Saturday, December 18, 2010

Katy Perry hit #1 with “Firework”

Last updated 3/16/2020.


Katy Perry

Writer(s): Katy Perry, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Sandy Wilhelm, Ester Dean (see lyrics here)

Released: October 26, 2010

First Charted: October 17, 2010

Peak: 14 US, 14 RR, 11 AC, 15 A40, 3 UK, 11 CN, 3 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 11.0 US, 1.2 UK, 13.31 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.3 radio, 1268.57 video, 200.0 streaming


About the Song:

The third single from Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album was a dance-pop anthem to self-empowerment. Perry pronounced “Firework” as her favorite song from the Teenage Dream album WK and has even called it her epitaph. SF It’s hard,” she said, “to write an anthem that’s not cheesy…I hope this could be one of those things where it’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to put my fist up and feel proud and feel strong.’” WK

She told Billboard that the inspiration for the song came from what she called her “very morbid idea…to be put into a firework and shot across the sky over the Santa Barbra Ocean” when she died. SF Her then boyfriend showed her a paragraph from Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road which she described as being about “people that are buzzing and fizzing and full of life…They shoot across the sky like a firework make people go ‘Ahhh.’ I guess that making people go ‘ahhh’ is kind of like my motto.” SF

The lyrics weren’t completely embraced by critics. MTV said the lyrics were “clunky,” but praised Perry’s vocals and Slant magazine said the lyrics “are nonsensical…but the song would work well enough in a club setting that you could forgive its otherwise glaring weaknesses.” WK BBC Music’s Al Fox said the song “displays a breezy maturity and serious set of pipes.” WK

It was the third of five songs from the album to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her and Michael Jackson the only artists to land five chart toppers from one album (for Jackson it was his 1987 album Bad).

The video, which featured Perry in Budapest, Hungary, features Perry at the center of an outdoor dance party among fans. The director, Dave Meyers, said he wanted the video “to articulate the meaning of that song: what it means to be an underdog and have the courage…to be your own person.” SF It won MTV Video of the Year and was ranked #1 on MuchMusic’s list of best videos of 2010. WK The song was also nominated for Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.

Resources and Related Links:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mojo: Songs of the Year, 1955-2006

Originally posted 12/10/2010; updated 4/7/2019.

Mojo is a monthly UK magazine first published in October 1993. While they haven’t always named a “song of the year” they have done multiple best-of lists. Based on 15 of those lists (see links at bottom of page), here are the best songs of each year from 1955 to 2005.

  • 1955: Little Richard “Tutti Frutti
  • 1956: Elvis Presley “Heartbreak Hotel
  • 1957: Buddy Holly & the Crickets “That’ll Be the Day
  • 1958: Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode
  • 1959: Ray Charles “What’d I Say

  • 1960: The Shadows “Apache”
  • 1961: Del Shannon “Runaway
  • 1962: Booker T. & the MG’s “Green Onions”
  • 1963: The Ronettes “Be My Baby
  • 1964: The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  • 1965: The Miracles “The Tracks of My Tears”
  • 1966: Ike & Tina Turner “River Deep, Mountain High”
  • 1967: Aretha Franklin “Respect
  • 1968: Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through the Grapevine
  • 1969: The Jackson 5 “I Want You Back”

  • 1970: Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • 1971: Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On
  • 1972: Stevie Wonder “Superstition
  • 1973: Stevie Wonder “Living for the City”
  • 1974: Kraftwerk “Autobahn”
  • 1975: Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody
  • 1976: Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the U.K.”
  • 1977: Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen”
  • 1978: The Dils “I Hate the Rich”
  • 1979: Dead Kennedys “California Über Alles”

  • 1980: Martha & the Muffins “Echo Beach”
  • 1981: Ultravox “Vienna”
  • 1982: Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five “The Message
  • 1983: The Smiths “This Charming Man”
  • 1984: Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Two Tribes”
  • 1985:
  • 1986: Run-D.M.C. with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler & Joe Perry “Walk This Way
  • 1987: Phuture “Acid Tracks”
  • 1988: A Guy Called Gerald “Voodoo Ray”
  • 1989: The La’s “There She Goes”

  • 1990: Sinéad O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U
  • 1991: Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • 1992: Radiohead “Creep
  • 1993: Beck “Loser”
  • 1994: Oasis “Live Forever”
  • 1995: Pulp “Common People”
  • 1996: Manic Street Preachers “A Design for Life”
  • 1997: The Verve “Bittersweet Symphony”
  • 1998: Britney Spears “Baby One More Time”
  • 1999: Rage Against the Machine “Sleep Now in the Fire”

  • 2000: Asian Dub Foundation “Real Great Britain”
  • 2001: The White Stripes “Fell in Love with a Girl”
  • 2002: The Libertines “What a Waster”
  • 2003: The Darkness “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)”
  • 2004: Franz Ferdinand “Take Me Out
  • 2005: Arctic Monkeys “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”
  • 2006: Camera Obscura “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken”

Mojo Song Lists:

Mojo: Top 100 Songs

Originally posted 12/10/2010; updated 4/7/2019.

Mojo is a monthly UK magazine first published in October 1993. They have published multiple best-of lists over the years. Below is an exclusive Dave’s Music Database list in which 15 song-based lists (see links at bottom of page) from Mojo hae been aggregated into one best-of list.

1. Sex Pistols…God Save the Queen (1977)
2. Nirvana…Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
3. The Ronettes…Be My Baby (1963)
4. Oasis…Live Forever (1994)
5. Marvin Gaye…I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1968)
6. Ike & Tina Turner…River Deep, Mountain High (1966)
7. Queen…Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
8. Aretha Franklin…Respect (1967)
9. The Miracles…The Tracks of My Tears (1965)
10. Stevie Wonder…Superstition (1972)

11. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five…The Message (1982)
12. The Beach Boys…God Only Knows (1966)
13. The La’s…There She Goes (1990)
14. Pulp…Common People (1995)
15. The Kingsmen…Louie Louie (1963)
16. Bob Dylan…Like a Rolling Stone (1965)
17. The Beatles…Revolution (1968)
18. The Rolling Stones…(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)
19. The Beatles…Hey Jude (1968)
20. The Beatles…Penny Lane (1967)

21. The Rolling Stones…Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1968)
22. The Beatles…Paperback Writer (1966)
23. The Beatles…Rain (1966)
24. The Righteous Brothers…You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1965)
25. Billie Holiday…Strange Fruit (1939)
26. Procol Harum…A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
27. The Beatles…I Want to Hold Your Hand (1963)
28. Chuck Berry…Johnny B. Goode (1958)
29. The Smiths…This Charming Man (1983)
30. The Who…My Generation (1966)

