Saturday, December 18, 2010

Katy Perry hit #1 with “Firework”

Last updated 3/16/2020.


Katy Perry

Writer(s): Katy Perry, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Sandy Wilhelm, Ester Dean (see lyrics here)

Released: October 26, 2010

First Charted: October 17, 2010

Peak: 14 US, 14 RR, 11 AC, 15 A40, 3 UK, 11 CN, 3 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 11.0 US, 1.2 UK, 13.31 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.3 radio, 1268.57 video, 200.0 streaming


About the Song:

The third single from Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album was a dance-pop anthem to self-empowerment. Perry pronounced “Firework” as her favorite song from the Teenage Dream album WK and has even called it her epitaph. SF It’s hard,” she said, “to write an anthem that’s not cheesy…I hope this could be one of those things where it’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to put my fist up and feel proud and feel strong.’” WK

She told Billboard that the inspiration for the song came from what she called her “very morbid idea…to be put into a firework and shot across the sky over the Santa Barbra Ocean” when she died. SF Her then boyfriend showed her a paragraph from Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road which she described as being about “people that are buzzing and fizzing and full of life…They shoot across the sky like a firework make people go ‘Ahhh.’ I guess that making people go ‘ahhh’ is kind of like my motto.” SF

The lyrics weren’t completely embraced by critics. MTV said the lyrics were “clunky,” but praised Perry’s vocals and Slant magazine said the lyrics “are nonsensical…but the song would work well enough in a club setting that you could forgive its otherwise glaring weaknesses.” WK BBC Music’s Al Fox said the song “displays a breezy maturity and serious set of pipes.” WK

It was the third of five songs from the album to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her and Michael Jackson the only artists to land five chart toppers from one album (for Jackson it was his 1987 album Bad).

The video, which featured Perry in Budapest, Hungary, features Perry at the center of an outdoor dance party among fans. The director, Dave Meyers, said he wanted the video “to articulate the meaning of that song: what it means to be an underdog and have the courage…to be your own person.” SF It won MTV Video of the Year and was ranked #1 on MuchMusic’s list of best videos of 2010. WK The song was also nominated for Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.

Resources and Related Links:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mojo: Songs of the Year, 1955-2006

Originally posted 12/10/2010; updated 4/7/2019.

Mojo is a monthly UK magazine first published in October 1993. While they haven’t always named a “song of the year” they have done multiple best-of lists. Based on 15 of those lists (see links at bottom of page), here are the best songs of each year from 1955 to 2005.

  • 1955: Little Richard “Tutti Frutti
  • 1956: Elvis Presley “Heartbreak Hotel
  • 1957: Buddy Holly & the Crickets “That’ll Be the Day
  • 1958: Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode
  • 1959: Ray Charles “What’d I Say

  • 1960: The Shadows “Apache”
  • 1961: Del Shannon “Runaway
  • 1962: Booker T. & the MG’s “Green Onions”
  • 1963: The Ronettes “Be My Baby
  • 1964: The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  • 1965: The Miracles “The Tracks of My Tears”
  • 1966: Ike & Tina Turner “River Deep, Mountain High”
  • 1967: Aretha Franklin “Respect
  • 1968: Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through the Grapevine
  • 1969: The Jackson 5 “I Want You Back”

  • 1970: Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • 1971: Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On
  • 1972: Stevie Wonder “Superstition
  • 1973: Stevie Wonder “Living for the City”
  • 1974: Kraftwerk “Autobahn”
  • 1975: Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody
  • 1976: Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the U.K.”
  • 1977: Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen”
  • 1978: The Dils “I Hate the Rich”
  • 1979: Dead Kennedys “California Über Alles”

  • 1980: Martha & the Muffins “Echo Beach”
  • 1981: Ultravox “Vienna”
  • 1982: Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five “The Message
  • 1983: The Smiths “This Charming Man”
  • 1984: Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Two Tribes”
  • 1985:
  • 1986: Run-D.M.C. with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler & Joe Perry “Walk This Way
  • 1987: Phuture “Acid Tracks”
  • 1988: A Guy Called Gerald “Voodoo Ray”
  • 1989: The La’s “There She Goes”

  • 1990: Sinéad O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U
  • 1991: Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • 1992: Radiohead “Creep
  • 1993: Beck “Loser”
  • 1994: Oasis “Live Forever”
  • 1995: Pulp “Common People”
  • 1996: Manic Street Preachers “A Design for Life”
  • 1997: The Verve “Bittersweet Symphony”
  • 1998: Britney Spears “Baby One More Time”
  • 1999: Rage Against the Machine “Sleep Now in the Fire”

