Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DJ Alan Freed hosted the first rock ‘n’ roll show: March 21, 1952

The first Moondog Coronation Ball was held in Cleveland. The event is generally considered the first rock ‘n’ roll show in the U.S. Featured acts included a mix of black and white performers intended to attract a racially mixed audience. Among the acts were Paul Williams’ Hucklebuckers, Tiny Grimes’ Rockin’ Highlanders (featuring Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), The Dominoes, and Danny Cobb. At the time, nearly all performances, radio stations, and record labels were racially segregated.

DJ Alan Freed, who conceived and promoted the event, is credited with coining the term “rock and roll.” The event took its name from “Moondoggers” – the nickname he gave his listeners. Freed came to Cleveland’s WXEL-TV in April 1950 and began his late-night, rock-n-roll-themed Moondog show on WJW radio in July 1951. He went to New York in 1954 and left the business in 1959 after involvement in a payola scandal. He died in 1965 at age 43.

The event, held at the Cleveland Arena, proved a bit of a fiasco as promoters continued selling tickets long after they’d reached the venue’s roughly-10,000 seat capacity. At least some of the additional tickets have been attributed to counterfeiting. It was estimated that 20,000 fans showed up. When they couldn’t get in, the crowd broke down the doors to storm the arena. Local authorities shut down the concert after the first song for fear of rioting.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fun.’s “We Are Young” hit #1

Last updated 2/16/2020.

We Are Young

Fun. with Janelle Monáe

Writer(s): Nate Ruess/Andrew Dost/Jack Antonoff/Jeffrey Bhasker (see lyrics here)

Released: September 20, 2011

First Charted: December 17, 2011

Peak: 16 US, 14 RR, 12 AC, 13 A40, 2 AA, 12 MR, 11 UK, 11 CN, 13 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 1.29 UK, 10.28 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 831.4 video, 200.0 streaming


About the Song:

While they won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2013, Fun. had been around since 2008, releasing their debut in 2009 and the follow-up, Some Nights, which garnered them their Grammy, in 2012. The song that put them on the map was “We Are Young,” a mix of power pop and alternative rock with an indie spirit which “captures the moments of youthful exuberance that come with a memorable night out.” SF Lead singer Nate Ruess said the lyrics were inspired by “my worst drinking night of all time.” SF

This song and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” were hailed for returning rock to the pop charts. Rolling Stone’s Steve Knopper touted the song’s “sprightly pop-novelty feel” WK while his compatriot, Jody Rosen, described it as “rollickingly catchy” and “emo self-deprecation that leavens the bombast.” WK’s Bill Lamb said the song “carries a hook in the chorus that is likely to stop many listeners dead in their tracks.” WK All Music Guide’s Tim Sendra notes Ruess “provides a very human core that grounds things even as the music builds to ornate crescendos.” AMG

Interestingly, the song didn’t become a hit until after landing a Chevrolet ad in Super Bowl XLVI and getting covered for American TV show, Glee. PJ Bloom, the latter’s music supervisor, noted, “Glee doesn’t break bands, we celebrate existing pop success – that’s our core model.” WK He changed his mind after hearing the song once, later calling it one of the “pinnacle song moments of the entire series.” WK

The song was propelled to the top of the pop charts, logging seven weeks of digital sales of more than 300,000 – the first to do so. WK It was the first song since Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” to log seven weeks with 120 million radio impressions WK and was the most listened to song on Facebook in 2012. SF It was also featured in another ad in Super Bowl XLVII – this time a Spanish language version of the song for Taco Bell.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Fair Lady opened on Broadway: March 15, 1956

My Fair Lady is “the crowning achievement” AZ for lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. Some consider it to be “the most perfect stage musical ever.” CL “It boasts a magnificent score…witty, intelligent, beautiful, and romantic.” NRR This is “a collection of performances that long ago became a ubiquitous and indispensable fixture of American musical theater.” AZ