31. Ray Charles…What’d I Say (1959)
32. The Jimi Hendrix Experience…Purple Haze (1967)
33. The Beatles…Strawberry Fields Forever (1967)
34. The Beach Boys…Good Vibrations (1966)
35. The Jackson 5…I Want You Back (1969)
36. Elvis Presley…Heartbreak Hotel (1956)
37. Four Tops…Reach Out (I’ll Be There) (1966)
38. Sex Pistols…Anarchy in the U.K. (1976)
39. The Byrds…Eight Miles High (1966)
40. Kate Bush…Wuthering Heights (1978)

41. Otis Redding…(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay (1968)
42. Blue Oyster Cult…(Don’t Fear) The Reaper (1976)
43. The Animals…The House of the Rising Sun (1964)
44. ? and the Mysterians…96 Tears (1966)
45. The Specials…Ghost Town (1981)
46. Squeeze…Up the Junction (1979)
47. The Small Faces…Itchycoo Park (1967)
48. Simon & Garfunkel…Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
49. The Dils…I Hate the Rich (1978)
50. Marvin Gaye…What’s Going On (1971)

51. Sex Pistols…Holidays in the Sun (1977)
52. Martha & the Vandellas…Dancing in the Street (1964)
53. Edwin Starr…War (1970)
54. The Undertones…Teenage Kicks (1978)
55. The Clash…White Riot (1977)
56. The Poni Tails…Born Too Late (1958)
57. The Byrds…Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
58. Sam Cooke…A Change Is Gonna Come (1965)
59. Marvin Gaye…Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) (1971)
60. Derek and the Dominos…Layla (1971)

61. Stevie Wonder…Living for the City (1973)
62. Don McLean…American Pie (1971)
63. The Kinks…You Really Got Me (1964)
64. Link Wray and His Men…Rumble (1958)
65. R.E.M….Losing My Religion (1991)
66. James Brown…Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (1965)
67. Booker T. & the MG’s…Green Onions (1962)
68. The Rolling Stones…Sympathy for the Devil (1968)
69. Del Shannon…Runaway (1961)
70. Manic Street Preachers…A Design for Life (1996)

71. David Bowie…Space Oddity (1969)
72. John Lennon…Imagine (1971)
73. This Mortal Coil…Song to the Siren (1984)
74. The Small Faces…Tin Soldier (1967)
75. The Kinks…Waterloo Sunset (1967)
76. Massive Attack…Unfinished Sympathy (1991)
77. Buddy Holly & the Crickets…That’ll Be the Day (1957)
78. Eddie Cochran…Summertime Blues (1958)
79. Mott the Hoople…All the Young Dudes (1972)
80. Jimmy Ruffin…What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (1966)

81. Primal Scream…Higher Than the Sun (1991)
82. Frankie Goes to Hollywood…Two Tribes (1984)
83. Oasis…Wonderwall (1995)
84. Oasis…Champagne Supernova (1996)
85. Chic…Good Times (1979)
86. McAlmont & Butler…Yes (1995)
87. Radiohead…Creep (1993)
88. The Jimi Hendrix Experience…Hey Joe (1966)
89. The Temptations…My Girl (1965)
90. Martha & the Vandellas…Heat Wave (1963)

91. The Smiths…How Soon Is Now? (1984)
92. Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps…Be-Bop-A-Lula (1956)
93. Ramones…Blitzkrieg Bop (1976)
94. Television Personalities…Part-Time Punks (1978)
95. Pete Seeger…We Shall Overcome (1963)
96. Kraftwerk…Autobahn (1974)
97. Subway Sect …Ambition (1978)
98. Ultravox…Vienna (1981)
99. Fairport Convention…Who Knows Where the Time Goes (1969)
100. R.E.M….Everybody Hurts (1993)

Mojo Song Lists:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the Season to Be Listing

‘Tis the season for mistletoe, gawdy blow-up decorations in people’s yards, and earworm-inducing ad infinitum spins of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” This also means it’s time for scrawling those wish lists and checking them twice. Santa’s dropping down that chimney in just a few weeks and stuffing those stockings with CDs by Justin Bieber or Arcade Fire, depending on whether we’ve been naughty or nice. With an 8-year-old and 5-year-old, list-making in my household means children taking notes during television commercials.

Ah, but in the music world, this is the time of year for another kind of list-making as well. While Santa’s loading up his sleigh with goodies, editors of every music mag known to man (a phrase that begs the question, “are there ‘zines devoted to the auditory pleasures of, say, the platypus kingdom?”) are packing their year-end magazine issues with plenty of treats. Those often come in the form of best-of-the-year snapshots. Considering my inclination in that area, my Christmas wish list is generally comprised of which year-end issues rank highest as must-haves.

As a side note, my obsession with year-end lists has overwhelmed even my fictional writing. Last week, in my efforts toward penning that great music-themed novel everyone so desperately needs from me (yeah, right), I scribed an entire chapter devoted to two characters debating the best college rock tunes of 1983. I know. I have a problem and need to seek help.

In the spirit of the season of list-making, Rolling Stone has offered a unique spin with its playlist issue (Dec. 9, 2010; issue #1119). While their year-end wrap-up should be just around the corner, this time out the focus is squarely on artists making lists of other artists. I doubt the world has been on pins and needles awaiting the revelation that Maroon 5’s Adam Levine ranks “Man in a Suitcase” as his eighth favorite Police song, but they might care about what roots and reggae songs make Keith Richards’ top ten. I must admit that after perusing a couple lists even I was thinking what an exercise in tedium this seemed to be – and this is coming from a list devotee so obsessed that he’s created a website and Facebook page devoted to the crap.

However, when I read Patti Smith’s comments about how moved she was by “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” it matters not one whit whether that or “One Too Many Mornings” ranks higher on her list of favorite Bob Dylan love songs. (For the record, she ranked “Mornings” #1 and “Lowlands” #4). The importance comes not in the rankings, but the feelings evoked by the creation of the list. More importantly, for us readers it allows a glimpse into Smith’s world as she reverentially describes singing “Dark Eyes” with Dylan nightly while they toured together in 1995. Her comments about striving, and failing, to pen a song of gratitude to Dylan was revelatory; even the greats like Smith, no slouch in the lyrical writing department herself, have musical gods to whom they bow.