  • 2000: Asian Dub Foundation “Real Great Britain”
  • 2001: The White Stripes “Fell in Love with a Girl”
  • 2002: The Libertines “What a Waster”
  • 2003: The Darkness “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)”
  • 2004: Franz Ferdinand “Take Me Out
  • 2005: Arctic Monkeys “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”
  • 2006: Camera Obscura “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken”

Mojo Song Lists:

Mojo: Top 100 Songs

Originally posted 12/10/2010; updated 4/7/2019.

Mojo is a monthly UK magazine first published in October 1993. They have published multiple best-of lists over the years. Below is an exclusive Dave’s Music Database list in which 15 song-based lists (see links at bottom of page) from Mojo hae been aggregated into one best-of list.

1. Sex Pistols…God Save the Queen (1977)
2. Nirvana…Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
3. The Ronettes…Be My Baby (1963)
4. Oasis…Live Forever (1994)
5. Marvin Gaye…I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1968)
6. Ike & Tina Turner…River Deep, Mountain High (1966)
7. Queen…Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
8. Aretha Franklin…Respect (1967)
9. The Miracles…The Tracks of My Tears (1965)
10. Stevie Wonder…Superstition (1972)

11. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five…The Message (1982)
12. The Beach Boys…God Only Knows (1966)
13. The La’s…There She Goes (1990)
14. Pulp…Common People (1995)
15. The Kingsmen…Louie Louie (1963)
16. Bob Dylan…Like a Rolling Stone (1965)
17. The Beatles…Revolution (1968)
18. The Rolling Stones…(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)
19. The Beatles…Hey Jude (1968)
20. The Beatles…Penny Lane (1967)

21. The Rolling Stones…Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1968)
22. The Beatles…Paperback Writer (1966)
23. The Beatles…Rain (1966)
24. The Righteous Brothers…You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1965)
25. Billie Holiday…Strange Fruit (1939)
26. Procol Harum…A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
27. The Beatles…I Want to Hold Your Hand (1963)
28. Chuck Berry…Johnny B. Goode (1958)
29. The Smiths…This Charming Man (1983)
30. The Who…My Generation (1966)

31. Ray Charles…What’d I Say (1959)
32. The Jimi Hendrix Experience…Purple Haze (1967)
33. The Beatles…Strawberry Fields Forever (1967)
34. The Beach Boys…Good Vibrations (1966)
35. The Jackson 5…I Want You Back (1969)
36. Elvis Presley…Heartbreak Hotel (1956)
37. Four Tops…Reach Out (I’ll Be There) (1966)
38. Sex Pistols…Anarchy in the U.K. (1976)
39. The Byrds…Eight Miles High (1966)
40. Kate Bush…Wuthering Heights (1978)

41. Otis Redding…(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay (1968)
42. Blue Oyster Cult…(Don’t Fear) The Reaper (1976)
43. The Animals…The House of the Rising Sun (1964)
44. ? and the Mysterians…96 Tears (1966)
45. The Specials…Ghost Town (1981)
46. Squeeze…Up the Junction (1979)
47. The Small Faces…Itchycoo Park (1967)
48. Simon & Garfunkel…Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
49. The Dils…I Hate the Rich (1978)
50. Marvin Gaye…What’s Going On (1971)

51. Sex Pistols…Holidays in the Sun (1977)
52. Martha & the Vandellas…Dancing in the Street (1964)
53. Edwin Starr…War (1970)
54. The Undertones…Teenage Kicks (1978)
55. The Clash…White Riot (1977)
56. The Poni Tails…Born Too Late (1958)
57. The Byrds…Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
58. Sam Cooke…A Change Is Gonna Come (1965)
59. Marvin Gaye…Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) (1971)
60. Derek and the Dominos…Layla (1971)

61. Stevie Wonder…Living for the City (1973)
62. Don McLean…American Pie (1971)
63. The Kinks…You Really Got Me (1964)
64. Link Wray and His Men…Rumble (1958)
65. R.E.M….Losing My Religion (1991)
66. James Brown…Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (1965)
67. Booker T. & the MG’s…Green Onions (1962)
68. The Rolling Stones…Sympathy for the Devil (1968)
69. Del Shannon…Runaway (1961)
70. Manic Street Preachers…A Design for Life (1996)