The musical was an updated version of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a story about “the mythic Greek figure who falls in love with his sculpture.” TM In My Fair Lady, the story focuses on “the relationship between an elocutionist” R-C and “pre-World War I London flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who aspires to a better accent and the social advantages that will come with it.” R-S Its 2,700 performances “gracefully spanned the Eisenhower and Camelot eras, then begat a wildly popular film version, whose 1965 Best Picture Oscar capped the show’s decade of prominence.” AZ

The cast album “captures landmark performances by Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway.” NRR Andrews was a “twenty-year-old revelation” ZS as “the fairest of all ladies,” ZS making the “loverly…score soar” ZS with her “glorious voice and emotional range.” ZS Harrison is “effortlessly charming” ZS in his recreation of the stage role as “Professor Henry Higgins (he had also appeared in the film adaptation of…Pygmalion.” R-S

“The show yielded an astounding number of songs that became standards, including the luminous I Could Have Danced All Night and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” TM Among the other gems in this “embarrassment of riches,” AZ including On the Street Where You Live, The Rain in Spain, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, and Why Can’t the English?.

For the movie version, Harrison and Holloway were back again, but Andrews wasn’t deemed enough of a star although “embarrassingly, by the time the movie opened, Mary Poppins had made her more than enough of a star to do so.” R-S Audrey Hepburn stepped into the role with the singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon, who “was an accomplished Hollywood voice ghost, having previously sung for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Rosalind Russell in Gypsy.” R-S

Ultimately the soundtrack paled to the cast recording, which was considered critically and commercially more successful. The cast recording sold 8 million copies in the U.S. and topped the Billboard charts for 15 weeks. It also spent 19 weeks atop the UK charts.


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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Producer Rick Rubin was born: March 10, 1963

Rick Rubin was “dubbed ‘the king of rap’ two decades ago by the Village Voice,” DL for his role as one of “the key figures behind the commercial and artistic rise of hip-hop.” AMG He was called “the most successful producer in any genre” UT by Rolling Stone and “the most important producer of the last 20 years” WK by MTV. In 2007, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. WK

“The barefoot Buddha with the woolly salt-and-pepper beard” UT has “amassed a discography that’s more than 90 albums long, a catalogue that’s sold in excess of 100 million.” DL Esquire magazine says Rubin is “one of the few industry giants with the confidence to just let artists be themselves.” WK Rubin says his role is “to inspire and challenge artists to do their best work, and to do it for the sake of the work as opposed to the ends.” UT Daron Malakian of System of a Down says, “Production with Rick doesn’t mean you're going to sit in a studio. It might mean you go to a record store or to the beach. Or you go for a drive. You bond as people first.” DL

He was born on March 10, 1963, in Long Island, New York. He grew up there in an upper-middle class neighborhood and “his parents hoped their only child would become a doctor or a lawyer.” DL Rubin “enrolled at NYU and had every intention of applying to law school until rap got in the way.” DL “Enamored of what he considered to be black punk rock, Rubin was a regular at hip-hop clubs throughout New York but was disappointed by most of the studio recordings coming out of the burgeoning rap scene.” DL As he said, “I started making records I wanted to hear. I didn’t know it was a viable job’.” UT

“In 1984 Rubin produced his first single, It’s Yours, for T La Rock and Jazzy Jay. Within two months the spartan song – built around beats, rhymes and little else – was one of the biggest rap hits in New York. Among those taking notice was Russell Simmons, a music promoter from Queens who also managed his kid brother’s group, Run-D.M.C. Simmons was shocked to discover that ‘It’s Yours’ – which he'd declared the ‘blackest’ song he’d ever heard – was produced by a Jewish kid from Long Island.” DL

Rubin and Simmons “founded Def Jam in 1984” AMG “operating the company out of Rubin’s dorm room.” AMG One of the first hits was LL Cool J’s Radio in 1985. Rubin’s style of “fusing rap with heavy rock” WK would also be a trademark of his early work. “It was Rubin’s idea to have Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith collaborate on a cover of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way…a production credited with both introducing rap-hard rock to mainstream ears and revitalizing Aerosmith’s career.” WK

“Rap broke worldwide in 1986” AMG on the strength of Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell, on which that song was featured, and the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill, the first rap album to top the Billboard charts. DL He would later produce what has been called the best rap album of all time, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988).

