Tuesday, November 29, 2016

11/29/1941: Glenn Miller hits #1 with “Chattanooga Choo Choo”

image from barnesandnoble.com

Glenn Miller with Tex Beneke & the Four Modernaires “Chattanooga Choo Choo”

Writer(s): Mack Gordon/ Harry Warren (see lyrics here)

First charted: 9/13/1941

Peak: 19 US, 12 HP, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.2 US

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

Review: The team of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote the song while travelling on the Southern Railway. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” didn’t refer to a particular train, but Chattanooga, Tennessee, had been on the route for most trains passing through the American South since 1880. WK The song was used in the film Sun Valley Serenade, a story about a train travelling south from New York. SS-603 Tex Beneke and Paul Kelly from Glenn Miller’s band sang the song in the film with the Modernaires – but actress Dorothy Dandridge lent her pipes to the song in the film as well. SS-603 It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song from a movie in 1941.

A week after finishing work on the movie, the band went into the studio to record “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” SS-603 It became Miller’s biggest hit after “In the Mood.” In Recorded Music in American Life, William Howland Kenney notes how the song resonated with GI’s coming home. It reminded them “of the excitement of entering Penn Station, ticket in hand for a trip home, getting a shine, hopping board and…eat[ing] and drink[ing] while watching the Carolina countryside flash by.” SS-603

“Chattanooga” achieved the distinction of being the first record to be formally certified as a million seller. PM-311 although Gene Austin’s “My Blue Heaven” had accomplished the feat a dozen years earlier. SS-603 To celebrate the event, RCA Victor presented a gold-laquered facsimile disc to Miller on February 10, 1942. TY-105 Years later the Recording Industry Association of America picked up on the idea and awarded gold records to million-sellers. SS-603

In addition to Miller’s #1 version of the song in 1941, it found success in 1962 with Floyd Cramer’s #36 version and again in 1978 when the female disco quartet Tuxedo Junction took the song to #32. JA-35 Others who rcorded the song include the Andrews Sisters, George Benson, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Harry Connick Jr., Ray Conniff, John Denver, Bill Haley & the Coments, the Muppets, Oscar Peterson, Elvis Presley, and Hank Snow. WK “It remains a vocal-group standard.” JA-35

Resources and Related Links:

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.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Bing Crosby hit #1 with “Pennies from Heaven” 80 years ago (11/28/1936)

First posted 11/25/2011; updated 4/12/2020.

Pennies from Heaven

Bing Crosby

Writer(s): Arthur Johnston/John Burke (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 28, 1936

Peak: 110 US, 14 HP, 11 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.74 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

This was the biggest pop hit from 1936. WHC Bing sang it in the film of the same name and garnered an Academy Award nomination for the song. It also appeared in 1954’s From Here to Eternity and 1960’s Pepe TY and cropped up again in the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina.

Presumably, the lyrics are intended to “evoke a sense of optimism in difficult times, assuring the listener that when it rains, ‘There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me.’” BF However, in the introductory verse, listeners are warned that they may have to atone for their ancestors’ failure to appreciate the better things in life. “Storms may bring us fortune, but with that fortune we must buy what we used to get for free.” BF Burke, the lyricist, went on to become good friends with Bing and wrote other classics for him such as “Moonlight Becomes You”, “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams”, “What’s New?”, and “Swinging on a Star”.

In 1978, “Pennies” was revived as the theme for a BBC-TV series of the same name. The show “took the conventions of 1930s musicals and satirized them by placing the songs into a modern story.” JA That, in turn, inspired another Pennies from Heaven film in 1981 – this one starred Steve Martin and was directed by Herbert Ross. JA

Among others to have recorded the song are Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Stan Getz, Billie Holiday, Dean Martin, Guy Mitchell, Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra, Big Joe Turner, and Dinah Washington. WK

Resources and Related Links:

  • Bing Crosby’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • BF Bingfan03.blogspot.com
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 156.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 87.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 53.
  • WK Wikipedia.org

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nat “King” Cole charted with “The Christmas Song” 70 years ago (11/23/1946)

Last updated 4/12/2020.

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Nat “King” Cole

Writer(s): Mel Tormé/Robert Wells (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 23, 1946

Peak: 3 US, 16 AC, 3 RB, 45 HR (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 41.2 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

Two-time Grammy winner Mel Tormé had a career spanning more than 50 years. His smooth, crooning style earned him the nickname “The Velvet Fog.” When he wrote “The Christmas Song,” however, he was at the beginning of his career. He was 19 and his friend Robert Wells was 22 when they wrote what BMI says is the most-performed Christmas song of all time. SB According to Tormé, they penned the song in the heart of summer, trying to “stay cool by thinking cool.” SB

Tormé and Nat “King” Cole were both managed by Carlos Gastel. Tormé and Wells presented the song to Cole, who was used to recording with the King Cole Trio, which he’d established in 1937. Cole served as pianist alongside guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince. Gastel and the executives at Capitol Records insisted Cole should record with strings and a studio orchestra – and suggested Cole stand and sing instead of taking up his usual position behind the keyboard. SS