When Elton John calls Kanye West’s “Say You Will” the “2008 equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On,’” my browser is already heading toward my favorite quasi-legal Russian download site.

While the presence of Kanye West on Elton John’s iPod might be eyebrow raising, it is no shock that Gerard Way, frontman for emo-rock group My Chemical Romance, would offer up his snapshot of the glam rock world. It is hardly groundbreaking to see David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” make the cut, but Way defines glam in a broader context to include Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls. We’d all do well to similarly expand the boundaries we’ve placed on genre classification.

This is why I love music lists. Ultimately, it isn’t about what ranks at #1 and what comes in at #68. It is more about being on the list at all. A list is a celebration of what shows up and a surefire argument starter over what doesn’t. Either way, the end benefit is the discussion spurred by a list. Heated debates over what should and shouldn’t make the grade really are mini-musical history lessons. Why should an artist be lauded with “best ever” status? How has so-and-so’s album left its mark? What has “song X” done to change the musical landscape?

Of course, there never really can be such a thing as a “definitive” list – although I cheekily attach the tag to many of the posts on my Dave’s Music Database Facebook page. Any list is subject to debate or change – just ask my kids. If they watch any TV tonight, they’re bound to scratch something off their Christmas wish lists and add a couple new things.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re stumped over what to get me, I’d be fine with the $750 thirty-disc box set of Elvis’ studio recordings. You know, just in case you’ve got nearly a grand burning a hole in your pocket that you desperately feel a yearning to throw my way. Merry Christmas all. Here’s hoping you get at least something on your list.

Friday, December 3, 2010

December 3, 1960: Camelot opened on Broadway

Originally posted June 10, 2011. Last updated September 3, 2018.

Camelot (cast/soundtrack)

Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics)/ Frederick Loewe (music)

Opened on Broadway: December 3, 1960

Cast Album Recorded: December 11, 1960

Cast Album Charted: January 23, 1961

Soundtrack Charted: November 11, 1967

Sales (in millions):
US: 0.5 C, 1.0 S
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 1.5 C+S

US: 16-C, 11 S
UK: 37 S
Canada: --
Australia: --

C cast album
S soundtrack

Quotable: “One of the great Lerner & Loewe musicals” – Wikipedia

Genre: show tunes

Album Tracks – Cast Album:

  1. Overture
  2. March
  3. I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight (RICHARD BURTON)
  4. The Simple Joys of Maidenhood (JULIE ANDREWS)
  5. Camelot (RICHARD BURTON)
  6. Follow Me (BERRY/ MARY SUE)
  7. C’est Moi (ROBERT GOULET)
  8. The Lusty Month of May (JULIE ANDREWS)
  9. Then You May Take Me to the Fair (JULIE ANDREWS/ JAMES YARNELL/ JOHN CULLUM)
  10. How to Handle a Woman (RICHARD BURTON)
  11. Before I Gaze at You Again (JULIE ANDREWS)
  12. If Ever I Would Leave You (ROBERT GOULET)
  13. The Seven Deadly Virtues (RODDY McDOWALL)
  14. What Do the Simple Folk Do? (RICHARD BURTON)
  15. Fire on Goodness (MALE ENSEMBLE)
  16. I Loved You Once in Silence (JULIE ANDREWS)
  17. Guenevere
  18. Finale Ultimo (Camelot Reprise) (RICHARD BURTON)

Album Tracks – Soundtrack:

  1. Prelude and Overture - Orchestra
  2. I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight - Arthur
  3. The Simple Joys of Maidenhood - Guenevere
  4. Camelot and the Wedding Ceremony - Arthur, Guenevere, and Chorus
  5. C'est Moi - Lancelot
  6. The Lusty Month of May - Guenevere and Women
  7. Follow Me and Children's Chorus - Chorus
  8. How to Handle a Woman - Arthur
  9. Take Me to the Fair - Guenevere, Lionel, Dinadan, Sagramore
  10. If Ever I Would Leave You - Lancelot
  11. What Do the Simple Folk Do? - Guenevere and Arthur
  12. I Loved You Once In Silence - Guenevere
  13. Guenevere - Chorus
  14. Finale Ultimo - Arthur and Tom


Lerner & Loewe turned to the legend of King Arthur, specifically T.H. White’s novel The Once and Future King, for their 1960 musical Camelot. Initially, Loewe agreed to write the music, but said he had no interest in the project and that it would be his last score if things went badly. WK-C The production of the show was delayed when Lerner had to seek medical attention after his wife left him. WK-C The show initially ran too long with Lerner noting that “only Tristan and Isolde equaled it as a bladder endurance contest.” WK-C

However, the result was a success. “The advance sale for the show was the largest in Broadway history.” WK-C It opened on December 3, 1960, at the Majestic Theatre and ran for 873 performances. WK-C It starred Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and introduced Robert Goulet in his first Broadway role. WK-C It also won four Tony Awards.

Initial reaction from New York critics was mixed, but a 1993 New York Times review noted that the musical “has grown in stature over the years, primarily because of its superb score.... [which] combined a lyrical simplicity with a lush romanticism.” WK-C A 2003 review said “Camelot has it all – a beautiful English princess swept off her feet by a shy, but passionate bachelor king; an ardent French knight, torn between devotion to his liege and an uncontrollable hunger, reciprocated, to be sure, for the king’s tempestuous wife.” WK-C

The story follows Arthur and Guinevere from their first meeting when they have yet to meet, but stumble across each other accidentally. Arthur – still unknown to Guinevere – persuades her of the joys of Camelot in the title song and she agrees to marry him.

Lancelot, a young Frenchman, enters the picture five years later when he comes to become one of Arthur’s knights after hearing about the Round Table, “a democratic system built around the idea of “a new kind of knight – one that does not pillage and fight, but tries to uphold honor and justice.” WC-C He is devoted to Arthur, but he and Guinevere battle feelings for each other.

Their forbidden love is uncovered by Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, who is determined to overthrow Camelot. He accuses them of treason and Arthur, born by his own law, is obliged to burn Guinevere at the stake. To his relief, the escaped Lancelot returns to save her.