By late 1988, Rubin’s relationship with Simmons was suffering. Rubin left Def Jam, moved to the East Coast, formed Def American, and turned his attention back to rock. “In 1991…Rubin…produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ breakthrough effort, Blood Sugar Sex Magik.” AMG The album’s monster hit Under the Bridge, grew out of “an entry [Rubin] discovered in one of lead singer Anthony Kiedis’s notebooks. It was a poem about overcoming heroin addiction, and Rubin talked the reluctant singer into presenting it to the band.” DL

In 1993, Rubin “officially dropped the ‘Def’ prefix from the label’s name” AMG and “Def American became American Recordings. Johnny Cash’s career-reviving album of the same name would signify Rubin’s greatest career achievement aside from launching rap into the mainstream. By bringing his stripped-down approach to “the sound of veteran singers and bands, [Rubin] could help them break out of the commercial rut they were currently in.” WK “Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ sorrowful tune, Hurt, would become the defining song of his later years.” WK

Rubin worked a similar magic for Neil Diamond, who had “created a cabaret image by drifting from his emotional core as a singer/songwriter,” UT but Rubin “ranks alongside Paul Simon.” UT 12 Songs “was the crooner’s best-reviewed work in decades…[it] also resonated with fans, reaching the No. 4 Billboard ranking – Diamond’s highest chart position in 25 years.” DL

He won the Grammy for Non-Classical Producer of the Year for his 2006 work with, among others, the Dixie Chicks, who won the Grammy for Album of the Year for Taking the Long Way. The next year he was named co-chair of Columbia Records. In 2009, he won another Grammy for Producer of the Year. He took home the award again in 2012 for work on Adele’s 21, which also won the Grammy for Album of the Year. 15 of his albums rank in the DMDB’s top 1000 of all time.


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Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Fifth Dimension charted with “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”: March 8, 1969

In the rock era, only two Broadway musicals have produced #1 singles: Louis Armstrong’s title song from Hello, Dolly! and a medley of two songs from the 1968 hippie musical Hair. BR1 The latter would never have happened if Billy Davis, a member of the Fifth Dimension, hadn’t lost his wallet in a New York City cab. SJ The passenger who found the wallet and called Billy was one of the producers of Hair. To show his gratitude, Billy invited the man and his wife to see the Fifth Dimension in concert. The producer, in turn, invited the group to a performance of Hair. BR1

Before the group even left the theater, they knew they should record “Aquarius.” BR1 When they suggested it to Bones Howe, their producer, AMG his response was that “It’s half a song…it needs something on the back end.” BR1 The group paired the song with “Let the Sunshine In,” also from the play. SJ The resulting medley not only became the biggest hit of 1969 WHC but the “biggest and most lasting record” AMG of the Fifth Dimension’s career.

“Aquarius” is based on the idea that by the close of the 20th century, mankind would enter an age of enlightment. BB100 That concept and the song’s astrological references were perfectly suited to the hippie vibe of 1969. AMG Such ideas may seem dated today, but the song’s overall message of unity is timeless. AMG


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Click on box above to check out the DMDB on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bruce Springsteen releases his “Occupy” album Wrecking Ball: March 6, 2012

“There will be those that believe a millionaire rock star singing about poor people and hard work, as Bruce Springsteen so passionately does on his powerful new album Wrecking Ball, to be the height of hypocrisy. But to do so would be both shortsighted and uninformed. First, as a pedigreed Jersey shore rat raised in economically depressed Freehold, N.J., Springsteen knows a thing or two about economic frustration. And, secondly, anyone who has seen Springsteen perform at any one of thousands of shows over the past 40 years, with or without his E Street Band, is well aware that he packs his lunch pail every night and welcomes overtime.” BB

