Wednesday, November 26, 2014

“As Time Goes By” immortalized by Casablanca: November 26, 1942

image from nickpickflicks.com


Dooley Wilson “As Time Goes By”


Writer(s): Herman Hupfield (see lyrics here)

Released: 11/26/1942, First charted: --

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

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

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


Review: Herman Hupfield was a 26-year-old Tin Pan Alley writer when he composed this unforgettable ballad in 1931. NPR’99 Originally the song was sung by Frances Williams JA-13 in the Broadway musical Everybody’s Welcome. MM-150 Rudy Vallee (#15) and Jacques Renard (#13) each charted with versions in 1931. PM-472

The song took on a new life more than a decade later in the film Casablanca in 1942. Dooley Wilson played the song in a North African bar in the war-time Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman war-time classic. The song was “too sentimental…and…too backward-looking” DS but perfect “for its moment, both in the narrative of Casablanca, where its misty truisms of love and loyalty thaw Bogart’s iced-over soul, and in the larger narrative of America herself..meet[ing] the challenge of producing the materials and manpower to win two wars at the two ends of the earth.” DS

Because of a musicians’ strike, Wilson couldn’t release his recording, but Vallee and Renard’s versions were re-released, hitting #1 and #3 respectively. PM-472 The song was a hit again in 1952 with Ray Anthony’s #10 version. Wilson performed the song again on screen in 1972 in the movie Play It Again, Sam. The song also showed up in What’s Up Doe?, Blue Skies Again, and Round Midnight. SHOF

In 1994, British television sit-com used the song as its title and theme song. JA-13 A rendition by Jimmy Durante was featured in the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film Sleepless in Seattle. Other versions were recorded and performed by Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Harry Nilsson, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, and Barbra Streisand. The song came in at #2 on the American Film Institute’s 2004 list of the top 100 movie songs of all time.


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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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Monday, November 24, 2014

Roy Acuff charted with “Wabash Cannonball”: November 24, 1938

image from classictrainsongs.com


Roy Acuff “Wabash Cannonball”


Writer(s): A.P. Carter (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/24/1938

Peak: 12 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 10.0 world (includes US)

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


Review: This is “a genuine knight-of-the-road ballad with a touch of the Paul Bunyan flavor,” TR-367 “perhaps the greatest of all train songs.” SS-67 The song originated in the 1880s, In 1882, J.A. Roff wrote words and music for “The Great Rock Island Route!,” a song about a mythical train which traveled coast to coast. It became an anthem for hoboes. In Southern America in the late 19th century, the railroad offered a different form of work for those wishing to escape the farms and served up a touch of romanticism for those who wanted to live a less conventional life, riding the rails and going wherever the trains would take them.

William Kindt adapted Roff’s piece in 1905 under the title “Wabash Cannonball.” There were several Wabash Railroad passenger trains dating back to the 1880s while the term “cannonball” was used to reference a fast train. When the song entered the public domain in 1928, it was reworked and claimed by A.P. Carter whose group, the Carter Family, recorded the song the next year, but didn’t release it until 1932. In the meantime an unissued version was recorded by Clark & Edans in 1928 and Tennessee singer and guitarist recorded and released the song in 1929.

Roy Acuff, who was billed as “the King of Country Music,” SS-68 recorded the song in 1936 with Dynamite Hatcher on vocals, but didn’t release it until 1938. NRR He didn’t record it with his vocal until 1947, although he performed it regularly on the Grand Ole Opry, SS-67 where he first appeared in 1938 and was its top star by 1942. NRR His “voice was pure country and he was one of the first to carry the title ‘hillbilly’ proudly.” CL He embraced the plain and simple values of poor, rural Americans and gained an audience via his recordings, tours, and movie appearances. NRR In 1962, he was the first living artist elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame. NRR


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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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Friday, November 21, 2014

Nov. 21, 1964: B.B. King recorded his Live at the Regal album

Originally posted September 16, 2011. Last updated September 7, 2018.