Despite the objections of Capitol Records, Cole made two recordings – the first with the Trio in June 1946 and the second, in August, WK with a small section of strings. It was the latter which became the seasonal classic, peaking at #3, but returning every season. In 1953, Cole recorded the song again with the same arrangement, but this time with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. JA He recorded it again in 1961 with an orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. SB

“The Christmas Song” ranks as the fifth most-recorded song of the rock era. SS Other artists who recorded the song include Christina Aguilera, Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Justin Bieber, Michael Bolton, Garth Brooks, James Brown, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, John Denver, Celine Dion, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, Etta James, Peggy Lee, Demi Lovato, Barry Manilow, Paul McCartney, The Miracles, New Kids on the Block, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, James Taylor, The Temptations, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder. WK Cole’s version was one of the first eight inductees into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Resources and Related Links:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Prince’s 4Ever released: 4th compilation covering 1978-1993

First posted 6/29/2019.

This page overviews four Prince compilations covering his work from 1978 to 1993 – The Hits/The B-Sides (1993), The Very Best of (2001), Ultimate (2006), and 4Ever (2016).

The Hits/The B-sides


Released: September 14, 1993

Covers: 1978-1993

Peak: #4 US, #6 RB, #4 UK, #4 AU, #67 CN

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK, 2.5 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B/pop

The Very Best of

Released: July 31, 2001

Covers: 1979-1992

Peak: #11 US, #2 UK, #2 AU, #11 CN

Sales (in millions): 2.66 US, 0.6 UK, 3.75 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B/pop


Released: March 14, 2006

Covers: 1978-1992

Peak: #6 US, #3 UK, #6 AU, #12 CN

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 0.3 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B/pop


Released: November 22, 2016

Covers: 1978-1993

Peak: #33 US, #4 RB, #21 UK, #36 AU, #40 CN

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.1 UK, 0.1 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B/pop

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    For You (1978):
  1. Soft and Wet (6/7/78, #92 US, #94 CB, #12 RB) H1,4E

    Prince (1979):
  2. I Wanna Be Your Lover (9/22/79, #11 US, #12 CB, #12 RB, #41 UK, #62 CN) H2,VB,U,4E
  3. Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? (1/23/80, #13 RB) H1,4E
  4. I Feel for You H1

    Dirty Mind (1980):
  5. Uptown (9/10/80, #5 RB) H1,U,4E
  6. Head (10/11/80) H2,4E
  7. Dirty Mind (11/26/80, #65 RB) H2
  8. When You Were Mine (9/2/81, B-side of “Controversy”) H1,4E

    4Ever (2016):
  9. Gotta Step Messin’ About (5/29/81 single-only release) 4E

    Controversy (1981):
  10. Controversy (9/2/81, #70 US, #72 CB, #3 RB, #5 UK, #15 AU) H2,U,4E
  11. Let’s Work (1/6/82, #9 RB) U,4E
  12. Do Me Baby (7/16/82) H2

    4Ever (2016):
  13. Moonbeam Levels (recorded 7/6/1982, released 2016) 4E

    1999 (1982):
  14. 1999 (9/24/82, #12 US, #14 CB, #33 A40, #4 RB, #2 UK, #6 CN, #2 AU) H1,VB,U,4E
  15. Little Red Corvette (2/26/83, #6 US, #6 CB, #15 RB, #17 AR, #2 UK, #5 CN, #8 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  16. Delirious (8/17/83, #8 US, #9 CB, #18 RB, #27 CN) H2,U,4E

    Purple Rain (1984):
  17. When Doves Cry (5/16/84, #15 US, #14 CB, #18 RB, #31 AR, #4 UK, #13 CN, #11 AU) H1,VB,U,4E
  18. Let’s Go Crazy (7/18/84, #12 US, #12 CB, #11 RB, #19 AR, #7 UK, #2 CN, #10 AU) H1,VB,U,4E
  19. Purple Rain (9/21/84, #2 US, #12 CB, #4 RB, #18 AR, #6 UK, #3 CN, #41 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  20. I Would Die 4 U (11/28/84, #8 US, #10 CB, #11 RB, #58 UK, #12 CN, #96 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  21. Take Me with U (with Apollonia, 1/25/85, #25 US, #27 CB, #40 RB, #7 UK) 4E

    Around the World in a Day (1985):
  22. Raspberry Beret (5/10/85, #2 US, #11 CB, #12 RB, #40 AR, #25 UK, #8 CN, #13 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  23. Paisley Park (5/24/85, #18 UK, #38 AU) 4E
  24. Pop Life (7/10/85, #7 US, #7 CB, #8 RB, #60 UK, #65 CN, #67 AU) H1,U,4E

    Ultimate (2006):
  25. She’s Always in My Hair (5/10/85, B-side of “Raspberry Beret”) U

    Parade (1986):
  26. Kiss (2/5/86, #12 US, #12 CB, #14 RB, #6 UK, #4 CN, #2 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  27. Mountains (5/7/86, #23, US, #19 CB, #15 RB, #45 UK, #45 AU) 4E
  28. Girls & Boys (8/4/86, #11 UK) 4E