On his 17th album, Springsteen “soars on familiar strengths: passion, roadhouse swagger, muscular melodies and a fighting spirit.” UT “With its gritty portrayal of the danger at hand when lives are lived on the edge of collapse,” BB Ball explores “familiar working class territory, but with a vigor and fearlessness not seen since 2002’s equally-inspired The Rising.” BB While “The Rising will always be remembered as Springsteen’s ‘9-11 album’, …Wrecking Ball will go down as his ‘Occupy album’,” PM Ball working the same territory as Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ celebrating the possibilities of the American Dream while acknowledging the pain of its failures.” AV

Springsteen has always been adept at creating “specific character vignettes that speak to larger social concerns,” PM but here his protagonists “are less elusive about whom to blame for their troubles…taking on the real culprits unambiguously.” PM “On a tear to raze Wall Street and raise Main Street, Springsteen grapples with Everyman frustration and dread” UT and the devastation brought on by “Wall Street greed and corruption.” WK It is “his angriest and most politically pointed [work] to date.” UT

The album has largely been reported to be “‘wild’ and ‘experimental’” PM and, indeed, it is “very rock and roll with unexpected textures, loops, electronic percussion, and an amazing sweep of influences and rhythms, from hip-hop to Irish folk rhythms.” WK The album is notable for its inclusion of Clarence Clemons’ last work with Springsteen and the E Street Band before his death in June 2011. WK The album features other E Street Band members and special guests Tom Morello and Matt Chamberlain, WK but mostly “relies on players from 2006’s We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Wrecking’s closest cousin in his catalog.” UT

First single, We Take Care of Our Own, “serves as the album’s moral compass.” BB It is one of Springsteen’s classic “scathing message songs that sound patriotic, an irony lost on nearly everyone who hears them.” PM

“The whisper-to-a-scream title track,” AV Wrecking Ball, was penned in 2009 in honor of the closing of Giants Stadium and was performed live during the supporting tour for Working on a Dream. WK It “takes on a whole new life in the context of this record.” BB as “a raging state of the union address enveloped in rootsy folk-rock.” UT

Land of Hope and Dreams dates back to 1999’s E Street Band reunion tour WK. It has been reworked into “a brighter, peppier take…and when Clarence’s unmistakable sax (one of just two appearances on the album) busts out of the bridge, it’ll bring you to your knees.” PM It is “a broad, anthemic slice of Americana” BB which has been called “one of Springsteen’s finest modern originals.” PM

Check out the DMDB web page for Wrecking Ball for a more extensive track-by-track review and videos of more songs.

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The 2012 Inductees for the Country Music Hall of Fame

2012 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees
Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Connie Smith, and Garth Brooks (left to right)

The Country Music Hall of Fame announced its 2012 inductees today (See the full list of all inductees here). They include:

Garth Brooks will be inducted into the Country Hall of Fame in the “Modern Era Artist” category. His 1989 self-titled debut album with Capitol Records produced #1 songs “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and the career-defining ballad “The Dance.” He amassed 19 #1 songs, including the iconic “Friends in Low Places.” Third album, 1991’s Ropin’ the Wind, was the first country album in history to debut atop the Billboard Top 200 album chart. CM With more than 128 million albums sold, Brooks is the top-selling artist of the Soundscan era, which covers from 1991 to present. TN In 2007, he was named the best-selling solo artist in American music history. CM

During the ‘90s, Brooks was named CMA Entertainer of the Year four times. He retired from touring in 2000 (although he has since returned for limited runs) to move back home to Oklahoma with his daughters. Brooks said, “I feel honored and it’s kind of a mixed emotion of joy and a little bit of guilt…I’m very happy because I didn’t expect it. I was stunned, I guess because if they just got around to Reba last year I thought it was going to be another 10 or 15 years and deservedly so before my name ever came up, if it ever did.” TN He went on to specifically cite Randy Travis and Keith Whitley as contemporaries who should have been inducted before him. TN

