Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Top 50 Music Movies of All Time

This list was originally posted on the DMDB Facebook page on March 31, 2010. It was reposted on the DMDB blog on November 11, 2011 because of the anniversary of several major music movie premieres – Stop Making Sense (11/6/84), Sid and Nancy (11/7/86), Jailhouse Rock (11/10/57), and 8 Mile (11/10/02). All four make the DMDB list of best music movies of all time; the first two in the top 10.

The list was updated again on June 30, 2013, thanks to a top music-movies list on Ultimate Classic Rock. In all, more than 70 lists were aggregated to come up with the more definitive list below. It should be noted that the lists tended to fall into two categories: more traditional musicals and rock-oriented movies. The focus of this list is on the latter.

A Hard Day’s Night: The FULL movie!

1. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
2. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
3. Almost Famous (2000)
4. Gimme Shelter (1970)
5. The Last Waltz (1978)

famous scene from This Is Spinal Tap: “These go to 11.”

6. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982)
7. The Blues Brothers (1980)
8. Stop Making Sense (1984)
9. Purple Rain (1984)
10. Sid & Nancy (1986)

“Tiny Dancer” tour bus scene from Almost Famous

11. Don’t Look Back (1967)
12. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
13. Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (1979)
14. Woodstock (1970)
15. High Fidelity (2000)

trailer for the Rolling Stones’ documentary Gimme Shelter

16. The Doors (1992)
17. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2000)
18. Ray! (2004)
19. Quadrophenia (1979)
20. La Bamba (1986)

“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” from The Blues Brothers

21. Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
22. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
23. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
24. Tommy (1975)
25. Walk the Line (2005)

“Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show

26. Dreamgirls (2006)
27. 8 Mile (2002)
28. School of Rock (2003)
29. The Commitments (1991)
30. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)

“Championship Vinyl/Monday Morning” scene from High Fidelity

31. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
32. Jailhouse Rock (1957)
33. Yellow Submarine (1968)
34. The Filth and the Fury (2000)
35. Amadeus (1984)

trailer for Ray!

36. Once (2007)
37. The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)
38. Last Days (2005)
39. Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002)
40. Across the Universe (2007)

trailer for Saturday Night Fever

41. Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
42. The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
43. Madonna: Truth or Dare (1990)
44. Singles (1992)
45. Control (2007)

“Pinball Wizard” from Tommy

46. Dig! (2004)
47. Monterey Pop (1968)
48. I’m Not There (2007)
49. Shine a Light (2008)
50. The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)

Elvis performs the title song from Jailhouse Rock

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why Radio Still Matters

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on June 28, 2013. See original post here.

image from

My kids roused me out of bed on Father’s Day morning to come eat breakfast. I suspect my wife did all the cooking, but the handmade cards stuffed in the donut box were original work.

Among my gifts was a book called The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio. Nary a holiday slips by without me shredding the wrapping paper from some music-related book. My family knows me well.

My history with radio began in the ‘70s in my pre-teen years. Walt Bodine, a staple of Kansas City radio for more than 70 years before his death just a few months ago, did a call-in show on various topics. One night focused on left-handedness. I dialed in to share my earth-shattering talent for capably manipulating right-handed scissors despite being a Southpaw.

Before you scratch your head too much over why a kid was listening to an AM talk radio call-in show hosted by a guy more than four decades his senior, I blame my father. He faithfully listened to sports and talk radio. As a kid, I could have rattled off the entire rosters of the Royals late-‘70s and early ‘80s baseball teams. I still watch televised Chiefs football games with the sound turned down. Why? I subscribe to Dad’s philosophy of listening to the local (and biased) radio announcers instead of the national television broadcasters.

Radio was a staple of my dad’s young life in rural Georgia in the ‘30s and ’40s. When my brother and I took him out for a barbeque dinner to celebrate Father’s Day, I asked him about his memories of radio. He recalled his mom listening to farm reports while he followed adventure-oriented serials like Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy and The Adventures of Superman. At night he could pick up AM stations as far away as Chicago. Even today he follows University of Georgia football games via internet radio and webcasts.

While Walt Bodine made for my earliest radio memory, my focus shifted away from the talk, sports, weather, and news of AM radio. Before I made it to high school, I was a devotee of Q-104, the local top 40 FM station. My listening habits moved to my bedroom instead of the family’s living room. Now I could privately listen to whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

In an era when radio is regularly proclaimed deceased, Terry O’Reilly of CBC argues that it is the ultimate survivor (, “Radio Is Dead. Long Live Radio.” 26 January 2013). It was the first-ever broadcast medium, launched in the United States in the ‘20s. It has survived through competition from motion pictures, television, VCRs, and the Internet. Even as it now faces threats from streaming and satellite radio, traditional terrestrial radio offers what those other mediums can’t – an intimate experience listening to music spun by a local DJ. 

