Wednesday, February 12, 2014

George Gershwin performed “Rhapsody in Blue” for the first time: February 12, 1924

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Paul Whiteman Orchestra with George Gershwin “Rhapsody in Blue”

Writer(s): George Gershwin

First charted: 10/18/1924

Peak: 3 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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

Review: “This episodic and jazzy one-movement piano concerto” NPR’99 has been called George Gershwin’s “most identifiable masterpiece” and “one of the most enduring pieces of American music.” NPR’99 It is a “landmark in popular music history” which “stands as an eternal symbol of the American ethos.” SS-16 Gershwin himself called the work “a musical kaleidoscope of America.” WK In 1974, it was also one of the eight original inductees to the Grammy Hall of Fame. In How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elijah Wald called the piece “the Sgt. Pepper of the 1920s.“ SS-16

By 1923, Gershwin’s reputation had grown enough that Paul Whiteman, “undisputed as America’s most popular bandleader,” SS-16 asked Gershwin to write a piece for a jazz concerto. SS-16 He sketched out the idea for a rhapsody which he composed in just a few weeks, although he reportedly told a friend at the time that everything he knew about harmony could be put on a three-cent stamp. SS-16 His brother Ira suggested the name after a visit to a gallery exhibition featuring, among other works, the well-known “Whistler’s Mother.” WK Whiteman was so moved by the piece he wept. SS-16

On February 12, 1924, Gershwin and Whiteman’s Orchestra performed the piece for the first time to a full-capacity Aeolian Hall in New York. Among the crowd were legendary composers Igor Stravinsky, John Philip Sousa, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Most of the show was met with an indifferent response, but “Rhapsody” was greeted with enthusiastic applause. SS-16 In The Nation, Henrietta Strauss declared that Whiteman and Gershwin had “added a new chapter to our musical history.” SS-16

Whiteman and Gershwin recorded the song that June and it reached #3 before year’s end. Three years later, a new electrically-recorded version hit #7. PM The Glenn Miller Orchestra went to #13 with its version in 1943. PM Woody Allen also used it in his film score for Manhattan.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fifty Years Ago Today: The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show: February 9, 1964

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In what became one of the most important moments in rock history, The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time on February 9, 1964. A record-setting 73 million people and 45% of television households tuned in for the Fab Four’s first U.S. televised live performance. ES

The group had been hyped for weeks prior to their arrival. “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, one of the songs they performed that night, had already sold a million copies ES and was the #1 song in the country. The group also performed “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You”, “She Loves You”, and “I Saw Her Standing There”.

The Beatles became a sensation in their native England nearly a year before with the release of their debut album, 1963’s Please Please Me. The story goes that Ed Sullivan learned about the Beatles when arriving at London’s Heathrow airport with his wife on Halloween that year. Sullivan was curious why thousands of youngers were there. It turned out the Beatles were returning home from a tour in Sweden. It has been reported that once in his hotel room, Sullivan looked into booking the group for his show, ES a notion which Sullivan himself has purported. BA

The more accurate story would seem to be that the incident peaked Sullivan’s curiosity, but that it wasn’t until later that he actually followed through. Peter Prichard, a London theatrical agent who was employed by Sullivan and good friend’s with Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, recommended Sullivan book The Beatles. While interested, Sullivan still wanted an angle to promote the group. Prichard said the group were the first “long haired boys” invited to appear before the Queen of England and Sullivan was convinced. BA Epstein then secured a deal for the Beatles to perform on three shows in 1964. Sullivan agreed to pay them $10,000 and cover transporation and lodging. When they arrived in New York at Kennedy Airport on February 7, 1964, three thousand fans greeted them. Beatlemania had reached a feverish pitch.

The February 24, 1964, issue of Newsweek panned the performance, saying “Musically, they are a near-disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony, and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of ‘yeah, yeah, yeah!’) are a catastrophe…the odds are they will fade away, as most adults confidently predict.” ES

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Friday, February 7, 2014

The Beatles' Top 100 Songs

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S., the DMDB is updating a list originally posted on its Facebook page on 8/27/2010. This list was compiled with three components. First, the DMDB has an overall song list of songs by the Beatles and everyone else. The points garnered by Beatles’ songs on those lists are one of the components. Next, the chart success, sales figures, and airplay are figured in to gauge the most commercially successful songs. The last component is an aggregate of 45 lists (see links at the bottom of the page) which specifically rank Beatles’ songs.

1. Hey Jude
2. Yesterday
3. I Want to Hold Your Hand
4. Let It Be
5. She Loves You
6. Strawberry Fields Forever
7. Something
8. Eleanor Rigby
9. A Day in the Life
10. Can’t Buy Me Love

11. Help!
12. Penny Lane
13. A Hard Day’s Night
14. Get Back
15. Come Together
16. All You Need Is Love
17. We Can Work It Out
18. Ticket to Ride
19. In My Life
20. The Long and Winding Road

21. Day Tripper
22. Hello Goodbye
23. Paperback Writer
24. I Feel Fine
25. Revolution
26. Here Comes the Sun
27. Lady Madonna
28. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
29. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
30. I Am the Walrus

31. Nowhere Man
32. Eight Days a Week
33. Yellow Submarine
34. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
35. Love Me Do
36. And I Love Her
37. All My Loving
38. Twist and Shout
39. Please Please Me
40. Michelle

41. With a Little Help from My Friends
42. I Saw Her Standing There
43. Got to Get You into My Life
44. The Ballad of John and Yoko
45. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
46. Across the Universe
47. Here, There and Everywhere
48. From Me to You
49. Helter Skelter
50. If I Fell

51. Back in the U.S.S.R.
52. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
53. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
54. Blackbird
55. Rain
56. Golden Slumbers/
57. /Carry That Weight/
58. /The End
59. Tomorrow Never Knows
60. Baby, You’re a Rich Man

61. I Should Have Known Better
62. Don’t Let Me Down
63. Happiness Is a Warm Gun
64. Drive My Car
65. Free As a Bird
66. The Fool on the Hill
67. P.S. I Love You
68. Taxman
69. And Your Bird Can Sing
70. Do You Want to Know a Secret?

71. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
72. Dear Prudence
73. Girl
74. She’s Leaving Home
75. You Never Give Me Your Money
76. She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
77. For No One
78. Real Love
79. Magical Mystery Tour
80. Julia

81. She Said She Said
82. Polythene Pam
83. Sexy Sadie
84. I’m Only Sleeping
85. Birthday
86. Rocky Racoon
87. Mean Mr. Mustard
88. Sun King
89. Glass Onion
90. Octopus’ Garden

91. Within You Without You
92. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
93. Hey Bulldog
94. I’m So Tired
95. She’s a Woman
96. Oh! Darling
97. The Beatles Movie Medley
98. Because
99. Yes It Is
100. When I’m 64

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Righteous Brothers hit #1 with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”: February 6, 1965

Originally posted 7/13/2014.

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The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”

Writer(s): Phil Spector/Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil (see lyrics here)

First charted: 12/12/1964

Peak: 1 US, 13 CB, 3 RB, 1Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Radio Airplay (in millions): 10.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 4.89

Review: From the first notes of “Lovin’ Feelin’,” it is clear something powerful is affot. The song builds to an explosion between the interplay of Bill Medley baritone and Bobby Hatfield’s tenor, both seemingly wrenching the word “baby” straight from their souls. This is the kind of pop song that makes others wonder why they even try. Radio listeners support that sentiment – performing rights organization BMI says this is the all-time most-played song on the radio with more than 10 million airplays. SHOF

Legendary producer Phil Spector signed the duo after seeing them on the bill of a Ronettes show. RS500 He asked the songwriting team of Barry Main and Cynthia Weil SHOF to develop a ballad that fit his signature Wall of Sound. KL Using the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Lovin’” as inspiration, BR1 the husband and wife team found themselves forging the new genre of blue-eyed soul, which bridged “the gap between white and black musical styles.” TB

The words “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’” were initially dummy lyrics. BR1 Weil recalls telling Spector that they would get something better, to which Phil responded, “No, that’s the title.” KL

Phil also threw them off with Medley’s impossibly deep intro. Mann remembers Phil playing it for him over the phone. Mann told him, “Phil, you have it on the wrong speed!” RS500 Hatfield was at a loss, but his concern regarded what he should do while Medley sang the entire first verse. Spector told him, “You can go directly to the bank.’” RS500

Resources and Related Links:

  • The Righteous Brothers’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • BR1 Bronson, Fred. (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY; Billboard Books.
  • KL Kutner, Jon, and Spencer Leigh. (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 106.
  • RS500 “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SHOF Songwriters Hall of Fame
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 71.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Marion Harris released “The Man I Love” on this day in 1928

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Marion Harris “The Man I Love”

Writer(s): George Gershwin/ Ira Gershwin (see lyrics here)

Released: 2/3/1928, First charted: 3/10/1928

Peak: 4 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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

Review: In 1964, Wilfrid Mellers wrote in Music in a New Found Land that “The Man I Love” could “stake a claim to being the most moving pop song in our time SS-25 In 1950, Sigmund Spaeth wrote in the New York Times that it was “the best popular song ever written.” SS-25

The Gershwin brothers wrote the song in the spring of 1924 SS-25 following George’s masterful “Rhapsody in Blue.” Deena Rosenberg noted that George used motifs in “Rhapsody in Blue” – including its conclusion – to craft the chorus melody for “The Man I Love,” which meant that the latter “almost literally picks up where the ‘Rhapsody’ leaves off.” SS-25

Originally intended for the Broadway show Lady, Be Good! starring Fred and Adele Astaire, it was dropped JA-128 when she couldn’t match the emotional demand of the song. SS-25 The song was then slated for Strike Up the Band which never made it to New York, and then got bumped from the musical Rosalie SS-25 before finally finding success on Tin Pan Alley. RCG George speculated that the song didn’t catch on because it was difficult to whistle or hum. RCG Eventually, though, it became one of the brothers’ most-recorded ballads. RCG

Eva Gauthier gave the first public performance of the song at one of her concerts and it slowly gained in popularity when publisher Max Deyfus liked the song enough to publish it despite not being featured in a Broadway musical. RCG Helen Morgan then featured it in her nightclub act RCG and Marion Harris had a top 5 hit with it in 1928. Three more versions charted that year – Sophie Tucker (#11), Paul Whiteman (#15), and Fred Rich (#19). In 1937, Benny Goodman charted with a top 20 version of the song. PM-546 The song was featured in at least ten films RCG including the Gershwin biopic Rhapsody in Blue (1945), the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues (1972), JA-128 and New York, New York (1977). RCG

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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.