Connie Smith is being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the “Veterans Era Artist” category, which is open to a singer 45 years after initial national prominence. She was born in 1941 and discovered at age 22 after winning a talent contest which gave her a chance to sing on an Opry-troupe concert. In 1964, Bill Anderson, the headliner of that concert, invited her to sing on Ernest Tubb’s Midnite Jamboree. That same year she signed to RCA Victor Records. Her first single, “Once a Day,” went to #1. She went on to rack up 30 top 20 hits on the country charts and recorded gospel as well. Dolly Parton once said of Smith, “You know, there’s really only three female singers in this world…Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending.” TN

Hargus “Pig” Robbins, a session pianist, is the third inductee for the Country Music Hall of Fame, entering in the “Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980” category. Robbins, who has been blind since 4 because of a knife accident, learned to play piano at age seven when he attended the Nashville School for the Blind. The focus was on classical music, but Robbins integrated his own style of rhythm & blues and country in the style of artists such as Ray Charles and Floyd Cramer. CM His nickname, “Pig,” came from him sneaking through a fire escape at school and playing when he wasn’t supposed to. Robbins’ supervisor said, he got as dirty as a pig. CM

In 1959, he played on his first of hundreds of professional recordings – George Jones’ “White Lightning”, his first #1 hit. Robbins went on to work with Patsy Cline, Porter Wagoner, Ray Price, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan (on the classic Blonde on Blonde album), Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Travis Tritt, and his fellow hall inductee Connie Smith. TN He has played on classic hits such as Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” In 1976, Robbins won the CMA Instrumentalist of the Year award and in 2000 he received the CMA Musician of the Year Award. In 2007, he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. Veteran producer Billy Sherrill, who discovered Tammy Wynette and worked on legendary tracks such as “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” has said Robbins “was probably the best musician I ever worked with.” TN

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Monday, March 5, 2012

I Heard You Missed Us - We're Back!

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on March 5, 2012. See original post here.

image from

The David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen returns after a 28-year absence. Who else has made fans wait that long? Quite a few, it turns out.

All those who strolled their school halls in the late ‘70s or first half of the ‘80s clinging to a spiral notebook with a “VH” logo scrawled across the front knows that line from Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”. Yes, boys. We did miss you and we’re glad you’re back.

New bassist Wolfgang Van Halen was walking the schools and crushing on high school educators just a few years ago. When Wolfie was born in 1991, his father and uncle were seven years removed from the classic 1984 album, the last to feature David Lee Roth. 

With made-for-video Diamond Dave at the helm, Van Halen used that album to expand their hard rock audience to the MTV generation. The same kids who plopped down allowance money for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, and Madonna’s first album also bought 1984 by the boatloads. The album took Van Halen to its greatest commercial heights with US #1 single “Jump” as well as hits “Panama”, “I’ll Wait”, and the aforementioned “Hot for Teacher”.

Then Roth took his hairy chest and spandex out for a solo spin and never returned. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen, and then-bassist Michael Anthony recruited Sammy Hagar, one of the era’s few rockers with bigger hair than Roth. Although the faithful whined, somebody was still buying Van Hagar product, since they churned out four #1 studio efforts over the next decade. In the post-Red Rocker era, an ill-fated 1998 endeavor with Extreme’s Gary Cherone as the next dip into the whose-turn-is-it-now-to-front-our-group pool put a nail in the VH coffin.

Now, 14 years later, the lid has been pried off. With the release of A Different Kind of Truth, Wolfie experiences a studio album by Roth-era Van Halen for the first time in his life.

In his lifetime, Wolfie has also witnessed some of Pop’s contemporaries resurrect themselves. After The Long Run (1979) the Eagles let 28 long years fly by before reuniting for Long Road Out of Eden (2007). The Who went missing for 24 years between It’s Hard (1982) and Endless Wire (2006). The Cars shut the door after Door to Door (1987), finally revving up their engines again with Move Like This (2011). Steely Dan had gone incognito for two decades when Two Against Nature (2000) thrust them back into the limelight with a Grammy win for Album of the Year.