Before Mordred attacks Camelot, Arthur meets Lancelot and Guinevere and forgives them. In camp the night before battle, Arthur is inspired by boy named Tom of Warwick who wishes to join the Round Table. Arthur instructs him “to run behind the lines and survive the battle, so he can tell future generations about the legend of Camelot.” WK-S

The 1964 film version directed by Joshua Logan snagged eight Oscars, but ultimately fell short of the Broadway version. “There wasn’t time for half a dozen songs, which have been deleted, leaving the highlights.” WR-S Richard “Harris is a much more demonstrative King Arthur than Burton, overplaying his role as if he's trying to be a royal Henry Higgins, as played by Rex Harrison (in My Fair Lady).” WR-S Vanessa “Redgrave has the impossible task of replacing Andrews…in fact, she can’t sing.” WR-S Franco Nero, who stepped in as Lancelot, had the singing done by Gene Merlino, who’s “ not a patch on Goulet. The result is a mediocre soundtrack album that really doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the original Broadway cast recording.” WR-S

Review Sources:


Related DMDB Link(s):

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Concert: John Mellencamp

image from

Venue: Midland Theater; Kansas City, MO

The Set List:

1. Authority Song
2. No One Cares about Me
3. Deep Blue Heart
4. Death Letter
5. Walk Tall
6. The West End
7. Check It Out
8. Save Some Time to Dream
9. Cherry Bomb
10. Don’t Need This Body
11. Right Behind Me
12. Jackie Brown

13. Longest Days
14. Easter Eve
15. Jack and Diane
16. Small Town
17. Rain on the Scarecrow
18. Paper in Fire
19. The Real Life
20. Human Wheels
21. If I Die Sudden
22. No Better Than This
23. Pink Houses
24. R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov. 12, 1960: Bobby "Blue" Bland recorded second session for Two Steps from the Blues

First posted May 29, 2008. Last updated September 10, 2018.

Two Steps from the Blues

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Released: Jan. 1, 1961

Recorded: 1956-1960

Sales (in millions):
US: --
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): --

US: --
UK: --
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “One of the key albums in modern blues” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Genre: blues

Album Tracks:

  1. Two Steps from the Blues (1960)
  2. Cry, Cry, Cry (10/10/60, #71 US, #9 RB)
  3. I’m Not Ashamed (5/4/59, #13 RB)
  4. Don’t Cry No More (7/24/61, #71 US, #2 RB)
  5. Lead Me On (4/11/60, #9 RB)
  6. I Pity the Fool (2/6/61, #46 US, #1 RB)
  7. I’ve Just Got to Forget You (1960)
  8. Little Boy Blue (10/6/58, #10 RB)
  9. St. James Infirmary (1960)
  10. I’ll Take Care of You (12/21/59, #89 US, #2 RB)
  11. I Don’t Want No Woman (recorded 1/22/57)
  12. I’ve Been Wrong So Long (1960)

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.


“Without a doubt, Two Steps from the Blues is the definitive Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland album and one of the great records in electric blues and soul-blues. In fact, it’s one of the key albums in modern blues, marking a turning point when juke joint blues were seamlessly blended with gospel and Southern soul, creating a distinctly Southern sound where all of these styles blended so thoroughly it was impossible to tell where one began and one ended.” STE

From 1956 to 1960, Bland had some success on the R&B charts – five of those songs are gathered here. He also recorded two albums (Blues Consolidated and Like ‘Er Red Hot) for Duke Records. WK He moved to Chicago in 1960, WK and recorded another seven songs at Universal Studio which would be compiled on this album. WK

The first session, on August 3, 1960, produced Two Steps from the Blues, Cry, Cry, Cry, and the ballad I’ve Been Wrong So Long, WK on which biographer Charles Farley praised Wayne Bennett as “the most articulate blues guitarist ever.” WK At a November 12 session, the crew recorded a cover of Joe Primrose’s St. James Infirmary and “the moody” I’ve Just Got to Forget You,” WK which didn’t emerge until 1970 as the B-side of “Keep on Loving Me (You’ll See the Change).” WK That session also produced Don’t Cry No More with a faster rhythm, and the Joe Medwick-penned I Pity the Fool. WK

The new songs were done at Universal Studio with “a tight, well-rehearsed, bombastic, blues band.” WK Joe Scott, producer and arranger, crafted the “wailing horn arrangements that sounded as impassioned as Bland’s full-throated, anguished vocals.” STE These songs “form the core of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s legend and the foundation of soul-blues.” STE They “blur the division between Ray Charles soul and Chess blues, opening the doors for numerous soul and blues sounds, from Muscle Shoals and Stax through the modern-day soul-bluesman.” STE

Mojo’s Geoff Brown said: “No song is wasted and hardly a note sounds false as Bland's blues-wearied voice, driven to anguished screams, grapples with the vicissitudes of life and love, his torment echoed and bolstered by Joe Scott’s memorable horn arrangements.” WK

“Since this, like many blues albums from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s, was a collection of singles, it’s possible to find the key tracks, even the entire album, on the numerous Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland collections released over the years, but this remains an excellent, essential blues album on its own terms – one of the greatest ever released.” STE

Review Source(s):


Related DMDB Link(s):

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming Soon to a Stage Near You

A friend on Facebook posted photos of ticket stubs from concerts he attended, mostly in the latter half of the eighties. Among them were The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M., Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Styx, Foreigner, The Cars, and Heart. It proved quite the enviable list of classic rock artists – of which I’ve seen a mere four. I’ve accumulated my share over the years, but Steve amassed as many shows in half a decade as I’ve seen in my lifetime.

I was a latecomer to the rock concert scene, not seeing my first show until my college days. My introduction to the world of live music was via the Rainmakers, a local Kansas-City based group. Their music fit snuggly in the classic rock format with jangly pop that recalled Big Star and that group’s subsequent followers such as Tom Petty and R.E.M. Lead singer Bob Walkenhorst’s unique vocal delivery encompassed some of the nasal snarl of Bob Dylan along with the hiccups and twang of classic country from the 1940s and ‘50s.

The show was on our college campus and I went with a bunch of friends. I don’t remember much – we had seats in the balcony and Amy was disgusted with us for not getting up and dancing (never a strong suit of mine). My virginal concert outing did a lot to make the group’s debut album, 1986’s The Rainmakers, one of my 20 favorite albums of all time.

I’ve amassed a slew of memories since. I traveled to Chicago to see Marillion (my favorite band) and trekked to Minneapolis for The Police. My one-time neighbor and childhood playmate grew up to be a percussionist/drummer with Rod Stewart and got about thirty of us backstage. When I saw Bob Dylan, a gang of us locked arms at an outdoor festival with no ticketed seating to safeguard our primo location from being overrun by people trying to shove in front of us. For my 40th birthday, my wife surprised me with Eric Clapton tickets and more than a half dozen friends to accompany us to the show. A buddy got box seats for the Allman Brothers and we sat next to local DJ Skid Roadie. My brother caught a drum stick at a Styx concert. I loved the clever short film featuring Jerry Stiller that opened the Rush show and seem to remember they had a fridge on stage. I saw Yes with Jon Anderson replaced by Benoit David, a guy about twenty years younger than the rest of the band and about twenty years too energetic. I felt for the guy who’d wasted all that dough to see Roger Waters only to pass out before the thing even got started.

