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


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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.




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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.


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Monday, October 22, 1990

Aha released East of the Sun, West of the Moon

First posted 1/18/2009; updated 9/12/2020.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

A-ha


Released: October 22, 1990


Peak: -- US, 12 UK, -- CN, 122 AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.06 UK, 0.06 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: synth pop


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Crying in the Rain (10/1/90, 13 UK)
  2. Early Morning (2/25/91, 78 UK)
  3. I Call Your Name (12/3/90 44 UK)
  4. Slender Frame
  5. East of the Sun
  6. Sycamore Leaves
  7. Waiting for Her
  8. Cold River
  9. The Way We Talk
  10. Rolling Thunder
  11. Seemingly Nonstop July


Total Running Time: 42:46


The Players:

  • Morten Harket (vocals, guitar)
  • Magne Furuholmen (keyboards, guitar, bass)
  • Pål Waaktaar-Savoy (guitars, drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.500 out of 5.00 (average of 3 ratings)

About the Album:

The synth-pop trio best known for the international 1985 hit “Take on Me,” showed they deserved to be taken more seriously. “This is a nicely crafted collection of songs, performed and sung beautifully, with lots of echoes and suggestions tucked into the music…It’s an album that's a pleasure to listen to and one that deserves a better reception than the one, unfortunately, that it seems to have gotten.” AMG

The album, with a title taken from a Norwegian fairy tale, was co-produced by Ian Stanley, formerly of Tears for Fears. than “the band’s earlier radio-friendly sound” WK on hits like the aforementioned “Take on Me” and “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” and songs from the 1988 Stay on These Roads like “Touchy!” and “You Are the One.” Still, the “darker, moodier tone” WK of East of the Sun isn’t a complete surprise. The Norwegian trio had hinted at more serious work, especially on their sophomore album Scoundrel Days on songs like the title track and “Manhattan Skyline.”

In Norway, the album was a-ha’s fourth consecutive #1, led by their cover of the Everly Brothers’ Crying in the Rain. The song was the band’s sixth #1 song in Norway. In the UK, it was a top-20 hit. Follow-up singles I Call Your Name and Early Morning didn’t chart in Norway, but were minor hits in the UK.

The Way We Talk is an album highlight. At only a minute-and-a-half, it’s the shortest song in the trio’s catalog. It features a faraway sounding voice accompanied by a moody piano, an interesting departure from the band’s typically more synth-heavy sound.

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Tuesday, August 14, 1990

Asia released first anthology

First posted 9/10/2020.

Anthologies: 1982-1990

Asia

This page highlights three compilations of the band Asia, covering the years 1982 to 1990. The collections are:

  • TN Then & Now
  • VB The Very Best of: Heat of the Moment (1982-1990)
  • DC The Definitive Collection
These years include three studio albums, each with their own DMDB page, but with brief snapshots here.

Under each album snapshot, charting songs featured on the anthologies are noted. After the song title, the date of the song’s release or first chart appearance and its chart peaks are noted in parentheses. Click for codes to singles charts.

The Players:

  • John Wetton (vocals/bass)
  • Steve Howe (guitar: 1981-83)
  • Geoff Downes (keyboards)
  • Carl Palmer (drums)
  • Mandy Meyer (guitar: 1985-90)


The Formation of Asia:

When John Wetton (King Crimson), Steve Howe (Yes), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), and Geoff Downes (Yes, Buggles) joined forces as Asia, appetites were whetted for the supergroup with an enviable resume, specifically in the progressive rock realm. However, the group received “venomous criticism from the so-called hip music press.” BA “Perhaps the formation seemed cooked up by dollar-blinded record-company brass and even the musicians themselves,” BA but the group “expertly combined stellar instrumental prowess with killer hooks and choruses – and, yeah, more than a little bombast.” BA


Asia (1982):

Regardless of what the critics thought, the record-buying public lapped up Asia’s 1982 self-titled debut, sending it to the top of the Billboard album chart for nine weeks in the U.S. It was “a strong collection of melodic, sweeping, muscular arena rock” TD which produced a top-five pop hit with Heat of the Moment) and a top-twenty follow-up Only Time Will Tell. Then & Now includes both of those songs as well as Wildest Dreams, a minor album rock hit from Asia, but inexplicably omits Sole Survivor, a top-ten album rock song.

  • Heat of the Moment (4/3/82, 4 US, 1 AR, 46 UK) TN, VB, DC
  • Ride Easy (B-side of “Heat of the Moment”)
  • Only Time Will Tell (5/1/82, 17 US, 8 AR, 54 UK) TN, VB, DC
  • Sole Survivor (4/3/82, 10 AR) VB, DC
  • Wildest Dreams (4/10/82, 28 AR) TN, VB, DC
  • Here Comes the Feeling (7/3/82, 40 AR) VB, DC
  • Time Again (7/31/82, 43 AR) VB


Alpha (1983):

Their sophomore album, Alpha, came a year later. The album was another top-ten, platinum seller led by top-ten hit Don’t Cry. That album also produced the top-40 hit The Smile Has Left Your Eyes. These are both on Then & Now, but a third album rock hit, the #5 The Heat Goes On, which “showed the original quartet still had some magic,” BA fails to make the cut.

