Thursday, April 29, 1999

100 years ago: Arthur Collins hit #1 with “Hello Ma Baby”

Hello Ma Baby

Arthur Collins

Writer(s): Joseph E. Howard, Ida Emerson (see lyrics here)


First Charted: April 15, 1899


Peak: 14 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.3 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Joseph E. Howard and Ida Emerson were a husband-and-wife songwriting team who performed in vaudeville before becoming stars in Chicago and New York. SS Their “most celebrated song” SS was “Hello Ma Baby,” one of the first mainstream songs to use ragtime-styled syncopation. SS The melody is similar to a piano piece by Claude Debussy called “Le Petit Nègre.” WK

“Hello Ma Baby” was also notable as the first well-known song to refer to the telephone. The word “hello” was primarily associated with telephone use and the subject matter of the song regards a man who only knows his girlfriend via the telephone. WK Howard got the idea when he heard an African-American porter say the phrase when talking to his sweetheart on the phone. SF Less than 10% of American households owned phones at the time. WK

The song was recorded in 1899 by Len Spencer and Arthur Collins. Collins, “one of the most prolific and popular of pioneer recording artists,” SF was known as “King of the Ragtime Singers” SF and had the more successful version. The Music Trades declared it “one of the best coons songs that [has] been published in a long time.” SS Coon songs are “typically held in low regard from a modern perspective,” SS largely because of the racist nature of the lyrics and caricatures of African-Americans on the sheet music. WK Peter C. Muir, however, argues that it was “the first genre to develop in the commercial mainstream that makes extensive use of secular black music.” SS Music historian Steve Sullivan says “Hello Ma Baby” “finds the genre at its peak.” SS

It was also said it “can be heard in every flat in Harlem where there’s a piano, and on the street corners you can hear ‘Hello Ma Baby’ being sung by the boys who congregate there.” SS Alex Harms said it had “sold more rapidly than any other song that they had published.” SS The song experienced a revival when the character of Michigan J. Frog sang it in the 1955 Warner Bros. cartoon One Froggy Evening.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Arthur Collins
  • SF Songfacts
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 810-11.
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 4/16/2021; last updated 4/23/2021.

Monday, April 19, 1999

Fish released Raingods with Zippos

Raingods with Zippos

Fish


Released: April 19, 1999


Peak: -- US, 57 UK


Sales (in millions): --


Genre: neo-progressive rock


Tracks:

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

  1. Tumbledown (Dick, Simmonds) [5:52]
  2. Mission Statement (Dick, Rick Astley, Paul Thorn) [4:00]
  3. Incomplete (Dick, Antwi, Doug Millet) [3:44] (3/22/99, --)
  4. Faith Healer (Alex Harvey, Hugh McKenna) [5:01]
  5. Rites of Passage (Dick, Simmonds) [7:42]
  6. Plague of Ghosts: i. Old Haunts (Dick, Turrell, Daghorn) [3:13]
  7. Plague of Ghosts: ii. Digging Deep (Dick, Turrell, Daghorn) [6:49]
  8. Plague of Ghosts: iii. Chocolate Frogs (Dick, Turrell, Daghorn) [4:04]
  9. Plague of Ghosts: iv. Waving at Stars (Dick, Turrell, Daghorn) [3:12]
  10. Plague of Ghosts: v. Raingods Dancing (Dick, Turrell, Daghorn) [4:16]
  11. Plague of Ghosts: vi. Wake-Up Call (Make It Happen) (Dick, Turrell, Daghorn) [3:32]


Total Running Time: 54:24


The Players:

  • Derek W. Dick, aka “Fish” (vocals)
  • Steven Wilson, Robin Boult, Till Paulmann, Phil Grieve (guitars)
  • Bruce Watson (guitar, mandolin)
  • Steve Vantsis (bass)
  • Mickey Simmonds, Tony Turrell (keyboards, piano, programming)
  • Dave Stewart (drums)
  • Davey Crichton (violin, fiddle)
  • Elisabeth Antwi (backing vocals, vocals on “Incomplete”)
  • Nicola King, Tony King (backing vocals)
  • Mo Warden (spoken outro vocal on “Wake-Up Call”(
  • Mark Daghorn (programming)
  • Elliot Ness (string arrangements, sampling)

Rating:

3.166 out of 5.00 (average of 18 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Fish’s sixth solo effort “was released on the Roadrunner record label, more well known for its heavy metal releases. Raingods with Zippos is often hailed one of Fish's greatest achievements along with his 1990 debut Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors. It is the first of three Fish albums to be produced by Elliot Ness.” WK

It functions almost as two albums, opening “with half an hour of commercial sounding songs” BJ that are “a cross between [previous albums] Suits and Sunsets on Empire.” BJ The second half, a six-part epic titled “Plague of Ghosts,” is “much more experimental and [has] more atmospheric songs on it.” BJ It “is more like Vigil, [Fish’s debut] and Misplaced Childhood, [his peak with former group Marillion] with a Porcupine Tree sauce.” BJ The dichotomy makes the album “too unbalanced” ES and makes it feel “like ‘Plague of Ghosts’ plus 6 bonus tracks, of which some are good and some are just mediocre.” ES

On another note, the “production [is] very good, [and the] recording sublime.” DK “Lyrically it’s a very strong album, probably his most personal ever. Many lyrics seem to deal with marriage and mainly the rut of many years of marriage.” BJ

Things kick off with Tumbledown, “the first of the two Mickey Simmonds collaborations on the album.” BJ “It takes a while to get used to the strange structure and arrangements but the song definitely rocks” ES with “very agressive guitars and as always very good drums by Dave Stewart.” DK It “starts with a nice piano intro played by Master Mickey,” BJ the “type that an experienced piano player plays if you ask him to improvise a bit.” RS “After about a minute and a half the song kicks in with a lot of heavy guitars and an eighties-sounding synthesizer.” BJ “The contrast between the rough middle part and the emotional keyboard bits at the beginning and end are brilliant,” ES “similar to “Genesis’ ‘Firth of Fifth.’” BJ “The piano outtro only strengthens that feeling.” BJ “since the same piano closes the song, more or less closing the circle.” RS “The song itself is a powerful song” BJ “with a very catchy chorus that stays in your mind for a long time,” RS but it is “not the strongest poetry Fish has ever written.” BJ

Mission Statement is both “very simple [and]…very joyful. It’s straight and it’s tough.” JJ “It’s a sort of groovy cross between ‘Radar Love’ and [Fish’s own] ‘Somebody Special.’” BJ with its “nice driving feeling to it.” RS On one hand, the song has been called “one of the most uplifting things Fish has ever done” ES although there is no doubt that while “it definitely swings [it]…has too much of a seventies sound.” BJ It also has been criticized that “the lyrics are weak, maybe the result of co-writing with Rick Astley,” RS [“Never Gonna Give You Up”] at one of “Fish’s writing sessions at the Castle Marouatte.” BJ

Incomplete was “another offspring of the Marouatte sessions, this time a duet with singer Elizabeth Antwi,” BJ a duet partner whose voice, at least in one critic’s opinion “is a bit too low and dark.” ES while another says that her voice and Fish’s “mix beautifully.” RS “The comparision with ‘Just Good Friends’ [another Fish duet with a female singer] is obvious. Nevertheless, this is a completely different track. It's even more subtle, ‘cause the aforementioned song almost was a rock-ballad.” JJ

“The lyrics are probably the most touching Fish has ever written, in the vein of ‘Say it with Flowers’; thoughts and feelings from many years of marriage.” BJ “It is an emotional song, honest and sincere,” RS and “it touches something inside.” RS “Intense, that is the best description of the song.” RS