As blogger Mark Edwards wrote, “Local matters. While customers may enjoy…creating custom music channels on Pandora, that doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest in what’s happening next door, down the street, and in the heart of where they live” (, “Is Local Radio Dead? In Some Ways It Is, But Owners Don’t Know It Yet”, 7 November 2011).

Brett Moss, the gear & technology editor at Radio World, discusses how “stations where the content changes every day… can’t be replicated by a Pandora” (, “The Inside Debate: Is Radio Dead?”, 18 April 2011).

While his comments refer more to talk, sports, and news formats, they have relevancy for music-related stations as well. Even as stations are gobbled up by conglomerates like Cumulus and Clear Channel, their real flavor comes from local personalities. Companies like Pandora and I Heart Radio bank on the notion that people only listen to radio for the music. Another voice in the Radio World article notes that such thinking ignores what happens between songs. While streaming and satellite radio allow a listener to tailor song choices, they can’t deliver the local angle. The DJ on a music station serves as the ultimate party host, promoting and appearing at the hot upcoming events.

More than 30 years after my first radio appearance, I got another invite to the party. Last summer Slacker, the morning DJ at KCFX 101 The Fox, interviewed me about my book, The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era. I’d be hard-pressed to find a station more local. It’s walking distance from my house.

My Interview with Slacker at 101 The Fox

I enjoyed the off-air chatter more than the interview. We discussed the state of radio and how it has changed over the years. He confessed to being less than enthused at playing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” ad infinitum, but acknowledged the importance in giving listeners what they want.

Slacker, image from

How successful radio meets listeners’ needs is ultimately what will determine its fate. However, before people are too hasty to declare radio’s demise, it should be noted that a Hollywood Reporter article from last August (“CBS Radio Chief Exec: Sorry, Radio Is Far From Dead”, 23 August 2013) cited that over 92 percent of the US population still regularly listens to broadcast radio. Ryan Matthew Pierson reported at that in 2011 radio listenership had increased by two percent in the UK (“Is Local Radio Dead?”, 3 November 2011).

The key is to use modern technology to enhance listeners’ interactive experience with traditional radio. Edwards reported that 60 percent of Pandora’s traffic comes from mobile devices. Local radio must recognize that its survival depends on providing customers access via iPods and iPads as well as the AM and FM dials. That also means enhancing a radio station’s social media presence, both for the overall brand and the individual personalities.

While it sounds contradictory, the idea is that a fan should be able to access the local station from anywhere in the world. That means a Kansas Citian uprooted from his native Georgia half a century ago better still be able listen to radio broadcasts of the Bulldogs college football games. It means that a Walt Bodine fan in Tokyo better have had a chance to hear the beloved radio personality’s final broadcast on KCUR last April.

The local radio station can form a lifelong bond with its listener. After Slacker interviewed me, I joked about how my nine-year-old son had begged me to bring him. “You should have!” Slacker responded.

A week later, I loaded my sons in the car one morning under the pretense that we were going out for breakfast. When we pulled into the radio station parking lot, their eyes lit up. Once inside, Slacker showed them the studio and then did something I hadn’t expected – he put my boys on the air. Levi shared that he would be seven in a week and Slacker jokingly asked if he was married and had kids. Evan got to talk about how he was going to the Olympics at summer’s end and then gave a shout out to his friends.

My Kids' Interview with Slacker

Who knows, Slacker. Maybe 40 years from now one of my sons will write an article where he references the time he was on the local radio station and talked to one of the city’s most cherished DJs. Top that, Pandora.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ethel Waters hit #1 with “Stormy Weather” 80 years ago (6/17/1933)

First posted 7/8/2012; updated 4/12/2020.

Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin’ All the Time)

Ethel Waters

Writer(s): Harold Arlen/ Ted Koehler (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 20, 1933

Peak: 13 US, 11 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.59 video, -- streaming

Awards (for Ethel Waters’ version):

Awards (for Lena Horne’s version):

About the Song:

In the early 1930s, the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, New York, featured African-American performers on stage although they weren’t allowed to sit in the audience. TM Harold Arlen, a cantor’s son, and Ted Koehler wrote this “bluesy perennial” TM for Cab Calloway to introduce in a Cotton Club revue, but decided it was more fitting for a female singer and gave it to Ethel Waters. TY

Waters established herself as an “incomparable interpreter of the American Songbook,” NRR but began her career as a blues singer before adapting her voice to a more conversational style and reshaping herself as a pioneer jazz singer. NRR When she performed “Stormy Weather” in the show Cotton Club Parade, she sang it “with all her soul…expressing the anguish of people who found nothing but gloom and misery…because of the Depression.” TY “Her career – already in high flight – soared to a still loftier trajectory.” SS Waters called it “a turning point in my life.” SS

Her 1933 recording of the song was a #1 hit (Metronome magazine called it “1933’s biggest hit” SS), as was Arlen’s own recording with Leo Reisman’s Orchestra. Guy Lombardo, Duke Ellington, and Ted Lewis also had top ten hits with the song and Lena Horne took it to #21 a decade later PM when she performed in the 1943 film of the same name. She made “Stormy Weather” “her signature song [and] an autobiographical statement” TM as she became “a beacon for black performers.” TM “Her keen beauty, soprano lilt and silky poise would have made her a Hollywood star if the industry hadn’t been so profoundly racist.” TM

“Summarizing a century of pop music, the song sounds fresh and poignant in this century as well.” TM “It has become a cabaret standard” JA in which the meaning of the song lyrics are conveyed with subtle theatricality.” NRR

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Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” released

Last updated 4/24/2020.

