Sunday, August 28, 2016

8/28/1948: “Twelfth Street Rag” hits #1 more than 30 years after published

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Pee Wee Hunt “Twelfth Street Rag”

Writer(s): Euday L. Bowman, Andy Razaf

First charted: 6/28/1948

Peak: 18 US, 2 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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

Review: “Twelfth Street Rag” has an interesting history. It was first published in 1914 as a piano rag TY-136 by composer Euday L. Bowman. Years earlier, he was walking down 12th street with a friend known as “Raggedy Ed” who said he planned to open a pawn shop on the street. Bowman supposedly shot back that if his friend got rich from the shop, then Bowman would write a song to make himself rich. WK Since the song has become “the most recorded rag of all time,” JA-201 it would be fair to assume Bowman succeeded. No word on the pawn shop.

Actually, Bowman took more than 15 years to write down the music, finally selling it in 1913 to Jenkins Music Company. They thought the arrangement was too difficult and hired C.E. Wheeler to simplify it. WK In 1916, James S. Sumner added lyrics TY-136 and Earl Fuller got the song on the charts for the first time the following year, taking it to #7. Ted Lewis revived the song in 1923, reaching #14. In 1927, Bennie Moten and Louis Armstrong recorded it. WK In 1929, Spencer Williams added new lyrics. TY-136 In 1935, the song charted for a third time – this time with a #19 version by Fats Waller.

The song still wasn’t done transforming. Andy Razaf added new lyrics once again in 1942, TY-136 but it would be another six years before it charted again. This time, however, it had its greatest success. Pee Wee Hunt and his orchestra decided to record the song for Capitol Records. It went on to become one of the biggest records to date for the company, TY-136 selling more than three million and becoming the biggest-selling ragtime song of all time. JA-201

The song charted two more times by Frankie Carle (#10, 1948) and Liberace (#23, 1954). PM-599 The song was given yet another life when Big Tiny Little’s 1959 recording of the song became the theme for The Joe Franklin Show in the UK. WK The song also made appearances in the movie The English Patient (1996) and in the cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants. WK

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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.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

8/17/1918: “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” hits #1

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Al Jolson with the Charles Prince Orchestra “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”

Writer(s): Sam Lewis/ Joe Young/ Jean Schwartz (see lyrics here)

First charted: 8/10/1918

Peak: 18 US, 3 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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

Review: Crooner Bing Crosby once said of “Broadway’s most charismatic performer,” “Nobody could sell a song like Jolson.” LW-40 “Rock-a-Bye” was one of his signature songs, debuting alongside 26 other musical numbers in the stage play Sinbad. PS The show, which starred Jolson in his familiar black face, LW-40 opened at the Winter Garden on February 14, 1918 and ran for 164 performances. PS

Jean Schwartz, who was a native Hungarian, wrote the music. His sister had studied under composer Franz Liszt and taught Schwartz to play piano. LW-40 The lyrics were penned by Tin Pan Alley writers Sam Lewis and Joe Young, who also wrote for the vaudeville circuit and penned hits such as “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Sitting on Top of the World.” Lewis had previously worked as a cafĂ© singer while Young demoed songs for publishing houses. LW-40 The “Stephen Foster sound-a-like song” even mentions the famous writer’s “Old Black Joe” and “Swanee River.” RCG

Jolson took the song to #1 in 1918; that same year Arthur Fields’ version went to #9. Jolson integrated the song in his vaudeville act and performed the song in three films – 1939’s Rose of Washington Square, 1946’s The Jolson Story, and 1946’s Jolson Sings Again. The song was also featured in 1929’s The Show of Shows and 1944’s The Merry Monahans. PS

The song resurfaced in 1956 as a top ten, million-selling hit for comedian Jerry Lewis JA-165 and Aretha Franklin hit #37 with he song in 1961. Cher, Sammy Davis Jr., Connie Francis, Judy Garland, and Brenda Lee also recorded versions. 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.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Sia hit #1 with “Cheap Thrills”

Last updated 10/24/2020.