71. David Bowie…Space Oddity (1969)
72. John Lennon…Imagine (1971)
73. This Mortal Coil…Song to the Siren (1984)
74. The Small Faces…Tin Soldier (1967)
75. The Kinks…Waterloo Sunset (1967)
76. Massive Attack…Unfinished Sympathy (1991)
77. Buddy Holly & the Crickets…That’ll Be the Day (1957)
78. Eddie Cochran…Summertime Blues (1958)
79. Mott the Hoople…All the Young Dudes (1972)
80. Jimmy Ruffin…What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (1966)

81. Primal Scream…Higher Than the Sun (1991)
82. Frankie Goes to Hollywood…Two Tribes (1984)
83. Oasis…Wonderwall (1995)
84. Oasis…Champagne Supernova (1996)
85. Chic…Good Times (1979)
86. McAlmont & Butler…Yes (1995)
87. Radiohead…Creep (1993)
88. The Jimi Hendrix Experience…Hey Joe (1966)
89. The Temptations…My Girl (1965)
90. Martha & the Vandellas…Heat Wave (1963)

91. The Smiths…How Soon Is Now? (1984)
92. Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps…Be-Bop-A-Lula (1956)
93. Ramones…Blitzkrieg Bop (1976)
94. Television Personalities…Part-Time Punks (1978)
95. Pete Seeger…We Shall Overcome (1963)
96. Kraftwerk…Autobahn (1974)
97. Subway Sect …Ambition (1978)
98. Ultravox…Vienna (1981)
99. Fairport Convention…Who Knows Where the Time Goes (1969)
100. R.E.M….Everybody Hurts (1993)

Mojo Song Lists:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the Season to Be Listing

‘Tis the season for mistletoe, gawdy blow-up decorations in people’s yards, and earworm-inducing ad infinitum spins of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” This also means it’s time for scrawling those wish lists and checking them twice. Santa’s dropping down that chimney in just a few weeks and stuffing those stockings with CDs by Justin Bieber or Arcade Fire, depending on whether we’ve been naughty or nice. With an 8-year-old and 5-year-old, list-making in my household means children taking notes during television commercials.

Ah, but in the music world, this is the time of year for another kind of list-making as well. While Santa’s loading up his sleigh with goodies, editors of every music mag known to man (a phrase that begs the question, “are there ‘zines devoted to the auditory pleasures of, say, the platypus kingdom?”) are packing their year-end magazine issues with plenty of treats. Those often come in the form of best-of-the-year snapshots. Considering my inclination in that area, my Christmas wish list is generally comprised of which year-end issues rank highest as must-haves.

As a side note, my obsession with year-end lists has overwhelmed even my fictional writing. Last week, in my efforts toward penning that great music-themed novel everyone so desperately needs from me (yeah, right), I scribed an entire chapter devoted to two characters debating the best college rock tunes of 1983. I know. I have a problem and need to seek help.

In the spirit of the season of list-making, Rolling Stone has offered a unique spin with its playlist issue (Dec. 9, 2010; issue #1119). While their year-end wrap-up should be just around the corner, this time out the focus is squarely on artists making lists of other artists. I doubt the world has been on pins and needles awaiting the revelation that Maroon 5’s Adam Levine ranks “Man in a Suitcase” as his eighth favorite Police song, but they might care about what roots and reggae songs make Keith Richards’ top ten. I must admit that after perusing a couple lists even I was thinking what an exercise in tedium this seemed to be – and this is coming from a list devotee so obsessed that he’s created a website and Facebook page devoted to the crap.

However, when I read Patti Smith’s comments about how moved she was by “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” it matters not one whit whether that or “One Too Many Mornings” ranks higher on her list of favorite Bob Dylan love songs. (For the record, she ranked “Mornings” #1 and “Lowlands” #4). The importance comes not in the rankings, but the feelings evoked by the creation of the list. More importantly, for us readers it allows a glimpse into Smith’s world as she reverentially describes singing “Dark Eyes” with Dylan nightly while they toured together in 1995. Her comments about striving, and failing, to pen a song of gratitude to Dylan was revelatory; even the greats like Smith, no slouch in the lyrical writing department herself, have musical gods to whom they bow.

When Elton John calls Kanye West’s “Say You Will” the “2008 equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On,’” my browser is already heading toward my favorite quasi-legal Russian download site.