Live at the Regal

B.B. King

Recorded: Nov. 21, 1964


Released: 1965


Charted: Sept. 25, 1971


Sales (in millions):
US: --
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): --


Peak:
US: 56
UK: --
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “An absolutely necessary acquisition for fans of B.B. King or blues music in general.” – Daniel Gioffre, All Music Guide


Genre: blues


Album Tracks:

  1. Every Day I Have the Blues (1/29/55, #8 RB)
  2. Sweet Little Angel
  3. It’s My Own Fault
  4. How Blue Can You Get? (3/28/64, #97 RB)
  5. Please Love Me (6/27/53, #1 RB)
  6. You Upset Me Baby (11/6/54, #1 RB)
  7. Worry, Worry
  8. Woke Up This Morning (My Baby’s Gone) (3/14/53, #3 RB)
  9. You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now
  10. Help the Poor (6/27/64, #90 US, #36 RB)

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs. Note: chart data is for original studio releases.

Review:

B.B. “King, who has been called ‘The King of the Blues’ and the ‘best blues artist of his generation,’ has been a primary influence on a number of artists, including Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield.” NRR “King is not only a timeless singer and guitarist, he’s also a natural-born entertainer, and on Live at the Regal the listener is treated to an exhibition of all three of his talents. Over percolating horn hits and rolling shuffles, King treats an enthusiastic audience (at some points, they shriek after he delivers each line) to a collection of some of his greatest hits.” DG

The album was significant in King’s career because it graduated him from a largely black following to a much larger white audience. ABC-Paramount had signed King in 1961 in the hopes of emulating the crossover success of label-mate Ray Charles. Having struck out so far, they returned to basics and let King do what he did best – play live. Studio albums bounced back and forth between showcasing King’s vocals and guitars. A live performance let him excel at both simultaneously while also allowing King to prove himself the consummate performer.

This album was recorded “at the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1964” NRR “in front of a few hundred lucky fans” SM and “is considered by many to be one of the definitive blues albums.” SM It was “one of the first of an in-concert blues performance.” NRR It “documents King’s intimate relationship with his audience” NRR as he puts “on a stunning performance by which all others would soon be judged.” SM

“The recording showcases King’s inventive and emotional guitar style, which blends Delta blues with a rhythm and blues beat, spiking the combination with his ‘sliding note’ style.” NRR The style “has been copied by just about every guitarist around.” SM

“Things get off to a lively start with the classic Every Day I Have the Blues, and they don’t let up till the CD’s over. The guitar work is superb (yet never overdone) throughout the disc, and B.B.’s unique storytelling abilities are unmatched.” SM

“The backing band is razor-sharp, picking up the leader’s cues with almost telepathic accuracy. King’s voice is rarely in this fine of form, shifting effortlessly between his falsetto and his regular range, hitting the microphone hard for gritty emphasis and backing off in moments of almost intimate tenderness.” DG This is clear by the second number, when…he immediately slows things down with Sweet Little Angel, “climaxing when King unleashes his guitar, the legendary Lucille, into an inspired less-is-more solo.” GW

A similar highlight is “at the climax of How Blue Can You Get, where the Chicago venue threatens to explode at King’s prompting. Of course, the master’s guitar is all over this record, and his playing here is among the best in his long career. Displaying a jazz sensibility, King’s lines are sophisticated without losing their grit.” DG

“Most of the songs here are fairly short, so King doesn’t get to stretch out much. Worry Worry is an exception though. Largely an instrumental (at least in the first half), B.B. really cuts loose on this one.” SM

“More than anything else, Live at the Regal is a textbook example of how to set up a live performance. Talking to the crowd, setting up the tunes with a vignette, King is the consummate entertainer. Live at the Regal is an absolutely necessary acquisition for fans of B.B. King or blues music in general. A high point, perhaps even the high point, for uptown blues.” DG


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

“They Didn’t Believe Me” hit #1: November 20, 1915

image from Wikimedia.org


Harry MacDonough & Olive Kline “They Didn’t Believe Me”


Writer(s): Herbert Reynolds/ Jerome Kern (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/13/1915

Peak: 17 US, -- UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 (sheet music) US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US and UK)

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


Review: Jerome Kern, best known for the landmark musical Show Boat, was “one of the most important pioneering composers of American Popular Song.” PS Born in New York City in 1885, Kern was the son of an upper-middle class family. He got a Master of Music degree at Germany’s Heidleberg University and started writing for Broadway shows by the time he was 19. PS