Cheap Thrills

Sia with Sean Paul

Writer(s): Sia Furler, Greg Kurstin, Sean Paul Henriques (see lyrics here)

Released: February 11, 2016

First Charted: March 5, 2016

Peak: 14 US, 16 RR, 2 AC, 17 A40, 2 UK, 14 CN, 6 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.8 UK, 11.1 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2032.0 video, 1140.0 streaming


About the Song:

Australian singer Sia had been around as a performer for years and toyed with the idea of switching gears and just being a songwriter. She initially wrote “Cheap Thrills” with Rihanna in mind since the Barbados singer had already had chart-topping success with the Sia-penned “Diamonds.” However, Rihanna’s people wanted something more soulful and turned it down. Sia realized it “sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for her” but thought there was “something really uplifting about it that put me in a good mood.” SF Shen ended up recording it herself for her seventh album, This Is Acting.

A remix of the song featuring reggae artist Sean Paul was released as the album’s second single. When Sia approached Paul, he listened to the song and thought, “What a big sound, nice hook and melody she had put down. I’m a huge fan of her voice. She spans generations.” SF

The “synthpop and dancehall song” WK went all the way to #1 on the BillboardHot 100. It was her first chart-topper as a performer and Paul’s fourth trip to the pinnacle. “Cheap Thrills” was also a #1 in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia and a top 10 in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. WK It became the all-time best-selling song in Italy. WK It was the most “Shazamed” of the year, meaning more people used the music identification app Shazam to identify this song in 2016 than any other song. SF The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Rolling Stone’s Brittany Spanos called the song a “bouncy party anthem” and NME’s Nick Levine said “there’s no denying this is another superior slab of on-trend ear candy from one of pop’s finest songwriters.” WK

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Friday, August 5, 2016

8/5/1944: Bing Crosby hits #1 with “Swinging on a Star”

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Bing Crosby with the Williams Brothers Quartet “Swinging on a Star”

Writer(s): Jimmy Van Heusen/ Johnny Burke (see lyrics here)

First charted: 5/13/1944

Peak: 19 US, 1 GA, 2 HP, 1 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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

Review: Composer Jimmy Van Heusen was at Bing Crosby’s house for dinner specifically to discuss plan’s for a song for the impending movie Going My Way, starring Crosby. Bing’s son complained about not wanting to go to school the next day, to which Dad replied, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?” WK Van Heusen relayed the remark to lyricist Johnny Burke, WK who turned it into the line “By the way if you hate to go to school/ You may grow up to be a mule.”

The movie, which featured Crosby as a young Catholic priest, was one of his best-loved performances. Crosby sings the song a group of children at St. Dominic’s Church TY-117 who are behaving much as his own son had the night Van Heusen had come to dinner. WK The tune amusingly became a favorite for young listeners, JA-187 but had plenty of adult fans as well – it won the Academy Award for Best Song.

Crosby recorded “Swinging on a Star” with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Williams Brothers Quartet, which included 7-year-old Andy Williams, a future singing star himself. PM-109 It became the biggest hit of 1944. WHC-63 Others who’ve recorded the song include Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Burl Ives, Shari Lewis, Maureen McGovern, Oscar Peterson, and Frank Sinatra. WK

The song resurfaced multiple times in television in film, including a Little Lulu cartoon (1947), a performance from Jimmy Dean and Rowlf the Dog (a muppet) on the Jimmy Dean Show (1967), Sesame Street (Susan with muppets, 1969), and Julie Andrews’ television special My Favorite Things (1975). It became the theme song for the TV series Out of This World (1987) and Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello performed it in the film Hudson Hawk (1991). WK

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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.


50 years ago: The Beatles released Revolver

8/5/1966: The Beatles released Revolver
Last updated 9/18/2020.


The Beatles

Released: August 5, 1966

Peak: 16 US, 17 UK, 13 AU

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 0.5 UK, 11.3 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

You can check out the Beatles’ complete singles discography here.

  1. Taxman(George Harrison) [2:36]
  2. Eleanor Rigby [2:11] (8/11/66, B-side of “Yellow Submarine,” 11 US, 1 UK, 1 CN, gold single, airplay: 2 million)
  3. I’m Only Sleeping [2:58]
  4. Love You To(George Harrison) [3:00]
  5. Here, There and Everywhere [2:29] (airplay: 3 million)
  6. Yellow Submarine [2:40] (8/11/66, 2 US, 1 UK, 1 CN, 1 AU, gold single, airplay: 1 million)
  7. She Said, She Said [2:39]
  8. Good Day Sunshine [2:08]
  9. And Your Bird Can Sing [2:02]
  10. For No One [2:03]
  11. Doctor Robert [2:14]
  12. I Want to Tell You(George Harrison) [2:30]
  13. Got to Get You into My Life [2:31] (6/12/76, 7 US, 9 AC, 1 CN, 93 AU, sales: 1 million, airplay: 2 million)
  14. Tomorrow Never Knows [3:00]

Songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 35:01

The Players:

  • John Lennon (vocals, guitar)
  • Paul McCartney (vocals, bass)
  • George Harrison (guitar, vocals)
  • Ringo Starr (drums, vocals)


4.660 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)

Quotable: “Music’s most immaculate and innovative album.” – Clarke Speicher, The Review


About the Album:

“As merely a collection of songs, Revolver is hard to most Beatles albums, it could pass for a greatest hits collection.” VH1 With “its daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft,” AMG the “songs have endured as well as any ever written” IB and “set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve.” AMG

But Revolver’s historical context also needs to be taken into account.” VH1 Revolver did not have an obvious linking theme, but “made it thrillingly clear that what we now think of as ‘the Sixties’ was fully – and irreversibly – under way.” RS As “arguably the first psychedelic rock album” CD and “the first utterly 'serious' album in rock,” GS “it is nearly impossible to overestimate this record.” IB Predecessor “Rubber Soul only treaded water in the matters of turning pop-rock into art-rock.” GS As “music’s most immaculate and innovative album,” RVRevolver extends the more adventurous aspects” RS by pushing “the sonic boundaries of rock farther than any other LP in history.” JA “From that album on, sitars and backward-masking have stood as musical shorthand for ‘60s psychedelia.” VH1


Revolver roars to life” RV with “the fantastically funky and ominous” JA “Taxman,” “the first time a Harrison-penned track opened an album.” RV The song unexpectedly starts “with a disembodied voice mumbling ‘One, two, three, four...’ accompanied by tape-sped guitar sounds and a cough.” VH1 The “tightly wound, cynical rocker” AMG that features “a fantastically ferocious guitar solo from, of all people, Paul McCartney.” IB As “the Beatles’ first serious social statement,” GS this “bitter diatribe” CD is a “stinging attack on British taxation.” RV

“Love You To”

His second contribution, ‘Love You To,’ concerns “the cosmic mind in general.” GS George’s “Eastern influences and growing fondness for the sitar are front and center.” RV He’d used the sitar previously on ‘Norwegian Wood,’ but here “George builds an entire song around the instrument...[in a] daring, brave, experimental [that] comes across as perfectly natural.” AD “One of George’s finest moments.” AD

“I Want to Tell You”

On his “jaunty yet dissonant ‘I Want to Tell You’” AMG George “presents...a vivid picture of a stuttering, confused mind, and the song’s dreary, dreamy mood only accentuates this.” GS

“For the first time, [George] contributes three songs,” VH1 “up from the usual two he was restricted to.” RV George was “the first of the band” GS to largely shun “generic love ballads from his repertoire,” GS effectively “challeng[ing] Lennon-McCartney's songwriting dominance.” RS

“Doctor Robert”

Challenging them perhaps, but not surpassing them. “Lennon's trippy kaleidoscopes of sound” AMG are the most dominant forces of the album. John’s “experiments with LSD...resulted in the first openly psychedelic songs.” GS His “most straightforward number was ‘Doctor Robert,’ an ode to his dealer, and things just got stranger from there.” AMG

“Yellow Submarine”

“Of course, there's everyone's all-time favorite sing-along novelty tune – ‘Yellow Submarine’” JA which, while crafted by John, is passed on to Ringo for vocals. While “a children's song on the face,” AD this “charmingly hallucinogenic slice of childhood whimsy” AMG offers up “more production tricks and effects than...any song here apart from ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’” AD With its “uses of samples...voices [and] the big, fat and joyously happy bass line,” AD the song “points the way forward towards Sgt. Pepper.” AD

“I’m Only Sleeping”

John sings “the crawling, druggy ‘I’m Only Sleeping’” AMG “as if he had just woken up.” RV The song “follows from the likes of ‘Girl’ and ‘The Word’ on Rubber Soul, but the production touches are a leap forward...the music really matches the feel of the lyrics.” AD “George's backward guitar solo” IB “seems to exist in that beautiful place between dream and awake.” RV “Recorded when Hendrix was just a gleam in Chas Chandler's eye,” IB it was actually Paul’s “idea to play and record Harrison's riffs backwards to add to Lennon's heady vibe.” RV

“And Your Bird Can Sing”

