Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fifty Years Ago Today: The Ronettes charted with “Be My Baby” (8/31/1963)

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The Ronettes “Be My Baby”

Writer(s): Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector (see lyrics here)

First charted: 8/31/1963

Peak: 2 US, 4 RB, 4 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: This “staple of oldies radio” AMG represents “the quintessence of the ‘girl group’ aesthetic of the early 1960s” NRR but also served as “the Rosetta stone for studio pioneers such as the Beatles and Brian Wilson.” RS500 He called the song his favorite RS500 and even recorded an answer song, “Don’t Worry Baby,” with his group the Beach Boys. SF

The song is also one of the best examples of the wall of sound NRR a method introduced by producer Phil Spector of layering multiple instruments to create “a slow-burn pop symphony.” AMG Ronnie Bennett, the only Ronette to sing on the song, RS500 has speculated that her then-blossoming romance with Spector may have inspired the song. SF They would marry in 1968, but when they split six years later, the song actually figured into the divorce settlement with Bennett denied the right to sing the song on TV. SF In 1986, though, she did revive parts of it in Eddie Money’s top 10 pop hit “Take Me Home Tonight.” SF

Ironically, “Spector’s most grand most grandiose production to date” was crafted around “the least polished vocalist in his stable.” AMG He “built a rock and roll cathedral around what little her voice had to offer” MA-22 by making Bennett rehearse for weeks and then doing 42 takes once in the studio. RS500 Despite her vocal shortcomings, “Be My Baby” actually works because “her voice radiates pure baby-doll sexuality.” AMG

The song has remained a music fixture for movie soundtracks, most effectively used in the opening credits of Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and in the 1987 blockbuster Dirty Dancing. AMG

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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.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Michael Jackson's Top 50 Songs

Originally posted 8/29/12. Updated 8/29/13.

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Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, into one of the world’s most musical families in history. As a kid, he was thrust into the limelight fronting his brothers in The Jackson 5 and his solo efforts in the ‘70s and ‘80s lifted him to the status of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated musical icons and arguably the biggest music star of the last 30 years. He didn’t just create accessible music via his blend of R&B, pop, and dance. He also showed the world the power of music video by knocking down the MTV race barrier (“Billie Jean”), showing how a video could tell a memorable story (“Beat It”), and transforming the idea of short video clips into the idea of short films (“Thriller”). He also championed the blockbuster album, showing how an album could be milked for as many as 7 top ten hits (Thriller) or 5 number ones (Bad). Gone were the days of releasing three of four songs maximum from an album.


Along with his superstar status, however, came constant probing into his personal life. The world was exposed to a man who was first robbed of his childhood and then his privacy. Accusations of inappropriate behavior with children dogged him in his later years and he had largely disappeared from the recording industry in the last decade of his life. It can be difficult to separate the man from his legacy, an idea I address in my essay, Michael Jackson: Icon or Ick? (7/6/09). However, the intent here is to focus on what a musical legacy he left.

In June 2010, Billboard magazine published a list of Michael Jackson’s top 50 chart hits in honor of the first anniversary of his death. You can see that list at Billboard or the Dave’s Music Database Facebook note I posted in response. That response also included the DMDB’s own ranking of the top 50 Michael Jackson songs. As always, DMDB lists are compiled by aggregating multiple best-of lists along with sales figures, chart data, and awards. Songs noted with an asterisk (*) are by the Jackson 5; songs with two asterisks (**) are by the Jacksons.

The Top 50 Michael Jackson Songs

Billie Jean

1. Billie Jean (1983)
2. Beat It (1983)
3. I Want You Back (1969) *
4. I’ll Be There (1970) *
5. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (1979)

Beat It

6. Say, Say, Say (with Paul McCartney, 1983)
7. ABC (1970) *
8. Rock with You (1979)
9. Black or White (1991)
10. Bad (1987)

I Want You Back

11. Thriller (1983)
12. Man in the Mirror (1988)
13. You Are Not Alone (1995)
14. The Way You Make Me Feel (1987)
15. Remember the Time (1992)

I’ll Be There

16. The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney, 1982)
17. I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (with Siedah Garrett, 1987)
18. Rockin’ Robin (1972)
19. The Love You Save (1970)
* 20. Never Can Say Goodbye (1971) *

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

21. Shake Your Body Down to the Ground (1978) **
22. Enjoy Yourself (1976) **
23. Ben (1972)
24. Scream (with Janet Jackson, 1995)
25. State of Shock (with Mick Jagger, 1984) **

26. Human Nature (1983)
27. Will You Be There? (1993)
28. Mama’s Pearl (1971) *
29. In the Closet (1992)
30. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (1983)

Say, Say, Say

31. Dancing Machine (1974) *
32. She’s Out of My Life (1980)
33. Dirty Diana (1988)
34. Another Part of Me (1988)
35. Got to Be There (1971)


36. Off the Wall (1980)
37. Smooth Criminal (1988)
38. Who Is It? (1992)
39. Heal the World (1992)
40. Maybe Tomorrow (1971) *

Rock with You

41. Lookin’ Through the Window (1972) *
42. Lovely One (1980) **
43. Earth Song (1995)
44. Farewell My Summer Love (1984)
45. Jam (1992)

Black or White

46. Torture (1984)
47. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) (1983)
48. Show You the Way to Go (1977) **
49. Heartbreak Hotel (1980) **
50. Ease on Down the Road (with Diana Ross, 1978)



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Roy Orbison Charts with "Oh Pretty Woman": August 29, 1964

Originally posted 8/29/11. Reposted 8/29/13.