While the presence of Kanye West on Elton John’s iPod might be eyebrow raising, it is no shock that Gerard Way, frontman for emo-rock group My Chemical Romance, would offer up his snapshot of the glam rock world. It is hardly groundbreaking to see David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” make the cut, but Way defines glam in a broader context to include Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls. We’d all do well to similarly expand the boundaries we’ve placed on genre classification.

This is why I love music lists. Ultimately, it isn’t about what ranks at #1 and what comes in at #68. It is more about being on the list at all. A list is a celebration of what shows up and a surefire argument starter over what doesn’t. Either way, the end benefit is the discussion spurred by a list. Heated debates over what should and shouldn’t make the grade really are mini-musical history lessons. Why should an artist be lauded with “best ever” status? How has so-and-so’s album left its mark? What has “song X” done to change the musical landscape?

Of course, there never really can be such a thing as a “definitive” list – although I cheekily attach the tag to many of the posts on my Dave’s Music Database Facebook page. Any list is subject to debate or change – just ask my kids. If they watch any TV tonight, they’re bound to scratch something off their Christmas wish lists and add a couple new things.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re stumped over what to get me, I’d be fine with the $750 thirty-disc box set of Elvis’ studio recordings. You know, just in case you’ve got nearly a grand burning a hole in your pocket that you desperately feel a yearning to throw my way. Merry Christmas all. Here’s hoping you get at least something on your list.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Red Nichols charted with “I Got Rhythm” 80 years ago (12/6/1930)

Last updated 4/12/2020.

I Got Rhythm

Red Nichols

Writer(s): George Gershwin/ Ira Gershwin (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 6, 1930

Peak: 5 US, 16 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.04 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

“I Got Rhythm” was originally written for 1928’s Treasure Girl, but didn’t get used. SB George Gershwin took the initial slower melody and upped the tempo. TY The song surfaced again in the 1930 show Girl Crazy, featuring a 21-year-old Ethel Merman TM in her Broadway debut. MM “With a clarion contralto that could shatter glass and shoo away the blues,” TM she made the song into a “perky spirit rouser in the first year of the Great Depression.” TM

Merman also reportedly stole the limelight from Ginger Rogers, who was featured in her first leading role singing two of the show’s other classics, “Embraceable You” and “But Not for Me.” SB Merman would serve as the “sassy muse” in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, and Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy. TM

Red Nichols, who led the show’s all-star orchestra including Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Glenn Miller, SB also charted with the song, taking it to #5. Ethel Waters and Louis Armstrong each took the song to #17. The Happenings revived it in 1967 with their #3 JA million-selling version. SB Others to tackle it include Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Lena Horne, Django Reinhadt, Sarah Vaughn, Fats Waller, Roger Williams, and Teddy Wilson. MM

The song is “probably the most widely heard Gershwin song and the one most commonly recorded by instrumentalists.” SB It is “a standout for jazz performers” JA who “must know intuitively its changes and its plain AABA architecture, a matrix for improvisation as essential as the twelve-bar blues.” MM Jazz artists Sidney Bechet, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker all used variations of the song’s rhythm changes for improvisation. SB Will Friedwald, author of Stardust Melodies, says, “It would be impossible to name a melody or set of chord sequences that has withstood more interpretations and variations.” SB

Resources and Related Links:

Friday, December 3, 2010

December 3, 1960: Camelot opened on Broadway

Originally posted June 10, 2011. Last updated September 3, 2018.

Camelot (cast/soundtrack)

Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics)/ Frederick Loewe (music)

Opened on Broadway: December 3, 1960

Cast Album Recorded: December 11, 1960

Cast Album Charted: January 23, 1961

Soundtrack Charted: November 11, 1967

Sales (in millions):
US: 0.5 C, 1.0 S
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 1.5 C+S

US: 16-C, 11 S
UK: 37 S
Canada: --
Australia: --

C cast album
S soundtrack

Quotable: “One of the great Lerner & Loewe musicals” – Wikipedia

Genre: show tunes

Album Tracks – Cast Album:

  1. Overture
  2. March
  3. I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight (RICHARD BURTON)
  4. The Simple Joys of Maidenhood (JULIE ANDREWS)
  5. Camelot (RICHARD BURTON)
  6. Follow Me (BERRY/ MARY SUE)
  7. C’est Moi (ROBERT GOULET)
  8. The Lusty Month of May (JULIE ANDREWS)
  9. Then You May Take Me to the Fair (JULIE ANDREWS/ JAMES YARNELL/ JOHN CULLUM)
  10. How to Handle a Woman (RICHARD BURTON)
  11. Before I Gaze at You Again (JULIE ANDREWS)
  12. If Ever I Would Leave You (ROBERT GOULET)
  13. The Seven Deadly Virtues (RODDY McDOWALL)
  14. What Do the Simple Folk Do? (RICHARD BURTON)
  15. Fire on Goodness (MALE ENSEMBLE)
  16. I Loved You Once in Silence (JULIE ANDREWS)
  17. Guenevere
  18. Finale Ultimo (Camelot Reprise) (RICHARD BURTON)

Album Tracks – Soundtrack:

  1. Prelude and Overture - Orchestra
  2. I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight - Arthur
  3. The Simple Joys of Maidenhood - Guenevere
  4. Camelot and the Wedding Ceremony - Arthur, Guenevere, and Chorus
  5. C'est Moi - Lancelot
  6. The Lusty Month of May - Guenevere and Women
  7. Follow Me and Children's Chorus - Chorus
  8. How to Handle a Woman - Arthur
  9. Take Me to the Fair - Guenevere, Lionel, Dinadan, Sagramore
  10. If Ever I Would Leave You - Lancelot
  11. What Do the Simple Folk Do? - Guenevere and Arthur
  12. I Loved You Once In Silence - Guenevere
  13. Guenevere - Chorus
  14. Finale Ultimo - Arthur and Tom


Lerner & Loewe turned to the legend of King Arthur, specifically T.H. White’s novel The Once and Future King, for their 1960 musical Camelot. Initially, Loewe agreed to write the music, but said he had no interest in the project and that it would be his last score if things went badly. WK-C The production of the show was delayed when Lerner had to seek medical attention after his wife left him. WK-C The show initially ran too long with Lerner noting that “only Tristan and Isolde equaled it as a bladder endurance contest.” WK-C

However, the result was a success. “The advance sale for the show was the largest in Broadway history.” WK-C It opened on December 3, 1960, at the Majestic Theatre and ran for 873 performances. WK-C It starred Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and introduced Robert Goulet in his first Broadway role. WK-C It also won four Tony Awards.

Initial reaction from New York critics was mixed, but a 1993 New York Times review noted that the musical “has grown in stature over the years, primarily because of its superb score.... [which] combined a lyrical simplicity with a lush romanticism.” WK-C A 2003 review said “Camelot has it all – a beautiful English princess swept off her feet by a shy, but passionate bachelor king; an ardent French knight, torn between devotion to his liege and an uncontrollable hunger, reciprocated, to be sure, for the king’s tempestuous wife.” WK-C

The story follows Arthur and Guinevere from their first meeting when they have yet to meet, but stumble across each other accidentally. Arthur – still unknown to Guinevere – persuades her of the joys of Camelot in the title song and she agrees to marry him.

Lancelot, a young Frenchman, enters the picture five years later when he comes to become one of Arthur’s knights after hearing about the Round Table, “a democratic system built around the idea of “a new kind of knight – one that does not pillage and fight, but tries to uphold honor and justice.” WC-C He is devoted to Arthur, but he and Guinevere battle feelings for each other.

Their forbidden love is uncovered by Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, who is determined to overthrow Camelot. He accuses them of treason and Arthur, born by his own law, is obliged to burn Guinevere at the stake. To his relief, the escaped Lancelot returns to save her.

Before Mordred attacks Camelot, Arthur meets Lancelot and Guinevere and forgives them. In camp the night before battle, Arthur is inspired by boy named Tom of Warwick who wishes to join the Round Table. Arthur instructs him “to run behind the lines and survive the battle, so he can tell future generations about the legend of Camelot.” WK-S

The 1964 film version directed by Joshua Logan snagged eight Oscars, but ultimately fell short of the Broadway version. “There wasn’t time for half a dozen songs, which have been deleted, leaving the highlights.” WR-S Richard “Harris is a much more demonstrative King Arthur than Burton, overplaying his role as if he's trying to be a royal Henry Higgins, as played by Rex Harrison (in My Fair Lady).” WR-S Vanessa “Redgrave has the impossible task of replacing Andrews…in fact, she can’t sing.” WR-S Franco Nero, who stepped in as Lancelot, had the singing done by Gene Merlino, who’s “ not a patch on Goulet. The result is a mediocre soundtrack album that really doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the original Broadway cast recording.” WR-S