Tilted Cross “wouldn’t be out of place on any Peter Gabriel album…Nice acoustic guitar” BJ which is reminiscent of Dream Theater’s ‘Take Away My Pain.’ BJ “The music is very atmospheric and the melody is beautiful. Pure and fragile.” JJ While one reviewer said the song was “too much like an old-fashioned folky ballad” ES and another called it “simple” RS and a “ballad-like mourning song” RS a third critic said the “Celtic influences create a perfect atmosphere for the lyrics;” BJ “‘I left my love in a grave and I marked it with a cross that stands so straight and so true’ isn’t exactly what you call bedtime reading stories.” BJ It is “the second Bosnia song of Fish, this time about landmines and losing your loved ones.” RS

Faith Healer “starts with an intro very reminiscent to Genesis’ ‘Turn It on Again’ but then turns into a very heavy rock song with roaring guitars.” BJ The “straightforward rock” JJ is a point of contention for critics; a live version of the song appeared a decade before on the “Big Wedge” single, but “the new version is much heavier,” BJ Vocally, one critic thinks Fish gets to “use his more theatrical voice on it (the way he uses his voice best)” RS while another weighs in saying that “Fish’s vocals sound too thin for the song.” BJ There also seems to be some agreement that the song is not helped by a “screachy violin solo” ES where a synthesizer solo was originally. BJ

The resulting opinions range from a sense that the song “is completely out of place on the album,” BJ to a feeling that it “seems to fit in very well.” DK There does seem to be some sense that even if the song isn’t a good fit musically, the lyrical connection may justify its presence. JJ “After all the ‘broken’ things in the previous songs, it is good to hear a possible solution to all the problems.” RS

Rites of Passage garners significant praise from various reviewers, being called “Excellent!” BJ and “Brilliant!,” ES “an intense song” RS that is “very touching” BJ and “the most beautiful ballad Fish has produced in years,” ES and “simply one of the best things Fish has ever done.” JJ Musically, it is “a slow, moody piece with piano, synthesized flutes and a fretless bass.” BJ In addition, the “very weird and experimental instrumental” BJ “final two and a half minutes of ambiance sets the perfect mood for the transition into the second half of the album.” ES “It slowly evolves from a regular song to the point where you are ready to dive into a musical journey.” RS

Plague of Ghosts is a “25 minute epic” BJ that fills the second half of the album. It “is the ultimate nightmare in the style of Waters’ Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking.” BJ It is really “the overlapping title of six ‘sub-songs’, since none of the musical themes…returns in one of the other.” RS Regardless, it “is definitely the highlight of the album” BJ and “another highlight in Fish’s long career.” JJ One critic even says it “is certainly the best thing our Scottish friend has ever done” ES while another opinion is that “it’s the most experimental and brave thing Fish has ever done since leaving Marillion.” BJ “It’s ambient…but it’s miles away from the ‘ambient’ you’ll hear in a nightclub. It’s more like Misplaced Childhood meets Yes meets Peter Gabriel meets Porcupine Tree experimenting with a drum computer.” BJ

The first part, Old Haunts, is “very much like a mid-seventies Yes song, like ‘Awaken’ or ‘Soon’. In fact, you can easily imagine Jon Anderson singing the lyrics.” BJ It offers “wonderful atmospheric singing against a soundscape of synth and slide guitar effects.” ES

Digging Deep, the second piece of the “Ghosts” epic, is “a heavy rock song” JJ featuring “heavy electronic drumbeats,” JJ “a catchy chorus and spoken lyrics in the style of ‘Black Canal’ and ‘Jungle Ride” BJ that recalls Peter Gabriel. JJ “There’s also a very distinct Steve Wilson guitar here.” BJ In fact, the song could be described as “‘Fool’s Gold’ (Stone Roses) meets Porcupine Tree [Wilson’s band]. It rocks but at the same time it’s very danceable” ES thanks to “a strong rhythmic section.” RS