Wake Me Up!

Avicii with Aloe Blacc

Writer(s): Avicii, Aloe Blacc, Mike Einziger (see lyrics here)

Released: June 17, 2013

First Charted: July 13, 2013

Peak: 4 US, 13 RR, 5, 14 A40, 14 AA, 12 MR, 13 UK, 2 CN, 16 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 1.97 UK, 12.12 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1880.0 video, 1034.0 streaming


About the Song:

Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” wasn’t the usual EDM music with its blend of country and folk. The introduction of the song at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami has been compared to the legendary 1965 Newport Folk Festival when Bob Dylan went electric, angering purists. SF When introduced on BBC Radio 1, the Swedish DJ described it as a “complete change in style” from his past singles. SF He told MTV News “really wanted to make sure to do something different than what anyone else is doing.” SF

Avicii and Mike Einziger, a multi-instrumentalist from the rock band Incubus, came up with the chord progression and melody with Avicii on keyboards and Einziger on acoustic guitar. They had no lyrics and neither could sing, so Avicii reached out to Aloe Blacc, the only person he knew who lived in Los Angeles. WK The American rapper-turned-soul singer, who peaked at #2 on the UK charts with “I Need a Dollar,” provided vocals and lyrics for the song, writing the words on an airplane on a trip back from Switzerland. WKBlacc would later release his own acoustic version of the song on his solo EP Wake Me Up. WK

“The fusion elements make the song perfect as a dance-floor filler, while introspective lyrics can adapt the song for more persona listening.” SF Digital Spy’s Robert Copsey said, “As chart-friendly EDM continues to reach the furthest corners of the globe, staying ahead of the pack can prove a tricky task…Kudos to Avicii then, who has dared to try something a little different.” WK

It definitely proved the right mix, topping 27 charts worldwide SF and was the first song to reach 200 million streams on Spotify. SF The song is also the most searched on the Shazam app with more than 23 million as of February 2018. WK It was the first dance/electronic song to stay on the Billboard Hot 100 for more than a year and the first to seel over four million copies in the U.S. WK

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Friday, June 14, 2013

One Republic released “Counting Stars”

Last updated 4/22/2020.

Counting Stars

One Republic

Writer(s): Ryan Tedder (see lyrics here)

Released: June 14, 2013

First Charted: June 29, 2013

Peak: 2 US, 11 RR, 12 AC, 17 A40, 4 AA, 12 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.2 UK, 12.49 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2880.0 video, 1004.0 streaming


About the Song:

One Republic emerged in 2007 with their #2 US hit “Apologize.” It put Ryan Tedder, the song’s singer and writer, on the music world’s radar and led to him working with Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson (“Already Gone”), Elle Goulding (“Burn”), Leona Lewis (“Bleeding Love”), and others. 2013 found him and his band back in familiar chart territory when “Counting Stars” matched the chart success of “Apologize” and stayed on the charts for 68 weeks, fifth most in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. WK The song was the third single from the band’s third studio album, Native. It hit #1 in multiple countries, including Canada and the UK, and went top ten in 20 countries. WK In Canada, it took a record-setting 34 weeks to reach #1. WK

Tedder came up with the genesis of the song while working with Beyoncé on her follow-up to 2011’s 4. While waiting for her in her studio one morning, he discovered a little-known folk song. He reached out to the writer to collaborate, but when he was rebuffed he did his own interpretation which was heavier on piano and acoustic guitar and took on a more soulful, gospel sound. SF The band explained the song is about “Laying in bed awake at night…thinking ‘How are we gonna make ends meet? How are we gonna pay the bills?’…So instead of counting sheep, we’re counting stars.” WK

Tedder told Billboard magazine he felt a band should create meaningful, uplifting songs. He talked about U2 as a band “who sings about things other than just boy-girl troubles” SF and said he “felt a responsibility to actually write and sing about things that have a level of human gravity to them.” SF He said he’d rather have a song that’s “embedded in the cultural framework…than a #1 song that explodes for five seconds, becomes the dance hit of the summer, then goes away.” SF

While it may not have been a dance hit, it has been called a “folk pop song with a disco beat.” WK The Denver Post’s Ricardo Baca said it was “an extremely effective and infectious song.” WK

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