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This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook!

Orbison and co-writer Bill Dees were writing when Roy’s wife interrupted them to ask for some money to go to the store. Dees shot back that a “pretty woman never needs any money.” RS500 From that, Roy came up with the idea of a man watching a pretty woman walk by and wondering if she might be lonely like him.

The path from inception to release was, as Dees says, “the fastest thing I ever saw.” KL He says they wrote the song on a Friday, recorded it the next Friday, and by the following Friday it was released. KL Chet Atkins called it the “best commercial record I ever heard.” HL

The flirtatious nature of the song was amusingly ironic, depicting Orbison (or at least the song’s protagonist) “as a trolling stud.” MA The image was far better suited to singer David Lee Roth’s machismo when his hard-rock band, Van Halen, took their 1982 cover of the song to #1 on the album rock chart and #12 on the pop charts. Six years later, Orbison died of a heart attack, but as a testament to the song’s timeliness, a version recorded live in September 1987 hit the adult contemporary and country charts in 1989 – twenty five years after the original.


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Byron Harlan: His Top 50 Songs

Byron Harlan was born on August 29, 1861 and died September 11, 1936. He ranked as one of the most famous singers of the first quarter of the 20th century. He made a name for himself as a solo artist who sang ragtime and minstrel humor and as half of a duo with Arthur Collins. He racked up 24 number one songs (marked by #1) and has seven featured in the DMDB list of the top songs of all time (DMDB 1000). In honor of his birthday here are his top songs:

1. Alexander’s Ragtime Band (with Arthur Collins, 1911) #1 DMDB 1000
2. School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids) (1907) #1 DMDB 1000
3. My Gal Sal (1907) #1 DMDB 1000
4. Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie (1906) #1 DMDB 1000
5. The Darktown Strutters’ Ball (with Arthur Collins, 1918) #1 DMDB 1000
6. The Aba Daba Honeymoon (with Arthur Collins, 1914) #1 DMDB 1000
7. Hello Central, Give Me Heaven (1901) #1 DMDB 1000
8. Down Where the Wurzburger Flows (with Arthur Collins, 1902) #1
9. Put Your Arms Around Me Honey (I Never Knew Any Girl Like You) (with Arthur Collins, 1911) #1
10. Blue Bell (with Frank Stanley, 1904) #1

11. When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam’ (with Arthur Collins, 1913) #1
12. In My Merry Oldsmobile (with Arthur Collins, 1905)
13. The Right Church But the Wrong Pew (with Arthur Collins, 1909) #1
14. Down in Jungle Town (with Arthur Collins, 1908)
15. I Love the Ladies (with Arthur Collins, 1914) #1
16. Under the Yum Yum Tree (with Arthur Collins, 1911) #1
17. Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet (1910)
18. Camp Meetin’ Time (with Arthur Collins, 1906) #1
19. Where the Morning Glories Twine Around the Door (1905) #1
20. Keep on the Sunny Side (1906)

21. Everybody’s Doin’ It Now (with Arthur Collins, 1912)
22. Oh How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wachi Woo (That’s Love in Honolulu) (1916) #1
23. How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree (1919)
24. Tell Me Pretty Maiden (with Frank Stanley, Joe Belmont, and Flordora Girls; 1901) #1
25. The Mansion of Aching Hearts (1902) #1
26. The Cubanola Glide (with Arthur Collins, 1910)
27. Alabama Jubilee (with Arthur Collins, 1915)
28. Under the Anheuser Busch (with Arthur Collins, 1904)
29. Snookey Ookums (with Arthur Collins, 1913)
30. Hurrah for Baffin’s Bay (with Arthur Collins, 1903) #1

31. Daddy’s Little Girl (1906)
32. The Good Old U.S.A. (1906) #1
33. Down Among the Sugar Cane (with Arthur Collins, 1909)
34. Coax Me (with Arthur Collins, 1905)
35. Always in the Way (1903)
36. Under the Bamboo Tree (with Arthur Collins, 1903)
37. The Old Grey Mare (Whiffle Tree) (with Arthur Collins, 1918)
38. Casey Jones (with Arthur Collins, 1910)
39. Would You Care? (1905)
40. The Battle Cry of Freedom (with Frank Stanley, 1905)

41. Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (The Boys Are Marching Along) (with Frank Stanley, 1910) #1
42. Waiting for the Robert E. Lee (with Arthur Collins, 1912)
43. All Aboard for Dreamland (1904) #1
44. The Memphis Blues (with Arthur Collins, 1915)
45. Oh You Circus Day (with Arthur Collins, 1912)
46. Tammany (with Arthur Collins, 1905)
47. Nobody’s Little Girl (1907) #1
48. Chicken Reel (with Frank Stanley, 1911)
49. Won’t You Come Over to My House? (1907)
50. Here Comes My Daddy Now (with Arthur Collins, 1913)


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