Review Sources:


Related DMDB Link(s):

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Concert: John Mellencamp

image from

Venue: Midland Theater; Kansas City, MO

The Set List:

1. Authority Song
2. No One Cares about Me
3. Deep Blue Heart
4. Death Letter
5. Walk Tall
6. The West End
7. Check It Out
8. Save Some Time to Dream
9. Cherry Bomb
10. Don’t Need This Body
11. Right Behind Me
12. Jackie Brown

13. Longest Days
14. Easter Eve
15. Jack and Diane
16. Small Town
17. Rain on the Scarecrow
18. Paper in Fire
19. The Real Life
20. Human Wheels
21. If I Die Sudden
22. No Better Than This
23. Pink Houses
24. R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov. 12, 1960: Bobby "Blue" Bland recorded second session for Two Steps from the Blues

First posted May 29, 2008. Last updated September 10, 2018.

Two Steps from the Blues

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Released: Jan. 1, 1961

Recorded: 1956-1960

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

US: --
UK: --
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “One of the key albums in modern blues” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Genre: blues

Album Tracks:

  1. Two Steps from the Blues (1960)
  2. Cry, Cry, Cry (10/10/60, #71 US, #9 RB)
  3. I’m Not Ashamed (5/4/59, #13 RB)
  4. Don’t Cry No More (7/24/61, #71 US, #2 RB)
  5. Lead Me On (4/11/60, #9 RB)
  6. I Pity the Fool (2/6/61, #46 US, #1 RB)
  7. I’ve Just Got to Forget You (1960)
  8. Little Boy Blue (10/6/58, #10 RB)
  9. St. James Infirmary (1960)
  10. I’ll Take Care of You (12/21/59, #89 US, #2 RB)
  11. I Don’t Want No Woman (recorded 1/22/57)
  12. I’ve Been Wrong So Long (1960)

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.


“Without a doubt, Two Steps from the Blues is the definitive Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland album and one of the great records in electric blues and soul-blues. In fact, it’s one of the key albums in modern blues, marking a turning point when juke joint blues were seamlessly blended with gospel and Southern soul, creating a distinctly Southern sound where all of these styles blended so thoroughly it was impossible to tell where one began and one ended.” STE

From 1956 to 1960, Bland had some success on the R&B charts – five of those songs are gathered here. He also recorded two albums (Blues Consolidated and Like ‘Er Red Hot) for Duke Records. WK He moved to Chicago in 1960, WK and recorded another seven songs at Universal Studio which would be compiled on this album. WK

The first session, on August 3, 1960, produced Two Steps from the Blues, Cry, Cry, Cry, and the ballad I’ve Been Wrong So Long, WK on which biographer Charles Farley praised Wayne Bennett as “the most articulate blues guitarist ever.” WK At a November 12 session, the crew recorded a cover of Joe Primrose’s St. James Infirmary and “the moody” I’ve Just Got to Forget You,” WK which didn’t emerge until 1970 as the B-side of “Keep on Loving Me (You’ll See the Change).” WK That session also produced Don’t Cry No More with a faster rhythm, and the Joe Medwick-penned I Pity the Fool. WK

The new songs were done at Universal Studio with “a tight, well-rehearsed, bombastic, blues band.” WK Joe Scott, producer and arranger, crafted the “wailing horn arrangements that sounded as impassioned as Bland’s full-throated, anguished vocals.” STE These songs “form the core of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s legend and the foundation of soul-blues.” STE They “blur the division between Ray Charles soul and Chess blues, opening the doors for numerous soul and blues sounds, from Muscle Shoals and Stax through the modern-day soul-bluesman.” STE

Mojo’s Geoff Brown said: “No song is wasted and hardly a note sounds false as Bland's blues-wearied voice, driven to anguished screams, grapples with the vicissitudes of life and love, his torment echoed and bolstered by Joe Scott’s memorable horn arrangements.” WK

“Since this, like many blues albums from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s, was a collection of singles, it’s possible to find the key tracks, even the entire album, on the numerous Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland collections released over the years, but this remains an excellent, essential blues album on its own terms – one of the greatest ever released.” STE

Review Source(s):


Related DMDB Link(s):

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming Soon to a Stage Near You

A friend on Facebook posted photos of ticket stubs from concerts he attended, mostly in the latter half of the eighties. Among them were The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M., Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Styx, Foreigner, The Cars, and Heart. It proved quite the enviable list of classic rock artists – of which I’ve seen a mere four. I’ve accumulated my share over the years, but Steve amassed as many shows in half a decade as I’ve seen in my lifetime.