Guns N’ Roses have been showered with hype and scorn for most of Wolfie’s lifetime, thanks to constant postponements for the infamous Chinese Democracy. After the one-two punch of a pair of Use Your Illusion albums in 1991, a collection of covers for (1993’s The Spaghetti Incident?) was assumed to be a stopgap while the group readied its true follow-up. As the years and band members disappeared, frontman Axl Rose watched his image transform to that of an obsessive, egomaniacal micro-manager. When Chinese Democracy (2008) finally arrived, the votes opposed outweighed the votes in favor.

Rose isn’t the first agonizingly meticulous leader to unravel his band in the pursuit of perfection. Tom Scholz has traversed a similar “I’m committing career suicide” path. With Boston, he has released a scant five albums over a 36-year career. Scholz and Co. quickly followed the once best-selling debut in history (1976’s Boston) with Don’t Look Back (1978), but have done nothing timely since. An eight-year gap built demand for Third Stage (1986), sending the album and its lead single, “Amanda”, soaring to the tops of the US charts, but then the boys who gifted us with “More Than a Feeling” didn’t feel up to trotting out another release until Walk On (1994).

Fans walked away in droves and Corporate America (2002) made a paltry dent in the public’s wallets. Album #6 is supposed to come out this year. Scholz is the only remaining original member.

There have been other rock titans who never really went away, they just went solo while their bands went on holiday. Iggy Pop and David Johansen have regularly thrust product on the market, just not with their original groups. As such, their band’s reunions were perceived more as publicity stunts. Some 32 years separated Johansen’s New York Dolls’ Too Much Too Soon (1974) and One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This (2006). The Stooges, led by Iggy Pop, topped that with 34 years between Raw Power (1973) and The Weirdness (2007). In both cases, the long overdue returns went unnoticed by the general public considering neither the bands nor their anchors were ever mainstream.

There are superstars who’ve likely boosted their careers with short-term vacations. In 1983, Def Leppard exploded with Pyromania. Fans went manic in anticipation during the four-year wait for Hysteria (1987). However, it proved an even bigger blockbuster than its predecessor. The group went dormant another five years before Adrenalize (1992), which left fans a little less than juiced.

Maybe Def Leppard needed all that time off to do some wardrobe shopping;
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Similarly, Michael Jackson took five years between Thriller (1982) and Bad (1987). For the rest of his career, at least four years transpired between albums. Considering his constant tabloid presence, his occasional chart absence probably helped make the arrival of new product a welcome event.

In 1975, Bruce Springsteen was eager to get a new album back on the shelves in the wake of Born to Run’s success. However, contract disputes led to a three-year work stoppage in what seemed like an eternity then. Bruce had other idle periods, taking five years off between Tunnel of Love (1987) and the double whammy of Human Touch and Lucky Town (1992) and seven years between The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995) and The Rising (2002). He’s been on fire ever since, seemingly rejuvenated by his time away. The upcoming Wrecking Ball will be his sixth studio effort this century.

Speaking of Springsteen’s newest, a few other classic rockers are slated to return to the scene in 2012. Kiss is due to release Monster, their first project since Sonic Boom (2009). The latter album was 11 years in the making. It became the group’s highest charter, peaking at #2 in the US, but it was also their first non-gold seller.

Rush returns this year with Clockwork Angels, their first album since Snakes & Arrows (2007). Their longest layoff, however, was between Test for Echo (1996) and Vapor Trails (2002). The delay had an effect on Rush similar to what Sonic Boom did to Kiss; Trails was Rush’s fourth consecutive top ten album, but first in their career to miss the gold mark.

Classic rockers aren’t the only ones to disappear for long stretches. Sade and Kate Bush have each retreated from the spotlight for at least decade-long absences. Country fans pray that Shania Twain and Garth Brooks end their decade-long sabbaticals. Of course, English folk singer/songwriter Vashti Bunyan makes them all look prolific. Frustrated with the poor reception of her 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day, she abandoned the music industry. What fan base she had acquired waited 35 years for her next effort, 2005’s Lookingafter.