Over the next eight years, he wrote about 100 songs for roughly thirty Broadway musicals and wrote three full, unsuccessful musical scores. SS-353 He hit paydirt in 1914 with The Girl from Utah after several failed stage productions. He wrote eight songs for the adaptation of an English opera, one of which was “They Didn’t Believe Me.” It was Kern’s first hit song and “may well be his best,” PS marking his “graduation to the status of major composer from that of a ‘mere’ pop tunesmith.” SS-353

David Ewen said this song “stands out with beacon-like brilliance. Kern no longer submitted meekly to the song conventions of the day, but bent them to his own creative needs.” SS-353 The song is “a model for the “thirty-two bar Tin Pan Alley ballad that became standard for the time. While not exactly slangy it is written in a conversational tone, [such as] ‘And I’m cert’nly goin’ to tell them;’ it is almost spoken yet remains sung.” RCG

The song became a #1 song in 1915 in the hands of Harry MacDonough and Olive Kline. In 1916, Grace Kerns & Reed Miller took it to #8 and Walter Van Brunt & Gladys Rice reached #9. Morton Downey had a #15 hit with it in 1934. PM-594 Dinah Shore sang it in the 1946 Kern biopic Till the Clouds Roll By and Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson tackled it in the 1949 movie, That Midnight Kiss. PS Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, Johnny Mercer, and Barbra Streisand were among the others who recorded the song. RCG


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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Epic Records lands its biggest hit when “All About That Bass" logs 8th week at #1

Updated 2/6/2018.

image from uproxx.com


Meghan Trainor “All About That Bass”


Writer(s): Meghan Trainor, Kevin Kadish (see lyrics here)

Released: 6/30/2014, First charted: 7/13/2014

Peak: 18 US, 7 AC, 14 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.2 UK, 13.33 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 2171.75 Streaming (in millions): 200.0


Review: Right out of high school Trainor was signed to a songwriting deal with the publisher Big Yellow Dog right out of high school. She was paired with Kevin Kadish, a producer who’d worked with Jason Mraz and Stacie Orrico. Kadish had the title “All About That Bass” written in his idea notebook, always envisioning it not as a song about “the low end of the audio spectrum” but about booty. He’d pictured a male hip-hop artist singing it, but Trainor, who often used the phrase “I’m all about that…,” loved it. SF They wrote the song in 40 minutes. WK

As she said, “It’s pretty clear I ain’t no size two.” SF She made it into a message about “confidence and positive body image.” SF Trainor said she struggled in high school with self image, WK although her “beautiful, popular, skinny friends had trouble finding a good dude” while she never had a problem. SF She told Entertainment Weekly she figured they’d never make any money off the song, but that she was fine with that. SF

Trainor and Kadish gave “Bass” a retro feel with, appropriately, an acoustic upright bass as well as backing vocals and a musical backdrop which harkened back to the sound of sixties girl groups. SF Still, while Trainor’s voice sounded like a single from 1963, she gave it a modern touch with lyrics not suited to that era and in a rap vein. SF When Kadish and Trainor shopped the song, labels suggested changes, such as adding synthesizer or AutoTune, to modernize it. WK However, when Epic Records’ chairman L.A. Reid heard the song, he signed her. Other than some mastering, he resisted the urge to tweak or remix, opting to leave the song intact and release it as her debut single. SF

It was one of several popular songs in 2014 (others being Colbie Caillat’s “Try” and John Legend’s “You & I”) to celebrate women’s natural beauty, possibly a reaction to the perceived misogynistic nature of lyrics on songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” SF The Guardian’s Caroline Sullivan said the song had the “aura of a hard-won victory against self-doubt” WK and Yahoo! writer Paul Grein called it “one of the biggest and best ‘message songs of recent times.” WK The song topped the charts in 21 countries and was nominated for Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. WK It was the first single to enter the UK Top 40 based purely on streams. SF It became the only debut single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to spend 15 weeks in the top two and, with eight weeks at #1 in the U.S., became the biggest hit in the history of Epic Records. 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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