights indeed.” AMG “No other Depeche Mode album has been this captivating and sophisticated.” SL It “remains the group’s defining work.” TB


Notes:

A 2006 reissue added tracks “Dangerous,” “Memphisto,” “Sibeling,” “Kaleid,” “Happiest Girl,” and “Sea of Sin.”

Review Sources:

Saturday, February 10, 1990

Glenn Miller hit #1 for the first of 13 weeks with “In the Mood” fifty years ago today (2/10/1940)

First posted 10/7/2011; updated 4/7/2020.

In the Mood

Glenn Miller

Writer(s):Andy Razaf/Joe Garland (see lyrics here)


First Charted: October 7, 1939


Peak: 113 US, 5 GA, 13 UK, 120 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


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


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 42.38 video, -- streaming

Awards:

Review:

“In the Mood” is “one of the best known musical themes of the World War II era” NRR and one of the big band era’s most recognizable songs. It was the biggest hit of 1940 WHC and of Miller’s career. The song, however, went through several others’ hands before it ended up with Miller.

Joseph “Wingy” Manone, a New Orleans jazz trumpeter and bandleader, wrote and recorded a song in 1930 called “Tar Paper Stomp”. Thanks to copyright laws of the day, a song not written down and registered with the copyright office was fair game. WK Tin Pan Alley composers Joe Garland and Andy Razaf arranged “In the Mood” based on Manone’s song and the Edgar Hayes’ Orchestra recorded it in 1938. WK

The song ended up in Artie Shaw’s hands, but the more-than-eight-minute arrangement was too long for him to record. SF Glenn Miller then arranged the song to include the famous tenor sax battle WK with solos by Tex and Al Klink as well as trumpeter Clyde Hurley. PM

Chart purists debate the song’s true peak position. Miller’s “In the Mood” topped the jukebox list for 13 weeks, but it never hit the top 15 on the sheet music chart, which was generally considered the true mark of a song’s success at the time. WK

The song enjoyed a chart life beyond the big band era. In 1953, Johnny Maddox went to #16 with it and Ernie Fields revived it for a #4 hit in 1959. At the end of the Beatles’ 1967 #1 hit “All You Need Is Love” the orchestra plays a snipet of “In the Mood”. SF Bette Midler had a minor hit with it in 1974. In 1977, Ray Stevens had a top 40 hit with a novelty version of the song in which he performed it bar-for-bar in clucking chicken sounds. That version was credited to the Henhouse Five Plus Two. In 1989, Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers’ #11 hit “Swing the Mood” fused “In the Mood” into a medley with early rock and roll hits.


Resources and Related Links:

  • Glenn Miller’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 101.
  • NRR National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress The Full National Recording Registry
  • SF Songfacts.com
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 98.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 59.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 309.
  • WK Wikipedia