“And Your Bird Can Sing” is “ a maze of multi-tracked guitars.” AMG In this “bitter song of love gone sour,” RV Lennon “sings, ‘You tell me that you've got everything you want / And your bird can sing / But you don't get me, you don't get me.’” RV

“She Said She Said”

“A drug-induced conversation with Peter Fonda inspired Lennon to write” RV “the spiraling ‘She Said She Said.’” AMG “Fonda's comment, ‘I know what it's like to be dead,’ laid the ground work for the song's opening line and other hazy musings.” RV “It was a milestone in the history of rock lyrics, as the first masked description of an acid trip and its, er, ‘side effects.’” GS Those lyrics are paired with “Ringo's great sounding drums [and an] interweaving duelling guitar effect.” AD

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

“John...begins to dabble in psychedelia on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’” RV a song which “effectively kicked off the psychedelic rock movement.” TL “With its dense wall of noise” AD and Lennon’s “eerie...vocal,” CD this is “the most innovative track on the album” RS and “the most radical departure from previous Beatles' recordings.” CD Inspired by “the Buddhist Tibetan Book of the Dead and drug guru Timothy Leary's The Psychedelic Experience,” RV Lennon attempts “to distill an LSD trip into a three-minute song.” RS “John Lennon told engineer Geoff Emerick” TL to “’make me sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop.’” TL

Beneath it all are “Ringo's thundering, menacing drumbeats and layers of overdubbed, phased guitars and tape loops” AMG with “each of the members fading in and out.” RV “Every song leading up to this grand finale has Revolver knocking at the door of greatness, while ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ kicks it off the hinges.” RV

“Eleanor Rigby”

“Imagine the impact of Eleanor Rigby, a lyric that must have stopped Dylan in his tracks, emerging from the voice that had sung ‘Can't Buy Me Love’ just two years earlier.” IB This “bleak portrait of loneliness” CD shaped by its “melancholy strings,” TL was “Paul's first (and one of the most successful) attempts at a 'serious' song.” GS Paul’s “most complex narrative...feature[s] two seemingly unrelated plots – that of the isolated Eleanor Rigby and the equally alienated Father Mackenzie.” RV On the musical side, “with its appropriate and dramatic string section ...enhance[ing] the beauty of Paul’s original composition,” AD “‘Eleanor Rigby’ is the only Beatles track without any of the Fab Four playing instruments.” RV

“Here, There and Everywhere”

Paul also excels on “the sophisticated, elegant balladry of ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘For No One.’” IB “Of every song McCartney ever wrote, Lennon only expressed envy over not penning [these two].” RV The former "is one of McCartney's best love songs, a sincere masterpiece of harmony and melody” RV “sung in an unusually sweet and warm tone” GS and backed by a “Pet Sounds style” AD “bass [that] gently beats – rising and rising.” AD

“For No One”

The “beautifully sad” AD “piano-driven” GS ‘For No One’ is “is a lament about a broken love, but with serious lyrical undertones.” GS The “minimally produced” DBW song “captures a couple's fading love through a series of flashbacks. ‘Your day breaks, your mind aches / You find that all the words of kindness linger on / When she no longer needs you.’” RV

“Got to Get You into My Life”

Paul also contributes “the brassy,” JA “Motown-inspired” CD ‘Got to Get You into My Life,’ one of “the most straightforward songs of the album.” AD With “its wonderfully concise guitar solo [it] even hints of the metal to come in the otherwise sad and despairing ‘She Said, She Said.’” BN

“Good Day Sunshine”

As always, there are Paul’s typically “upbeat songs like ‘Good Day Sunshine.’” CD “With its peculiar marching rhythms and a great optimistic feel,” GS this “is another fine song possibly pointing the way towards Sgt. Pepper production wise.” AD

“The biggest miracle of Revolver may be that the Beatles covered so much new stylistic ground and executed it perfectly on one record.” AMG The album offered “some of the most innovative and gorgeous production heard then or since” VH1 and “illustrate[s] the unlimited palette the Fab Four were introducing to pop music.” TLRevolver declared rock and roll to be a wide-open field, something that could encompass the orchestral and the eastern, the romantic, the transcendental, and the whimsical.” VH1 “Many musicians changed the face of music, but only one band changed the world. With Revolver, The Beatles gave us more than we deserve;” RV it is “the best introduction to their work, and the strongest single example of their magnificence.” TL

Notes: “I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and “Doctor Robert” were omitted from the U.S. version of the album. The UK version of the album was the official release when Revolver came out on CD.

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