All right, so plenty of memories – which will make this next comment very odd. In general, I’m not wowed by the whole concert experience. Perhaps this is due to a failure to be, shall we say, “properly stimulated.” Maybe a distaste for the party vibe is to blame. I also lack the sense of awe that many possess in the presence of legends. Similarly, hearing a group’s gotta-play-it hit fails to lift me to the heights to which most of the audience are transported. My inability to play an instrument, a complete lack of schooling in musical theory, and a failure to appreciate the technological complexities of putting on such productions all play huge parts. It’s a wonder I go to concerts at all.

So why do I? A little more than a week ago, I saw Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety. The album, its brief tour, and the movie in the late seventies and early eighties have all reached legendary status. I bought the album years ago and saw the movie, but missed the original concert experience. An actual wall was constructed on stage throughout the performance, literally and symbolically closing the band off from the audience. The complexities of staging the show, however, led to only a handful of concerts.

When Roger Waters announced plans to revisit the show with a full-fledged tour, I was in immediately. Here was a show for which I’d built up expectations over nearly three decades. I wondered if I might be setting myself up for a huge disappointment.

I was giddy upon arriving just to see the edges of the wall on either side of the stage that would, in the hands of a busy tech crew, become the eventual barricade between us and them. Throughout the show, the visual projections cast upon that slowly-erected wall were a mix of powerful imagery, eye-tricking effects, a rainbow of colors, and poignant graffiti-scrawled commentaries. A homeless man pushed a shopping cart around the arena floor pre-show. Waters performed “Nobody Home” in a motel room set that came out of the wall. The guitar solo for “Comfortably Numb” was played atop the wall. During “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II”, a gaggle of local kids taunted the monstrous teacher puppet lifted straight out of the movie version of The Wall with a chorus of “hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!” Of course, the gasp from the audience as the wall crumbles at the show’s close is priceless.

That show, the one I’d anticipated more than any other – and one that didn’t disappoint – is the quintessential example of the theatrical possibilities of the concert-going experience. While I doubt the visual spectacle of that extravaganza will ever be matched for me, there’s more to concerts than just what meets the eye. There are smaller, but no less poignant possibilities in every show. I pray that an artist will grace listeners with a creative re-interpretation of a beloved hit (John Mellencamp’s calypso version of “Jack and Diane”). I dream of a song moving me to tears (Bruce Springsteen’s “The River”). I relish the unexpected (like being ho-hum about Peter Frampton as an opening act, only to become a believer after seeing the sheer joy he still received from playing “Baby, I Love Your Way” for the umpteenth time).

For some, it may be about the impressive concert ticket collection. For others, it’s the party or whatever substance circulates through the aisles. There are those who will get a rush from the energy of the crowd and others who are awed by a guitar God nailing just the right chord. It might be the lights or the pyrotechnics or a ten-minute drum solo. It could be the sheer grandiosity of an arena or the intimacy of a club. No matter the specifics, the cherished memories and moments are about the music and the atmosphere surrounding it.

I still have a long wish list. Please bring U2, Squeeze, Fish, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and others to a venue near me. Give me a great light show or a moving theatrical production. Give me an inspiring moment where an artist plays that familiar hit in a less than familiar way. Most of all, give me a chance to walk out of an arena clutching a ticket stub that will remind me of some special moment for years to come.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Concert: Roger Waters - The Wall

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Venue: Sprint Center; Kansas City, MO
Tour: The Wall Live

Best concert I’ve ever seen in terms of theatrics. This was on the top of my concert bucket list since I first heard about the Pink Floyd The Wall concerts in 1980-81 which only hit a handful of cities because the show was too costly and complicated. It took nearly 30 years before Waters tackled the project again, turning it into one of the most successful concert runs of all time.

The Set List:

1. In the Flesh?
2. The Thin Ice
3. Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
4. The Happiest Days of Our Lives
5. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
6. Mother
7. Goodbye Blue Sky
8. Empty Spaces
9. What Shall We Do Now?
10. Young Lust
11. One of My Turns
12. Don't Leave Me Now
13. Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
14. The Last Few Bricks
15. Goodbye Cruel World


16. Hey You
17. Is There Anybody Out There?
18. Nobody Home
19. Vera
20. Bring the Boys Back Home
21. Comfortably Numb
22. The Show Must Go On
23. In the Flesh
24. Run Like Hell
25. Waiting for the Worms
26. Stop
27. The Trial
28. Outside the Wall

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bruno Mars lands his first #1 as a solo artist with “Just the Way You Are”

Last updated 3/15/2020.

Just the Way You Are (Amazing)

Bruno Mars

Writer(s): Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Khalil Walton, Khari Cain (see lyrics here)

Released: July 20, 2010

First Charted: August 1, 2010

Peak: 14 US, 13 RR, 120 AC, 15 A40, 11 UK, 14 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.8 UK, 13.7 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.5 radio, 1524.6 video, 200.0 streaming


About the Song:

“Just the Way You Are” was Bruno Mars’ debut single as a solo artist, but it wasn’t his first time on the charts. He’d already been a guest artist on B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You” (#1 on the Hot 100) and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” (#4) and was a member of the production trio The Smeezingtons, who produced hits such as Flo Rida’s “Right Round” (#1). SF The song was, at different times, intended for Lupe Fiasco and Cee-Lo Green. Green thought the song was better for Mars, but did record Mars’ song “Fuck You,” with which he had a #2 hit. SF

When Mars’ topped the charts with the song, it became the first #1 hit for Elektra Rcords in 17 years, the last being “Freak Me” by Silk in 1993. SF Its 20 weeks atop the adult contemporary chart gave it the record for longest-reigning debut on that chart. WK It was also the best-selling digital single of 2011 with 12.2 million in sales WK and named ASCAP’s Most Performed Song of the year at their Pop Music Awards. WK

Mars has said, “I’m a big fan of just classic love songs,” SF citing songs like Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” and Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” which he said “go straight to the point…They just come directly from the heart.” WK He continues that, “I wasn’t thinking of anything deep or poetic. I was telling a story. Get ready to fall in love!” SF He also said, “There’s nothing really lyrically mind-blowing in the song” SF and that “I’m just telling a woman she loks beautiful the way she IS.” WK The song was an inspiration for Meghan Trainor’s debut single “All About That Bass.” WK

Billboard’s Megan Vick said the lyrics “aim to make femal listeners feel nothing short of perfect in their own skin.” WK The song served as an inspiration for the #1 hit “All About That Bass,” the body-empowerment debut single from Megan Trainor. WK Digital Spy’s Nick Levin described the song as “a huge-hearted urbany piano ballad with a similar instant classic feel to ‘Empire State of Mind.’” WK

Resources and Related Links:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Do You Mean, No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”?