    Sign ‘O’ the Times (1987):
  29. Sign O’ the Times (2/18/87, #3 US, #4 CB, #13 RB, #10 UK, #5 CN, #29 AU) H1,VB,U,4E
  30. If I Was Your Girlfriend (4/6/87, #67 US, #78 CB, #12 RB, #20 UK) H2,4E
  31. U Got the Look (w/ Sheena Easton, 7/14/87, #2 US, #3 CB, #11 RB, #11 UK, #22 CN, #90 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  32. I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man (11/3/87, #10 US, #10 CB, #29 UK, #33 CN) H1,U,4E
  33. Hot Thing (11/3/87, #63 US, #69 CB, #14 RB) U
  34. Adore H1

    Lovesexy (1988):
  35. Alphabet Street (4/23/88, #8 US, #9 CB, #3 RB, #9 UK, #14 CN, #20 AU) H1,VB,U,4E
  36. Glam Slam (7/11/88, #44 RB, #29 UK) 4E

    Batman (soundtrack, 1989):
  37. Batdance (6/8/89, #11 US, #13 CB, #11 RB, #18 MR, #2 UK, #11 CN, #2 AU) 4E

    Graffiti Bridge (1990):
  38. Thieves in the Temple (7/17/90, #6 US, #11 CB, #11 RB, #7 UK, #5 CN, #16 AU) H1,VB,U,4E

    Diamonds and Pearls (1991):
  39. Gett Off (6/7/91, #21 US, #6 RB, #4 UK, #25 CN, #8 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  40. Cream (9/9/91, #12 US, #12 CB, #15 UK, #2 CN, #2 AU) H2,VB,U,4E
  41. Diamonds and Pearls (11/25/91, #3 US, #11 CB, #40 AC, #11 RB, #25 UK, #5 CN, #13 AU) H1,VB,U,4E
  42. Money Don’t Matter 2 Night (3/3/92, #23 US, #20 CB, #4 RB, #19 UK, #19 CN, #18 AU) VB,U

    Love Symbol Album (1992):
  43. Sexy M.F. (6/30/92, #66 US, #55 CB, #76 RB, #4 UK, #11 CN, #5 AU) H2,4E
  44. My Name Is Prince (9/29/92, #36 US, #20 CB, #25 RB, #7 UK, #5 CN, #9 AU) U,4E
  45. 7 (11/17/92, #7 US, #6 CB, #61 RB, #27 UK, #3 CN, #25 AU) H1,U,4E

    The Hits 1/The Hits 2 (1993):
  46. Pink Cashmere (8/31/93, #50 US, #33 CB, #14 RB, #7 CN, #87 AU) H1
  47. Peach (10/16/93, #14 UK, #28 AU) H2,4E
  48. Nothing Compares 2 U (live, 12/18/93, #62 RB) H1,U,4E
  49. Pope H2

    Ultimate (2006):
  50. Purple Medley (3/14/95, #84 US, #74 RB, #33 UK, #40 AU) U

H1 The Hits 1 (1993) H2 The Hits 2 (1993)
VB The Very Best of (2001)
U Ultimate (2006)
4E 4Ever (2016)

Review: The Hits/The B-Sides (1993)

The Hits/The B-Sides was Prince’s first compilation. The three-box set consisted of two discs known as The Hits 1 and The Hits 2, which were also sold as individual albums, and a third disc of B-sides. While the majority of the important hits are present (#1 “Batdance” is noticeably absent), the non-chronological nature is distracting.

Review: The Very Best of (2001)

The Very Best of covered the same years as the previous The Hits/The B-Sides, but was a welcome addition to fans looking for a single-disc retrospective of Prince’s work. A few top tens are absent (“Delirious,” “Pop Life,” “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” “7”) and, once again, the #1 hit “Batdance.” Overall, though, this is an ideal starting point for someone looking for a quick overview. After Prince’s death in 2016, this collection skyrocketed back on the charts to #1.

Review: Ultimate (2006)

This two-disc compilation is a completely unnecessary and obvious cash grab. It still covers the same years as the previous collections, adding the unnecessary Purple Medley and a handful of minor hits which hadn’t been on previous collections (Let’s Work, Hot Thing, My Name Is Prince). With one disc focused on hits and the other on remixes, it is a disappointment for fans who just want the hits as they are familiar with them and it is a sleazy way to get Prince die-hards to plop down for a two-disc collection when they really just want the remixes.

Review: 4Ever (2016)

This collection reaks of being another cash grab, considering it was released within a year of Prince’s death and covers the same years as the previous three collections. However, as a two-disc set, this is actually superior to The Hits, if you aren’t interested in the B-sides which come with the latter. Once again, we maddeningly get songs in non-chronological order, but we get eight songs never released on a previous Prince collection: Gotta Stop Messin’ About (1981 single-only), Moonbeam Levels (unreleased song from 1982), Take Me with U, Paisley Park, Mountains, Girls & Boys, Glam Slam, and, finally, Batdance.

Review and Resources:

Awards for The Hits/The B-Sides (1993):

Awards for Very Best of (2001):