Apparently, ““Fish once had the plan to record a whole album of ‘beat poetry’ called Chocolate Frogs,” ES which becomes the title for part 3 of “Ghosts.” It “starts with a spoken part, which is very reminiscent to the beginning of ‘Bitter Suite’, and as if self-plagiarism isn’t bad enough the sung part of the song almost precisely follows the melody line of Floyd’s ‘Sorrow’. The music of this part is very weird and ambient creating a very spooky atmosphere” BJ “including an bit of singing in old English style.” ES “This is pure prog!” RS

Part 4, Waving at Stars is “more melodic, starting to go back to the Marillion era;” RS perhaps reminding one of “Heart of Lothian.” BJ “A drum computer starts and heavy basses and acoustic guitar follow…Later on a piano starts playing, leading into the next part of the song.” BJ “A slight ‘Welcome to the Machine’-feel is radiated by this song. It’s a quiet lead part combined with a hectic Prodigy like drum computer rhythm in the background. Brilliant combination creating a very special sound.” ES

Part 5, Raingods Dancing, is “a calm piece which includes a lyrical reprise of ‘Tumbledown’…Later on there’s another guitar solo… it’s a perfect mid-epic song.” BJ “Drum computer makes place for piano and cello. Beautiful emotional track.” ES “The musical journey has taken us back to Misplaced Childhood.” RS

The epic concludes with Wake-up Call (Make it Happen), “the obligatory happy ending.” BJ “After a piano/vocal intro the song turns into a semi-acoustic track with lots of Porcupine Tree-ish slide guitar and building towards a feeling of hope.” ES “Lyrically this could very well be the answer to the negative aspects of marriage which are so present in the earlier songs.” BJ

Oddly, “after 25 minutes you would expect that you are relieved if the song ends, but this song ends too soon! The chorus that fades should have been repeated 2 or 3 times more, then the ending would have been complete.” RS Still, the piece as a whole is hailed as “a fabulous masterpiece” RS featuring “Fish at his best! Great song, great lyrics, great musicianship!” DK

In the end, “Raingods “is a very emotional and atmospheric album” JJ that while uneven, still has “two beautiful ballads, a gem of song and the best epic Fish has written.” JJ As JJ concludes, “I don’t want any other album in my player until the candles that I lit are burnt out.” JJ

Resources and Related Links:

Last updated 6/13/2021.

Wednesday, April 7, 1999

50 Years Ago Today: South Pacific opened on Broadway

South Pacific

Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II (composers)


Opened on Broadway: 4/7/1949


Cast Album Charted: 5/21/1949


Soundtrack Released: 5/19/1958


U.S. Peak: #169-C, 131-S


UK Peak: #1115-S


U.S. Sales (in millions): 3.0 c, 8.0 s


UK Sales (in millions): -- c, 1.8 s


Total Sales (in millions): 3.0 c, 9.8 s


Genre: show tunes


C cast, S soundtrack


Tracks:

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

  1. Overture
  2. Dites-Moi
  3. A Cockeyed Optimist
  4. Twin Soliloquies
  5. Some Enchanted Evening (Perry Como, 1949, 1 US)
  6. Bloody Mary
  7. My Girl Back Home **
  8. There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame
  9. Bali Ha’i (#5 US, Perry Como, 1949)
  10. I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair
  11. A Wonderful Guy (Margaret Whiting, 1949, 12 US)
  12. Younger Than Springtime (Gordon MacRae, 1949, 30 US)
  13. Happy Talk
  14. Honey Bun
  15. You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught
  16. This Nearly Was Mine
  17. Finale: Dites-Mo (Reprise)

Above track listing based on 2000 Decca reissue. Songs with an asterisk (*) are on original 1946 cast album.

c Songs unique to cast album.