On my Facebook page for Dave’s Music Database, I recently posted a link about the newest Jimi Hendrix box, due for a November release. I mockingly asserted that the set was necessary because Hendrix just hasn’t been anthologized enough.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. For a man dead since 1970, he has an astonishing ability to continue to release product. On my DMDB web page for Hendrix, I spotlight nine collections of studio material released after his death and six live albums. These are just the most significant official releases.

I’ve long joked that the true sign of a great musician is an ability to make music from beyond the grave. The best dead stars all have this talent – Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Tupac Shakur. The late rap titan has even landed three posthumous #1 albums, a feat which, to my knowledge, has yet to be matched by any other performer six feet under.

Of course, the bigger commentary here concerns recording companies’ crass efforts to turn the deceased’s every grunt, croak, or belch captured on tape into gold. Perhaps nowhere is this greed better on display than via the handlers of Hendrix’s catalog through the ‘70s and well into the ‘90s, before the Hendrix estate wrestled control back. The three studio albums made during Jimi’s life are staples on best-of-all-time album lists; you won’t see anything after he died showing up on these lists.

Still, record companies don’t shovel out the product in steady streams if no one’s dropping cash. Fortunately for them, there will always be lunatics and freaks willing to shell out the bucks for that never-before-released thirteenth take of “Insert Title of Obscure Album Track Here” because, after all, this is the one that included the producer barking out a couple orders to the formerly-living-and-breathing music maker before recording commenced.

It is here that I will attempt to both awkwardly distance myself from such behavior while simultaneously embracing it. In the aforementioned Facebook post, I confessed to having 21 versions of “Purple Haze.” I don’t mean covers of the song – I mean 21 versions all done by Hendrix. I didn’t intentionally seek out that many; I just slowly accumulated them from picking up a live collection here, a box set of studio outtakes there. This is, by my own admission, behavior worthy of serious psychological evaluation. What can one possibly need with that many versions of a song?

Well, my friends, this is the distinction between the casual music fan and the gone-round-the-bend fanatic. Frankly, my completist tendencies rear their ugly head once an act crosses from the “yeah, I like them” to the “oh, I love them” threshold. My sanity goes out the window and I gobble up every scrap I can find like a vampire craving a blood smoothie. I have 33 CDs of Kevin Gilbert music; only ten are official releases and even those are obscure.

For some, such behavior is all about bragging rights. Maybe it’s a Deadhead who can boast to possessing a rare bootleg of a long ago show or a Beatlemaniac who claims to have tape of the long-lost “Carnival of Lights” track. Sometimes it is just about “having it all.” Once you have the thirty-something studio albums by Dylan, why stop?

For others, it genuinely is a musical journey in which they legitimately pick out the distinctions in 21 different versions of “Purple Haze.” Maybe they can trace how the song first developed in the studio to how it transformed on the stage. Maybe they become enthralled with how Hendrix changes the guitar solo here and there.

Personally, I lack the musicianship to notice that the third take of some long forgotten album cut included a snare drum absent from the version released on the B-side of an obscure Scottish single. As for impressing others with individual acts in my collection, most people are in awe enough of the sheer total size to dig deep enough to notice that I have over six hundred Bob Dylan songs.

So why do I have 600+ Dylan songs and 33 Kevin Gilbert CDs and 21 versions of “Purple Haze”? Dunno. Just do. Stay tuned – numbers destined to change as quickly as the miles roll by on an odometer.

For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Consequence of Sound - Top 100 Albums of All Time

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Consequence of Sound’s “Top 100 Albums Ever

1. The Beatles: Abbey Road (1969)
2. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966)
3. The Clash: London Calling (1979)
4. Michael Jackson: Thriller (1982)
5. The Velvet Underground & Nico: Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
6. Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (1975)
7. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
8. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
9. Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980)
10. Radiohead: OK Computer (1997)

11. Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966)
12. The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (1969)
13. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
14. Pixies: Doolittle (1989)
15. Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (1979)
16. The Who: Who’s Next (1971)
17. Kate Bush: Hounds of Love (1985)
18. David Bowie: Hunky Dory (1971)
19. Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On (1971)
20. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)

21. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (1968)
22. The Beatles: The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) (1968)
23. Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
24. Neil Young: After the Gold Rush (1970)
25. Peter Gabriel: So (1986)
26. Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison (1968)
27. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? (1967)
28. Joni Mitchell: Blue (1971)
29. AC/DC: Back in Black (1980)
30. Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

31. Ramones: Rocket to Russia (1977)
32. Nirvana: Nevermind (1991)
33. Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
34. U2: The Joshua Tree (1987)
35. Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction (1987)
36. Stevie Wonder: Talking Book (1972)
37. The Police: Synchronicity (1983)
38. Pink Floyd: The Wall (1979)
39. Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell (1977)
40. The Beatles: Revolver (1966)

41. Patti Smith: Horses (1975)
42. Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
43. David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
44. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (1970)
45. Nick Drake: Pink Moon (1972)
46. The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street (1972)
47. Dr. Dre: The Chronic (1992)
48. The Stooges: Raw Power (1973)
49. Black Sabbath: Paranoid (1970)
50. Prince & the Revolution: Purple Rain (soundtrack, 1984)

51. Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (1988)
52. The Replacements: Let It Be (1984)
53. Bob Marley & the Wailers: Exodus (1977)
54. The Strokes: Is This It (2001)
55. Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen (aka “Two Wheels Good”) (1985)
56. The Who: Quadrophenia (1973)
57. Genesis: Genesis (1983)
58. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (1977)
59. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (1991)
60. The Band: Music from Big Pink (1968)

61. Green Day: Dookie (1994)
62. Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
63. R.E.M.: Document (1987)
64. The Doors: The Doors (1967)
65. Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004)
66. Devo: Duty Now for the Future (1979)
67. Leonard Cohen: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
68. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
69. The Smiths: The Smiths (1984)
70. The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1965)

71. Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (1985)
72. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
73. Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
74. Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks (1975)
75. Jay-Z: The Blueprint (2001)
76. Sigur Ros: Agaetis Byrjun (1999)
77. Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman (1970)
78. Sly & the Family Stone: There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)
79. Bjork: Post (1995)
80. Paul Simon: Graceland (1986)

81. Neil Young: Harvest (1972)
82. Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream (1993)
83. John Lennon: Imagine (1971)
84. The Who: Tommy (1969)
85. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (1979)
86. Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
87. N.W.A.: Straight Outta Compton (1989)
88. Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral (1994)
89. Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
90. Refused: The Shape of Punk to Come (1998)

91. The Clash: The Clash (1977)
92. Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
93. Parliament: Mothership Connection (1975)
94. Metallica: Kill ‘Em All (1983)
95. Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (1975)
96. Beck: Midnite Vultures (1999)
97. Elliott Smith: Either/Or (1997)
98. Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (1975)
99. Talking Heads: Fear of Music (1979)
100. Kanye West: The College Dropout (2004)

Friday, September 10, 2010

VH1 – 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

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This was originally posted on the DMDB Facebook page the week of September 6-10, 2010, when VH1 originally presented this countdown. The five segments and my commentary have been stitched together here as one piece.

September 10, 2010:

The countdown is over. For all its flaws, at least they put the Beatles at #1. They had so many people throughout the countdown singing the praises of Michael Jackson that I was afraid the gloved one was going to trump the Fab Four. Of course, rankings on a list such as this become almost silly to debate, but that would have been a crime! I would agree that MJ has had more impact on the music industry in the last 30 years than any other recording act. However, when one looks beyond 30 years, the title quickly falls to the Beatles or Elvis (sadly rated way too low at #8). All in all, there are some definite head scratchers here (Cheap Trick? Sade?) and the list should be called the “100 Greatest Artists of the Rock Era” or the “100 Greatest Artists of the Last 60 Years”, but there are a lot of deserving artists here.

1. The Beatles
2. Michael Jackson
3. Led Zeppelin
4. Rolling Stones
5. Bob Dylan
6. Jimi Hendrix
7. Prince
8. Elvis Presley
9. James Brown
10. Stevie Wonder
11. Bob Marley
12. David Bowie
13. The Who
14. Nirvana
15. The Beach Boys
16. Madonna
17. Queen
18. Pink Floyd
19. U2
20. Marvin Gaye

September 9, 2010:

Well, instead of continuing to whine about who isn’t on this list, I’ll celebrate my favorite moment of the countdown so far. The reason for making shows like this is to see someone like Run-D.M.C.’s Darryl McDaniel nearly in tears saying that Elton John saved his life. That’s the power of music.

21. Bruce Springsteen
22. The Clash
23. AC/DC
24. The Velvet Underground
25. Chuck Berry
26. Neil Young
27. Aretha Franklin
28. Elton John
29. Radiohead
30. Aerosmith
31. John Lennon
32. Black Sabbath
33. Guns N' Roses
34. Tina Turner
35. Johnny Cash
36. Paul McCartney
37. Fleetwood Mac
38. Sly & The Family Stone
39. The Kinks
40. The Police

September 8, 2010:

Well, for all my bluster about this countdown’s inability to hear a note of music that occurred prior to 1950, they’ve gone and done it! They’ve humiliated me and proven how off I am by reaching WAAAAY back, all the way to…1949. That’s when Ray Charles (#43) first hit the R&B charts with the Maxine Trio and the song “Confession Blues.” My sincerest apologies to VH1 for assuming they couldn’t remember music from more than 60 years ago. Who knew they’d go so far back – to a whopping 61 years ago? What will they think of next? Ranking someone like, oh, I don’t know, Sade, ahead of Little Richard? No! They’d never do that, would they?

41. Van Halen
42. Metallica
43. Ray Charles
44. Joni Mitchell
45. Al Green
46. Ramones
47. Jay-Z
48. Rage Against the Machine
49. Parliament-Funkadelic
50. Sade
51. Billy Joel
52. Beyonce
53. Little Richard
54. Public Enemy
55. Peter Gabriel
56. KISS
57. Iggy & the Stooges
58. Cheap Trick
59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
60. Whitney Houston

September 7, 2010:

With another 20 artists counted down, there’s still no sign of anything prior to 1950. I’m sure that’s because Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Hank Williams are in the loftier rungs of the list, right?

61. Cream
62. Genesis
63. The Notorious B.I.G.
64. Talking Heads
65. The Doors
66. Justin Timberlake
67. Coldplay
68. Otis Redding
69. Tupac Shakur
70. Def Leppard
71. R.E.M.
72. Janis Joplin
73. Van Morrison
74. The Cure
75. Rush
76. Run-D.M.C.
77. Lynyrd Skynyrd
78. Judas Priest
79. Eminem
80. Mary J. Blige

September 6, 2010:

Sigh. I love collecting lists – it is the reason for Dave’s Music Database – but VH1’s latest is the kind that leaves me shaking my head and rolling my eyes. VH1 started their countdown Monday night (9/6) that will go all week, one hour each night, revealing #1 on Friday. The list was created by compiling votes from more than 200 of today’s music stars. I intend to blog in what is likely to be excruciating detail over my pet peeves regarding this list, but let me just say for now that I’d just about bet my entire music collection against names like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Beethoven actually making this list.

Here’s the list so far:

81. Abba
82. Steely Dan
83. Earth, Wind & Fire
84. Curtis Mayfield
85. The Band
86. N.W.A.
87. George Michael
88. Bee Gees
89. Beastie Boys
90. Elvis Costello
91. Green Day
92. LL Cool J
93. Pearl Jam
94. Mariah Carey
95. OutKast
96. Journey
97. Pretenders
98. Depeche Mode
99. Daryl Hall & John Oates
100. Alicia Keys

Without going into personal opinions about who is here so far, I can’t help but share the most shocking moment so far: John Oates no longer has a mustache. Suddenly, ‘80s pop music as I knew it has lost all meaning.

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The Greatest Artists of All Time…Or at Least Since 1950

Sigh. I love collecting lists – it is the reason for Dave’s Music Database – but VH1’s latest is the kind that leaves me shaking my head and rolling my eyes. VH1 started their countdown Monday (9/6) and ran it all week, an hour a night, revealing #1 on Friday (9/10). The list was compiled by gathering votes from over 200 of today’s music stars. Check out the list here.