I was a latecomer to the rock concert scene, not seeing my first show until my college days. My introduction to the world of live music was via the Rainmakers, a local Kansas-City based group. Their music fit snuggly in the classic rock format with jangly pop that recalled Big Star and that group’s subsequent followers such as Tom Petty and R.E.M. Lead singer Bob Walkenhorst’s unique vocal delivery encompassed some of the nasal snarl of Bob Dylan along with the hiccups and twang of classic country from the 1940s and ‘50s.

The show was on our college campus and I went with a bunch of friends. I don’t remember much – we had seats in the balcony and Amy was disgusted with us for not getting up and dancing (never a strong suit of mine). My virginal concert outing did a lot to make the group’s debut album, 1986’s The Rainmakers, one of my 20 favorite albums of all time.

I’ve amassed a slew of memories since. I traveled to Chicago to see Marillion (my favorite band) and trekked to Minneapolis for The Police. My one-time neighbor and childhood playmate grew up to be a percussionist/drummer with Rod Stewart and got about thirty of us backstage. When I saw Bob Dylan, a gang of us locked arms at an outdoor festival with no ticketed seating to safeguard our primo location from being overrun by people trying to shove in front of us. For my 40th birthday, my wife surprised me with Eric Clapton tickets and more than a half dozen friends to accompany us to the show. A buddy got box seats for the Allman Brothers and we sat next to local DJ Skid Roadie. My brother caught a drum stick at a Styx concert. I loved the clever short film featuring Jerry Stiller that opened the Rush show and seem to remember they had a fridge on stage. I saw Yes with Jon Anderson replaced by Benoit David, a guy about twenty years younger than the rest of the band and about twenty years too energetic. I felt for the guy who’d wasted all that dough to see Roger Waters only to pass out before the thing even got started.

All right, so plenty of memories – which will make this next comment very odd. In general, I’m not wowed by the whole concert experience. Perhaps this is due to a failure to be, shall we say, “properly stimulated.” Maybe a distaste for the party vibe is to blame. I also lack the sense of awe that many possess in the presence of legends. Similarly, hearing a group’s gotta-play-it hit fails to lift me to the heights to which most of the audience are transported. My inability to play an instrument, a complete lack of schooling in musical theory, and a failure to appreciate the technological complexities of putting on such productions all play huge parts. It’s a wonder I go to concerts at all.

So why do I? A little more than a week ago, I saw Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety. The album, its brief tour, and the movie in the late seventies and early eighties have all reached legendary status. I bought the album years ago and saw the movie, but missed the original concert experience. An actual wall was constructed on stage throughout the performance, literally and symbolically closing the band off from the audience. The complexities of staging the show, however, led to only a handful of concerts.

When Roger Waters announced plans to revisit the show with a full-fledged tour, I was in immediately. Here was a show for which I’d built up expectations over nearly three decades. I wondered if I might be setting myself up for a huge disappointment.

I was giddy upon arriving just to see the edges of the wall on either side of the stage that would, in the hands of a busy tech crew, become the eventual barricade between us and them. Throughout the show, the visual projections cast upon that slowly-erected wall were a mix of powerful imagery, eye-tricking effects, a rainbow of colors, and poignant graffiti-scrawled commentaries. A homeless man pushed a shopping cart around the arena floor pre-show. Waters performed “Nobody Home” in a motel room set that came out of the wall. The guitar solo for “Comfortably Numb” was played atop the wall. During “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II”, a gaggle of local kids taunted the monstrous teacher puppet lifted straight out of the movie version of The Wall with a chorus of “hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!” Of course, the gasp from the audience as the wall crumbles at the show’s close is priceless.

That show, the one I’d anticipated more than any other – and one that didn’t disappoint – is the quintessential example of the theatrical possibilities of the concert-going experience. While I doubt the visual spectacle of that extravaganza will ever be matched for me, there’s more to concerts than just what meets the eye. There are smaller, but no less poignant possibilities in every show. I pray that an artist will grace listeners with a creative re-interpretation of a beloved hit (John Mellencamp’s calypso version of “Jack and Diane”). I dream of a song moving me to tears (Bruce Springsteen’s “The River”). I relish the unexpected (like being ho-hum about Peter Frampton as an opening act, only to become a believer after seeing the sheer joy he still received from playing “Baby, I Love Your Way” for the umpteenth time).