Rating:

4.590 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)


Awards for Both:


Awards for Cast Album:


Awards for Soundtrack:

About the Album:

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s South Pacific is considered “one of the greatest Broadway musicals” W-C and “one of the most beloved musicals ever to hit the stage.” AZ It was a massive hit, running 1,925 performances on Broadway AMG-C and another 802 in London. MK Its nearly five-year Broadway run was “longer than any musical before it except Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.” AMG-C “The appeal is simple: a collection of stunning compositions…and characters with a simple though cohesive through-line.” AZ

At the time, a critic for the New York Daily Mirror wrote that it was “likely to establish a new trend in musicals” W-C and that “every number is so outstanding that it is difficult to decide which will be the most popular.” W-C The New York World-Telegram review said it was “the ultimate modern blending of music and popular theatre to date, with the finest kind of balance between story and song, and hilarity and heartbreak.” W-C

Joshua Logan, a stage and film director and also a World War II veteran, read James Michener’s 1947 novel Tales of the South Pacific and decided to adapt it for the stage; he wound up as the musical’s director and producer. Rodgers & Hammerstein were tapped to write.” W-C Initially, “the musical was to center on the story ‘Fo’ Dolla’, about a love affair between a Polynesian girl and a stuffy American officer.” MK As Rogers recounted, however, he and Hammerstein decided that it “would look too much like a rehash of Madame ButterflyMK and opted to make it secondary to “another story from the book, ‘Our Heroine,’ about a nurse from Arkansas who falls in love” MK with “an expatriate French plantation owner with a dark past.” W-C To add “comic leavening” MK alongside these “wartime romances complicated by racial issues,” AMG-C R&H added a third story, “A Boar’s Tooth,” MK about “Luther Billis, a womanizing sailor.” W-C

“The dashing former Metropolitan Opera bass Ezio Pinza” AZ was tapped to play the role of Emile deBecque, the French plantation owner.” W-C Of his eventual South Pacific performance, The New York Times’ Brooks Atkinson said, “Mr. Pinza’s bass voice is the most beautiful that has been heard on a Broadway stage for an eon or two.”

Filling the role of “the heartily feminine American nurse” AZ is “the lovely, girlish Mary Martin” AZ who was “a musical comedy star…[and] a Broadway favorite” MK noted for performances in Peter Pan and Annie Get Your Gun. AZ The New York Post’s Richard Watts, Jr. said this of her performance in South Pacific: “Nothing I have ever seen her do prepared me for the loveliness, humor, gift for joyous characterization, and sheer lovableness of her portrayal of Nellie Forbush…Hers is a completely irresistible performance.” W-C

“The issue of racial prejudice is sensitively and candidly explored in several plot threads.” W-C “Nellie struggles to accept Emile’s mixed-race children. Another American serviceman, Lieutenant Cable, struggles with the prejudice that he would face if he were to marry an Asian woman.” W-C The song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught “attacks the issue with a vehemence never before (and seldom since) seen on the stage.” MK It was initially “criticized as too controversial for the musical stage and called indecent and pro-communist.” W-C

“Critical response to the Broadway opening, April 7, 1949, at the Majestic Theater, was probably as uniformly ecstatic as for any show in history.” MK “Acclaim heaped up: nine Tony awards, including Musical, Book, Score, and Direction, along with acting kudos for Martin, Pinza, Myron McCormick (who played Billis) and Juanita Hall (Bloody Mary). Nine Donaldson awards. The New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best Musical. And the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.” MK

The accompanying cast album tapped Pinza and Martin and other cast members. It proved immensely successful, spending 69 weeks atop the Billboard charts – the most weeks spent at #1 in the chart’s history. When the soundtrack to the 1958 film was released, it accomplished a similar feat by becoming the most successful #1 album in the history of the U.K. charts – with 115 weeks on top. Collectively, the cast album and soundtrack have sold nearly 13 million worldwide.

Resources and Related Links:


First posted 4/7/2012; last updated 9/5/2021.