My original concept for this article was an open request to one of my favorites to get back in the studio. I wouldn’t expect most readers to be familiar with Fish. No, I’m not talking about the jam-band Phish, led by Trey Anastasio. Fish is a Scottish singer who got his start with the British-based Marillion in the early ‘80s. That neo-prog outfit became my favorite band after Misplaced Childhood (1985), but Fish only stuck around for one more album, Clutching at Straws (1987), before embarking on a solo career. From 1990 to 2007, he never went more than three years between releases, unleashing nine studio undertakings.

However, nothing has happened since. Wikipedia indicates a working title of A Feast of Consequences for a 2012 release, but twitter and Facebook posts from Fish mention only current gigs, not any time spent in the studio.

Fish ponders asking Wolfie to work on his next album;
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I can wait a little longer. Long gaps in a treasured artist’s discography are painful, but endurable. An eventual return is better than a complete disappearance. VH and GNR fans survived. The Rush and Kiss armies have soldiered on. Even if The Stooges and New York Dolls could hardly capture the raw power of their initial work, there’s something cool about them treating their fans to long-awaited comebacks. Fish, just promise me Wolfgang Van Halen won’t be starting a band with his son before you’ve put out new product. I’ve missed you and I’ll be glad when you’re back.

Louis Armstrong hit #1 with “All of Me” 80 years ago today (3/5/1932)

First posted 4/10/2020.

All of Me

Louis Armstrong

Writer(s): Seymour Simons/Gerald Marks (see lyrics here)

Released: February 20, 1932

First Charted: 12 US, 11 GA

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

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.27 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

Detroit songwriters Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons wrote this jazz standard in 1931. The pair met when Marks was playing with a band at a summer resort in Lake Michigan. Simons, who’d written the hit “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze” a few years earlier, was impressed with a new song Marks played on the piano between sets and, with Marks’ blessing, added lyrics to it. SF The song featured a broken-hearted narrator who can’t imagine how to move on from his ex, singing, “You took the part that once was my heart, so why not take all of me?” SF

Marks and Simons couldn’t get anyone to publish the song, but offered it to vaudeville star Belle Baker who’d introduced “Blue Skies” in 1926. SF She performed it onstage at the Motor City’s Fisher Theatre. JS The song became a hit when the national press picked up on a story that Baker, who’d just lost her husband, broke down crying while performing the song. JS She then performed it on the radio in New York, SF thus introducing it to a wider audience.

On December 1 of that year, Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra recorded the song with Mildred Bailey on vocals. Their version went to #1 and was quickly followed by another chart-topping version by Louis Armstrong – the highest ranked version in Dave’s Music Database. Others to chart with the song included Ben Selvin (#19, 1932), Count Basie (#14, 1943), Frank Sinatra (#21, 1948), Johnny Ray (#12, 1952), PM and Willie Nelson (#3 country, 1978). Eric Clapton, Bing Crosby, Ruth Etting, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Frankie Laine, Dean Martin, Paul McCartney, and Sarah Vaughn also recorded the song. SF It was featured in the movies Careless Lady (1932), Meet Danny Wilson (1952), and All of Me (1984).

Critic Ted Gioia says the definitive version is by Billie Holiday in 1941: “She staked a claim of ownership that no one has managed to dislodge in subsequent years.” WK Legendary Columbia producer John Hammond, who discovered Holiday, was listening to her version when he died in 1987. SF

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Adele-ation is in full swing in the wake of the Grammys and a Brit Award

It’s starting to get old reporting the accomplishments Adele keeps racking up. On February 12, she swept all six awards she was nominated for at the Grammys (see full list of nominees and winners here). That included three of the big four – Song and Record of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep” and Album of the Year for 21. Heck, they probably would’ve given her Best New Artist as well just to complete the sweep – except that she already won that in 2009.

