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” more than 25 years after it first charted: October 27, 1990

Originally posted October 27, 2011.



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.




Awards:
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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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Thursday, February 22, 1990

Depeche Mode released Violator: February 22, 1990

Violator was Depeche Mode’s “most mainstream chart-climbing album” AZ selling 8 million copies worldwide. 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 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 Enjoy the Silence is “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. 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 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 “No other Depeche Mode album has been this captivating and sophisticated.” SL It “remains the group’s defining work.” TB

Awards:


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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 1/22/2020.

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, -- 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-59 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
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia
  • 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

Monday, January 29, 1990

Fish released first solo album, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors

First posted 4/25/2010; updated 1/23/2020.

Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors

Fish


Buy Here:


Released: January 29, 1990


Peak: -- US, 5 UK


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


Genre: neo-prog rock


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Song (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks)
  2. Vigil [8:43]
  3. Big Wedge [5:19] (12/27/89, #25 UK)
  4. State of Mind (Dick/Lindes/
    Simmonds)
    [4:42] (10/16/89, #32 UK)
  5. The Company [4:04] (7/18/90, single)
  6. A Gentleman’s Excuse Me [4:15] (3/5/90, #30 UK)
  7. The Voyeur (I Like to Watch) [4:42]
  8. Family Business (Boult/Dick/Lindes/Simmonds/Usher) [5:14]
  9. View from the Hill (Dick/Gers/Gessle) [6:38]
  10. Cliché (Dick/Lindes/
    Simmonds)
    [7:01]

Songs written by Derek Dick/Mickey Simmonds unless otherwise noted.


Total Running Time: 50:38


The Players:

  • Fish (Derek W. Dick) (vocals)
  • Frank Usher, Hal Lindes, Janick Gers (guitars)
  • John Giblin (bass)
  • Mickey Simmonds (keyboards)
  • Mark Brzezicki, John Keeble, Luis Jardim (drums/percussion)
  • Davy Spillane, Phil Cunningham (pipes/whistles)
  • Gavyn Wright, Alison Jones (violin)
  • Carol Kenyon, Tessa Niles (backing vocals)

Rating:

4.191 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

“Following Fish’s acrimonious split with Marillion in early 1988, wheels were set in motion for a full-on U.K. press inquisition. Pitting band vs. singer in a classic tabloid war of words, mud was flung, lawyers were hired, lawsuits were filed, and Marillion quickly moved to hire new vocalist Steve Hogarth. Soon thereafter, the band released the excellent Season's End to much critical and commercial acclaim.” JF

“From a fan’s point of view, it’s important to keep in mind that any time a band of Marillion’s stature splinters into two factions, anticipation for new product from both sides is always enormous. And much like the Van Halen/David Lee Roth divorce, each respective singer sought out counterparts/collaborators that would at least equal or better their band mates (not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination).” JF

“Unlike Roth’s ‘let's pick the best session cats money can buy’ campaign, Fish had other ideas. Taking baby steps, Derek Dick (aka Fish) took a more organic approach in enlisting the services of keyboard man Mickey Simmonds to help with the creative process. But unlike David Lee Roth, Fish already had a few ideas kicking around. One of these included the genesis for Family Business (originally intended as the music bed for a track that would later be called ‘Berlin’ on Season's End).” JF

“Also under wraps was as cut titled The Company written at the request of producer Bob Ezrin after a meeting at David Gilmour's house just prior to the post-Clutching at Straws writing sessions (which would put the final nail in the Fish-led Marillion coffin).” JF

“As tracking for Vigil got underway, Fish handpicked Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki and Dire Straits guitarist Hal Lindes to join his team. Vigil would also feature an array of special guests including…backing vocalist Tessa Niles (who also appeared on Clutching at Straws). Impeccably produced by John Kelly, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors is not only a worthy debut, it's also Fish's best solo effort.” JF