The reason I compile multiple lists and average them together is to weed out some of the idiosyncrasies of individual lists and offer up at least slightly more objective results. VH1’s list suffers from the most gargantuan of the “greatest” list flaws – the absurdly, over-the-top “greatest of all time” claim. Really? All time, huh? Apparently if you look up “all-time” in the VH1 office thesaurus, it lists “last 60 years” as a synonym.

We won’t even get into how most music lists are oblivious to artists who have recorded outside of the Western world and in any language other than English. Even my aggregate lists can’t correct that problem. Sorry, Wei Wei. Maybe you have sold 200 million records – which out-distances the likes of U2, David Bowie, and Prince – but since the non-Chinese speaking world pretty much has no idea who you are, you don’t exist.

Here’s another pet peeve – to me, “artist” implies an individual performer while the more appropriate “act” suggests either an individual or group. That may be more a personal quibble over language, though, so we’ll let it slide.

As long as I’m linguistically nitpicking, though, I’d also prefer a less inflammatory proclamation than “greatest.” The word immediately invites scorn, begging boorish morons to unleash potty mouths on blogs, shredding all those deemed unworthy of a “greatest” tag and crucify the list for overlooking their personal favorites. While a simple title change will not dissuade haters from loudly (and poorly) trumpeting their completely subjective opinions as facts, can we at least go with a title like “The Top 100”? At least that heading implies that the data was gathered in some objective manner and that the list is merely a presentation of those who were the top vote getters.

But let’s go back to that All Time = Last 60 Years point. The oldest act on the list is Ray Charles. His first chart hit goes back to 1951. If we include his work with the Maxine Trio, we can even go back as far as 1949. This means, roughly, that VH1 is unaware of the existence of music prior to the rock and roll era. At least a 1998 list also generated by the network acknowledged Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters as well. The latter two date to the ‘40s while Johnson goes all the way to 1936. Still, that doesn’t mean that VH1 actually knew these artists made music before 1950. After all, these are generally considered influential acts in the development of rock ‘n’ roll, so maybe VH1 also considers them part of the rock era.

Of course, VH1 just tabulated the results of today’s current recording artists’ votes, so really shouldn’t be held responsible for the callous neglect by today’s musicians of music made before they were born. That being the case, let me offer up a gentle reminder for the next go-round that there is actual documented proof of recorded music prior to 1950. One doesn’t even need to dig through the vaults at the Library of Congress to find them. They are as close as one’s Internet-capable device of choice. Here’s a few acts to check out:

1900s: Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Byron G. Harlan, Arthur Collins
1910s: Al Jolson, Ben Selvin
1920s: Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo
1930s: Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday
1940s: Nat “King” Cole, Hank Williams

These are just the most notable artists of the era of recorded music prior to the 1950s. Asking these musicians to explore the world before the existence of iPods, CDs, tapes, eight tracks, and phonographs would be roughly the equivalent of asking Sarah Palin to accept that creatures trolled this Earth more than 6000 years ago. Despite the evidence, we’ll continue living in the odd musical vacuum that selects Cheap Trick and LL Cool J as greatest artists of all time while blissfully wandering through life unaware that Beethoven and Mozart ever walked the planet.

Besides, a simple name change to the list can forgive these omissions. Taking into account my other suggestions, how about re-christening the list “The Top 100 Acts of the Rock Era”? That would fix everything, now wouldn’t it?

Well, not exactly. There are some significant acts from the last six decades who are overlooked. First off, back in 1998, even VH1 acknowledged Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Eric Clapton, the Byrds, Rod Stewart, the Supremes, and the Temptations. Now that a dozen years have passed, apparently these acts’ contributions pale in comparison to the legacies of Sade and the Notorious B.I.G.

I’m picking on VH1 for all this, but these are not unique problems. Listmakers tend to make bold proclamations. Hey, it generates interest and let’s face it, accurate titles like “VH1 Submits a Bunch of Ballots to People Who Make Music So That We Can Compile the Results and Present a Top 100 List of the Results Over Five Nights and Hopefully Make a Lot of Money Off Ad Revenues” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Oh, well. Enough whining for now. I’ve got to get to work on the latest DMDB list. Coming soon: “The Latest Top 100 of All Time List Presented by Dave’s Music Database in Hopes of Getting You to Become a Facebook Fan, Regular DMDB Reader, and Eventual Customer for the Slew of DMDB Books I Hope to Publish.” Enjoy!

For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out the Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fifty Years Ago Today: Ray Charles hit the charts with “Georgia on My Mind” (9/5/1960)

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Ray Charles “Georgia on My Mind”

Writer(s): Hoagy Carmichael (music)/ Stuart Gorrell (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First charted: 9/5/1960

Peak: 11, 3 RB, 24 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Radio Airplay (in millions): 6.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: Hoagy Carmichael, who critic Dave Marsh called “the most blues-inspired writer Tin Pan Alley produced,” MAMA-225 co-wrote the song back in 1930 and was one of the first to record it. MM-159 With classics like “Star Dust” and “The Nearness of You” on his resume, Carmichael was adept at crafting standards. Jazz saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer was the first to chart with the song, taking it to the top ten in 1931. PM-502 Mildred Bailey, who is often closely associated with the song, TY-55 went top 20 with it in 1932 as did Gene Krupa in 1941 PM-502 with an arrangement sung by Anita O’Day. MA-225 Fats Waller and Frankie Laine also made important recordings TY-55 and the Righteous Brothers, Wes Montgomery, and Michael Bolton all charted with pop versions of the song. In 1978, it gave Willie Nelson his fifth country chart-topper and a Grammy for Country Male Vocal. James Brown and Gladys Knight also recorded notable versions. MM-159

However, it is Ray Charles’ soulful version and double-Grammy winner – Best Male Vocal Recording and Best Pop Song Performance – which has become the most beloved and most successful. It was his driver, Tommy Brown, who suggested Charles record the song when he heard his boss crooning the song in the car. MA-225 The song fit perfectly on Charles’ project at the time – an LP comprised of songs with place names in the titles. RS500

The song has been interpreted as being either about the state or a woman. While Charles was born in Georgia, neither Carmichael nor Stuart Gorrell, the song’s lyricist and a New York banker, lived in the state. However, Carmichael had a sister named Georgia. SF The state of Georgia was happy to claim the song, though – they named it their official state song in 1979 and Ray Charles even sang it in the Georgia State Legislature. JA-62

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.