Then came the Brit Awards, the UK equivalent of the Grammys. She took home the trophies for Brtish Female Solo Artist and British Album of the Year (see full list of Brit Awards nominees and winners here). Just to show the full extent of Adele’s power, controversy erupted when she flipped off the suits for cutting off her acceptance speech. Instead of the flack M.I.A. got for flipping the bird during Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show, Adele got an apology from the powers that be.

To top it all off, the Billboard charts for the week ending March 3, 2012, reflect just how much muscle Adele has. The 21 album – more than a year old – logs its 21st week at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The real shocker, though, is the 730,000 in sales – the best week the album has had to date. In the same week when Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits gets a sales boost in the wake of her death, Adele passes Houston’s Bodyguard soundtrack to become the 14th biggest #1 album in U.S. history. In her native Britain, the album’s 20 weeks on top make it one of the country’s top ten biggest #1 albums in UK history.

For good measure, her first album, 19, also gets a boost in the U.S., reaching a new peak (#4) in its 122nd week on the chart. She becomes only the third act – following The Beatles and 50 Cent – in the history of the Billboard 200 album chart to have two simultaneous top five albums.

Meanwhile, over on the Hot 100 chart, her “Set Fire to the Rain” still sits in the runner-up spot after slipping from #1 a couple weeks ago. However, former #1 songs “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You” both rebound into the top ten, making her the first woman in the history of the Hot 100 to have three simultaneous top ten hits as a lead artist.

Awards for 21:

Awards for “Rolling in the Deep”:

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

In Memory of Davy Jones

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As Billboard magazine put it, “The cute Monkee is gone.” BB Davy Jones was “the crush of millions of girls during the ‘60s and beyond,” BB including Marcia Brady in a classic episode of television’s The Brady Bunch. Of course, Jones and his fellow Monkees had made a huge splash on TV long before that (The Monkees debuts on TV: September 12, 1966). That show was modeled after the fun and camaraderie of The Beatles in their 1964 movie A Hard Day’s Night. The “made-up” band took flack from some rock ‘n’ roll purists since the group didn’t originally play their own instruments, but The Monkees still went on to great chart success and a career selling more than 50 million records worldwide. BB

Jones died of a heart attack at Martin Memorial Hospital in Stuart, Florida on the morning of February 29, 2012. He is survived by fourth wife , Jessica, and four daughters. He was 66.

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Glenn Miller was born: March 1, 1904

Glenn Miller was born on March 1, 1904 in Clarinda, Iowa. He became one of the most beloved jazz and big band musicians of all time working as a trombonist, arranger, composer, and bandleader. He knew before he even graduated from high school in 1921 that he wanted to be a professional musician. He went to University of Colorado at Boulder in 1923, but eventually dropped out to pursue a musical career.

He got work as a trombonist with Ben Pollack, Red Nichols, Benny Goodman, & the Dorsey Brothers. He became the de facto leader of Ray Noble’s band in 1935 and did arrangements for Glen Gray and others before starting his own band in 1937. It failed, as did a 1938 succesor, but in 1939 Glenn developed his trademark reed sound (four saxophones and clarinet) and soared to the top.

Nine of his tunes appear on the DMDB’s list of the top 1000 songs of all time: “Moonlight Serenade” (1939), “In the Mood” (1939), “Tuxedo Junction” (1940), “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1941), “ A String of Pearls” (1942), “Moonlight Cocktail” (1942), “Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me” (1942), “I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” (1942), and “That Old Black Magic” (1943). “Serenade”, “Mood”, and “Choo Choo” have all been named to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Three Glenn Miller logged at least ten weeks at #1 on the Billboard album charts, ranking them amongst the Biggest #1 Albums in U.S. chart history: Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (1945), Plays Selections from the Film ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ (1954), and The Glenn Miller Story (1954).

At his band’s peak in September 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and formed the war’s most famous service band. During travels to entertain the U.S. troops during World War II, his plane disappeared over the English Channel during bad weather. He was declared missing in action on December 15, 1944. Hollywood’s 1954 Glenn Miller Story further immortalized the music and the man.


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