For some, it may be about the impressive concert ticket collection. For others, it’s the party or whatever substance circulates through the aisles. There are those who will get a rush from the energy of the crowd and others who are awed by a guitar God nailing just the right chord. It might be the lights or the pyrotechnics or a ten-minute drum solo. It could be the sheer grandiosity of an arena or the intimacy of a club. No matter the specifics, the cherished memories and moments are about the music and the atmosphere surrounding it.

I still have a long wish list. Please bring U2, Squeeze, Fish, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and others to a venue near me. Give me a great light show or a moving theatrical production. Give me an inspiring moment where an artist plays that familiar hit in a less than familiar way. Most of all, give me a chance to walk out of an arena clutching a ticket stub that will remind me of some special moment for years to come.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Concert: Roger Waters - The Wall

image from

Venue: Sprint Center; Kansas City, MO
Tour: The Wall Live

Best concert I’ve ever seen in terms of theatrics. This was on the top of my concert bucket list since I first heard about the Pink Floyd The Wall concerts in 1980-81 which only hit a handful of cities because the show was too costly and complicated. It took nearly 30 years before Waters tackled the project again, turning it into one of the most successful concert runs of all time.

The Set List:

1. In the Flesh?
2. The Thin Ice
3. Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
4. The Happiest Days of Our Lives
5. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
6. Mother
7. Goodbye Blue Sky
8. Empty Spaces
9. What Shall We Do Now?
10. Young Lust
11. One of My Turns
12. Don't Leave Me Now
13. Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
14. The Last Few Bricks
15. Goodbye Cruel World


16. Hey You
17. Is There Anybody Out There?
18. Nobody Home
19. Vera
20. Bring the Boys Back Home
21. Comfortably Numb
22. The Show Must Go On
23. In the Flesh
24. Run Like Hell
25. Waiting for the Worms
26. Stop
27. The Trial
28. Outside the Wall

Paul Whiteman’s “Whispering” hit #1 90 years ago (10/30/1920)

First posted 10/30/2011; updated 4/11/2020.


Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra

Writer(s): John Schonberger (l)/Richard Coburn (l)/Vincent Rose (m) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 30, 1920

Peak: 111 US, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.0 (includes 1.0 in sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.48 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

This was the debut chart single for Paul Whiteman, and what a beginning it was. The song was the second biggest hit of the year WHC and the biggest chart success of Whiteman’s career. It was the first of Whiteman’s 30 songs to go all the way to the top and helped him to become the most popular bandleader of the pre-swing era and the dominant force in American popular recording. PM “Whispering” sold over two million copies which, considering the number of record players in use then, would be the equivalent today of sales of 20 million. TY

The Whiteman orchestra started playing the song early in 1920 in Los Angeles during a gig at the Ambassador Hotel, TY but Ray Miller & His Black and White Melody Boys recorded it first on July 1, 1920. WK By year’s end, Victor Records released Whiteman’s version which TY backed by “The Japanese Sandman” (also a #1), became the first charted version.

As was common for songs from that time, “Whispering” “has a basic stepwise melody, simple harmony, and no syncopation.” TY In addition, “the harmony lends itself to banjo and guitar accompaniment, and the melody encourages group singing.” TY In 1920, many families still carried on the pre-victrola tradition of gathering for sing-along sessions. TY

The online All Music Guide says more than 700 different versions of the song have been recorded, including versions by Harry Belafonte, Miles Davis, Tommy Dorsey, George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, and Frank Sinatra. WK It has also charted in four different decades. Art Hickman and John Steel followed with top-ten versions of the song. Thirty years later, Les Paul had a million-selling, top-ten hit with his 1951 recording of the song. Unlike the original slow ballad, theirs was a rhythmic version. TY Gordon Jenkins also had a minor hit with it that year and then Paul Whiteman himself re-recorded the song in 1954 and took it to #29. PM The song charted again in 1964 when Nino Tempo & April Stevens took it to #11. In 1977, Dr. Buzzard’s Original “Savannah” Band hit #27 with a disco medley including the song.

Resources and Related Links:

  • Paul Whiteman’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • JA David A. Jasen. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 213.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 17.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 447.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 35.
  • WK