Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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

image from Gershwin.com


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

image from EdSullivan.com

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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Saturday, February 8, 2014

2/8/2014: Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” hit #1

Updated 11/27/2018.

image from bbc.com

Dark Horse

Katy Perry with Juicy J

Writer(s): Katy Perry, Jordan Houston, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, Sarah Hudson, Max Martin, Henry Walter (see lyrics here)


Released: 12/17/2013


First Charted: 9/28/2013


Peak: 14 US, 6 AC, 12 RB, 4 UK, 12 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 10.3 US, 0.6 UK, 13.20 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 2463.25


Streaming *: 200.00


* in millions

Review:

“Dark Horse” was the third official single from Perry’s fourth studio album, Prism. It was a #1 hit in the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands and went to the top ten in nearly 20 countries. Perry worked with Dr. Luke and Max Martin on the track, who’d previously collaborated with her on #1 hits “I Kissed a Girl,” “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream,” and “Roar.” Dr. Luke put Perry in touch with Memphis rapper Juicy J, whose Stay Trippy album was executive-produced by Dr. Luke. SF

Perry said of the song that she wanted it to have a “witchy…kind of black magic-y idea.” WK Inspired by the 1996 movie The Craft, she wrote it from the perspective of a witch warning a man not to fall in love with her, lest it be his last time. WK Musically, the song has been described as “a Southern rap-techno mashup, combining trap and hip hop” WK along with, according to MSN Entertainment’s Kathy Iandoli, elements fro “trippy pop, EDM, and dubstep.” WK

A Winnipeg Free Press writer described it as a “brooding, borderline sleazy trap-pop excurscion” that is “unexpected, unconventional, and unstoppable.” WK Spin magazine’s Marc Hogan called the lyrics a “cliché salad” but said the “soaring hooks” and “sleekly sculpted production” were likely to make it a hit. WK Blogcritics’ Dylan Mial said Perry’s vocals and Juicy J’s rap made for “a perfect musical storm.” WK

The video was directed by Matthew Cullen, who’d also worked with Perry on “California Gurls.” The video depicted Perry as a mystic queen in ancient Egypt. It evoked criticism from the Muslim community for depicting Perry killing a male subject wearing a pendant with the word “Allah.” It was digitially removed from the video after a petition was signed by more than 65,000 people. SF Another petition signed by more than 60,000 people protested the use of blasphemy by promoting witchcraft, paganism, and black magic. SF


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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.

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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.

image from smashcutmag.com


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 RollingStone.com “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.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

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

image from 45worlds.com


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.


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Saturday, February 1, 2014

50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles hit #1 in the U.S. with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

First posted 4/15/2019.

I Want to Hold Your Hand

The Beatles

Writer(s): John Lennon/Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)


Released: 11/29/1963


First Charted: 12/5/1963


Peak: 17 US, 18 CB, 15 UK, 17 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 4.0 US, 1.86 UK, 12.0 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: 3.0


Video Airplay *: 39.3


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

This was the biggest hit of 1964, WHC and the Beatles’ first of twenty #1’s on the Billboard Hot 100, a still untouched record. BB100 It was also the opening shot for the British Invasion. AMG Previously, only two British artists had topped the U.S. charts – Acker Bilk with “Stranger on the Shore” and the Tornados with “Telstar.” LW However, during 1964 and 1965, the Brits occupied a whopping 52 weeks at the American chart pinnacle. LW

The Beatles were not, however, an overnight success. They’d been huge in the U.K. for more than a year, but manager Brian Epstein couldn’t get Capitol Records (EMI’s American company) interested because, as one label executive said, “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” BR1

Paul McCartney remembers the group telling Epstein, “We’re not going to America till we’ve got a #1 record.” RS500 When the Beatles touched down in New York for their first U.S. visit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the number one song in America. BB100 On February 9, 1964, the Beatles performed for an estimated 73 million people on The Ed Sullivan Show. Beatlemania was born.

The tame sexuality of the title phrase was mocked by some critics AMG and certainly the goal was “make maximum impact rather than last as a transcendent song,” LW but the delivery of the song hinted that the Beatles had more on their minds than hand holding. KL What they may not have intended, but achieved nonetheless, was world dominance and a permanent impact on music as “Hand” became “one of the most important songs in rock history.” AMG


Resources and Related Links:

  • The Beatles’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • AMG All Music Guide >
  • BB100 Billboard (9/08). “All-Time Hot 100”.
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 143.
  • KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 96.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 121.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 89.

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.

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