  • Don’t Cry (7/30/83, 10 US, 1 AR, 33 UK) TN, VB, DC
  • Daylight (7/30/83, 24 AR, B-side of “Don’t Cry”) VB, DC
  • The Heat Goes On (8/20/83, 5 AR) VB, DC
  • The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (10/15/83, 34 US, 25 AR) TN, VB, DC
  • Lying to Yourself (B-side of “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”) VB
  • Never in a Million Years VB
  • Open Your Eyes VB, DC


Astra (1985):

After that, the band sort of derailed. Steve Howe left and the group put out 1985’s Astra with Mandy Meyer on guitar. His biggest claim to fame was with the band Krokus, which hardly put him in the same ballpark as future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Howe. Still, the album was “unjustly ignored.” BA It offered up another top-ten song, the “explosive rocker Go,” BA on the album rock chart, but the song stalled short of the top 40 on the pop charts. The album also featured the minor album rock hit Too Late (#30). Neither song is featured on Then & Now, but album cut Voice of America is.

  • Go (11/9/85, 46 US, 7 AR) VB, DC
  • Too Late (1/11/86, 30 AR) VB, DC
  • Voice of America TN, VB, DC
  • Wishing DC

Then & Now

Asia


Rating:

2.880 out of 5.00
(average of 4 ratings)

Released: August 14, 1990


Recorded: 1981-1990


Peak: 114 US, -- UK, 82 CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic rock


Tracks: (1) Only Time Will Tell (2) Heat of the Moment (3) Wildest Dreams (4) Don’t Cry (5) The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (6) Days Like These (7) Prayin’ 4 a Miracle (8) Am I in Love? (9) Summer Can’t Last Too Long (10) Voice of America


Total Running Time: 42:29

  • Days Like These (8/17/90, 64 US, 2 AR, 31 CN) TN, VB, DC
  • Prayin’ 4 a Miracle TN
  • Am I in Love? TN
  • Summer Can’t Last Too Long TN
Another five years went by before this collection emerged. With four new songs, it was certainly a test to see if Asia fans still existed. Most of the newer material is “flaccid musically and insipid lyrically.” TD The exception is “the anthemic Days Like These, which nearly matches the band’s strong debut material” TD and features Toto guitarist Steve Lukather. The song did revive interest in the group at album rock radio, where the song reached #2, but the pop world had largely abandoned Asia at this point; “Days” peaked at #64 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the end, Then & Now is a “poorly conceived compilation.” BA Considering the few hits Asia had, it would seem to be an easy task to gather them together in one package, but Then & Now largely misses the boat. Sure, it gathers the most obvious songs with “Heat of the Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” “Don’t Cry,” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes,” but the collection is flawed because of the absence of top-ten album rock songs “Sole Survivor,” “The Heat Goes On,” and “Go.” Also, how did the band miss the obvious and not title this collection Anthology given their predilection for giving their previous albums titles all starting with “A”?

The Very Best of: Heat of the Moment (1982-1990)

Asia


Rating:

4.453 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)

Released: June 6, 2000


Recorded: 1981-1990


Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


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


Genre: classic rock


Tracks: (1) Heat of the Moment (2) Only Time Will Tell (3) Sole Survivor (4) Time Again (5) Wildest Dreams (6) Here Comes the Feeling (7) Don’t Cry (8) Daylight (9) The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (10) Lying to Yourself (11) The Heat Goes On (12) Never in a Million Years (13) Open Your Eyes (14) Go (15) Voice of America (16) Too Late (17) Days Like These (18) Ride Easy


Total Running Time: 77:00

The flaws with Then & Now were corrected with this collection. The three unnecessary new songs from Then & Now were eschewed in favor of the three aforementioned top-ten album rock songs, although “Sole Survivor” and “Here Comes the Feeling” are “the choppily edited single versions.” BA The collection also added the B-sides “Ride Easy,” “Daylight,” and “Lying to Yourself.” However, the set is bloated with six songs each from the first two albums, meaning a few unnecessary album cuts creep in.

The Definitive Collection

Asia


Rating:

4.403 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)

Released: September 12, 2006


Recorded: 1981-1990


Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


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


Genre: classic rock


Tracks: (1) Heat of the Moment (2) Only Time Will Tell (3) Sole Survivor (4) Wildest Dreams (5) Here Comes the Feeling (6) Don’t Cry (7) The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (8) The Heat Goes On (9) Open Your Eyes (10) Daylight (11) Go (12) Voice of America (13) Too Late (14) Wishing (15) Days Like These (16) Go (extended version)


Total Running Time: ?

This set weeded out some of the forgettable album cuts which clogged up The Very Best of, including the three B-sides which, while interesting to Asia’s faithful followers, are not vital songs. In the end, this ends up being the most focused of the three collections discussed here. I’d prefer to see “Rock and Roll Dream” and “Countdown to Zero” from Astra instead of “Open Your Eyes” and “Wishing,” but that’s just a personal choice.

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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


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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.


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