“One of Vigil’s greatest strengths is that it not only features epics like the album’s title track and the magnificent A Gentleman's Excuse Me, it also showcases some super-commercial (not cheesy) material like Big Wedge and The Voyeur (I like to Watch).” JF

“It’s also no surprise that the more Marillion-sounding songs turn out to be the album’s cornerstones. First, there's the moving View From a HillJF which featured “future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, responsible for the main riffage.” JF

Then there’s Cliché, which “is not only one of Fish’s greatest love songs, it’s also one of his most emotional.” JF

Vigil never reaches “the depths of despair of Marillion classics like Fugazi or Script for Jester’s Tear, [but] it’s equally compelling. As Fish veers in and out of Pink Floyd territory on the aforementioned tune, one thing becomes clear as day. Artistically, it would be quasi impossible to top Vigil. But more drastic, still, from this point forward, Fish would be fighting for his life to retain his commercial status. As his financial problems spiraled out of control, so did his popularity. As Marillion took the more commercial path of the two acts, Fish’s voice and passion would be sorely missed. And if there was ever any doubt as to how integral Derek Dick was to Marillion’s sound (the lyrical content goes without saying), Vigil provides all the proof listeners will ever need.” JF


Notes:

A 2002 remastered edition added bonus tracks “Jack and Jill,” “Internal Exile,” “Whiplash,” and demos of “The Company” and “A Gentleman’s Excuse Me.”

Review Sources:


Related DMDB Link(s):

Saturday, January 27, 1990

Coleman Hawkins charted with “Body and Soul” fifty years ago today (1/27/1940)

First posted 1/27/2013; updated 1/25/2020.

Body and Soul

Coleman Hawkins

Writer(s): Johnny Green/Ed Heyman/Robert Saur/Frank Eyton (see lyrics here)


First Charted: January 27, 1940


Peak: 13 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)


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


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards:

Review:

“Body and Soul” is “an all-time classic torch song” SF and “the most recorded jazz standard.” WK The song was originally written for actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence to sing for the British Broadcasting Company. MM-153 Then Libby Holman introduced it in the United States through the 1930 Broadway revue Three’s a Crowd. Paul Whiteman, with vocal by Jack Fulton, hit #1 with his version that year. It became one of the top five recorded songs from 1890-1954 with fourteen charted versions during that time, including takes by Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ozzie Nelson, Leo Reisman, and Art Tatum. PM John Coltrane, Ella Fitzerald, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Charles Mingus, Frank Sinatra, and Sarah Vaughan are among the others to tackle the song. WK

However, in an unusual twist, the highest-ranked version of the song is neither the first nor the highest-charting version. Coleman Hawkins, who has been called “the father of the tenor saxophone” NPR’09 for his role in establishing the tenor sax as a jazz instrument, NPR revived the song as an instrumental in 1939, showing how “it was possible to modernize well-worn Tin Pan Alley standards.” NPR It “became one of the most important jazz recordings of all time” JA-26 as one of the genre’s “most influential performances” NPR’09 and one of its best-known performances in history. NRR

His recording was unique because it only hinted at the song’s melody in his recording, focusing instead on two choruses of improvisation. WK When “Body and Soul” came out, people continuously told him he was playing the wrong notes. NPR He had been playing in Europe and upon returning to the United States, Hawkins was surprised jazz artists hadn’t changed styles. NPR Swing bands still ruled at the time, but “the early tremors of bebop” were in the air. NPR

He “replaced blues-based riffing with brisk arpeggios, sharp-cornered phrases and endless lines that were the jazz equivalent of run-on sentences. He danced at the upper extremes of chords, foreshadowing the altered harmonies that later were so important to bebop.” NPR Hawkins made the song “a standard for tenor sax players, with many later recordings referencing parts of Hawkins’ solo and playing in the challenging key of D flat.” NRR

The song has shown stamina. In 2011, Tony Bennett charted with a duet with the late Amy Winehouse. It won the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.


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