Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s wins the Grammy for Album of the Year: February 29, 1968

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band rates as the best album of all time according to many sources (just check out its list of awards below). Dave’s Music Database, for one, ranks it as the best album of all time (see the DMDB’s top 100 albums of all time list). However, when Sgt. Pepper’s found itself amongst the nominees for Album of the Year for the Grammys’ 10th annual celebration there was no guarantee it would go home a winner. After all, according to a DMDB blog post last December (“Past Album-of-the-Year Grammy Winners Ranked and Revisited”), the Grammys have picked the wrong album 31 out of 53 times. Considering their strong anti-rock stance in the early years, would it have been surprising to see the Beatles go home losers?

The most celebrated rock group of all time did win a dozen Grammys over the years, including Best New Artist in 1964 and Song of the Year in 1966 for “Michelle”. Still, a look at the list of those who’ve won the most Grammys reveals some of the Grammy bias. The Beatles’ 12 trophies doesn’t even rank them in the top 10. Georg Solti has the most wins with 31. Alphabetically, here are the acts who have taken home at least 17 Grammys: Pierre Boulez, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Chick Corea, Aretha Franklin, Vince Gill, Vladimir Horowitz, Quincy Jones, Alison Krauss, Henry Mancini, Pat Metheny, Al Schmitt, Georg Solti, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Sturr, U2, Kanye West, John Williams, and Stevie Wonder. There are some impressive names on this list, to be sure. However, would you rank all of these artists ahead of The Beatles? The next time you find yourself in an argument about the greatest musicians of all time, see how well it goes over to claim that polka musician Jimmy Sturr is better than the Beatles.

However, for the 1968 Album of the Year prize, the Grammys got it right. By they way, here’s what The Beatles were up against:
Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim by Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
It Must Be Him by Vikki Carr
My Cup Runneth Over by Ed Ames
Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry

While there are notable names amongst the nominees, none of these four albums comes close to Sgt. Pepper’s. While that album ranks #1 of all time according to Dave’s Music Database, none of the others even ranks in the top 1000. Thanks for getting this one right, Grammy.


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lyle Lovett released Release Me

Release Me

Lyle Lovett

Released: February 28, 2012

Peak: 60 US, 9 CW

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: alt-country/Americana


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

  1. Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom [3:06]
  2. Release Me (with k.d. lang) [2:45]
  3. White Boy Lost in the Blues [3:32]
  4. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (with Kat Edmonson) [3:17]
  5. Isn’t That So [4:50] (3/3/12, 26 AA)
  6. Understand You [3:43]
  7. Brown Eyed Handsome Man [3:36]
  8. Keep It Clean [2:36]
  9. One Way Gal [2:59]
  10. Dress of Laces (with Sara Watkins) [6:13]
  11. The Girl with the Oliday Smile [3:57]
  12. Night’s Lullaby (with Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins [3:25]
  13. White Freightliner Blues [5:06]
  14. Keep Us Steadfast [2:45]

Total Running Time: 51:50


3.185 out of 5.00 (average of 6 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Some 27 years after Lyle Lovett signed with Curb Records he brings the association to an end with Release Me, a collection of covers and oddities to usher the singer out of his contract. Lyle makes no bones about his departure, not with the album’s title or its cover of Lovett tied up in a lariat, but for as misshapen and wooly as it is, Release Me actually doesn’t play like a contractual obligation. Sure, Lovett may have only two writing credits among these 14 songs and both of the cuts are holiday tunes, but the appeal of Release Me is that it's decidedly messier than Lyle has allowed himself to be on record.” AMG

“And it’s a mess with purpose, too: the album touches upon nearly every style Lovett has tried on since he signed with Curb in 1985, so it’s a summation yet it lacks pretension. His good humor is evident throughout, surfacing not only on the randy good humor of The Girl with the Holiday Smile, but infusing the rollicking, loose-limbed rhythms of the rest of the record.” AMG

“There are a handful of slower, contemplative moments, but Release Me is an unquestioned celebration where the blues are the soundtrack for a good time and Chuck Berry’s Brown-Eyed Handsome Man is slowed down to a knowing, soulful crawl. There’s an ease to Release Me that’s utterly charming – Lovett is relaxing into the songs and sounds he loves, and he hasn’t sounded like so much fun in years.” AMG

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Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 5/20/2022.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In the wake of her death, Whitney Houston surges on the charts: February 25, 2012

In her lifetime (1963-2012), Whitney Houston accomplished more than most artists ever will. She topped the Billboard Hot 100 eleven times, most notably with her record-setting seven consecutive #1 songs from 1985 to 1988 (“Saving All My Love for You”, “How Will I Know”, “Greatest Love of All”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional”, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”).

During her late ‘80s chart dominance, she ruled the album chart as well. Her first two albums, 1985’s Whitney Houston and 1987’s Whitney, topped the charts for 11 and 14 weeks respectively. That already made her the only female artist to spend more than ten weeks atop the Billboard 200 album chart twice – and then along came The Bodyguard, the soundtrack for Whitney Houston’s first movie star turn. The album pulled off an astonishing 20 weeks at #1, making it the most successful chart run for an album driven by a female artist.

That album was fueled largely by the monstrous success of “I Will Always Love You”, a song which spent 14 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and rates as one of The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, according to the Dave’s Music Database book of that name.

As a testament to Whitney’s glory years, that song resurged in the wake of her death, re-entering the charts at an astonishing #7. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “Greatest Love of All” also make comebacks at numbers 35 and 41 respectively. Whitney soared on the album chart as well – Whitney: The Greatest Hits sold 64,000 copies to re-enter the chart at #6. Five other albums re-entered as well. The total sales of 100,000+ albums for the chart week ending February 25 marked more sales for Whitney Houston than all of 2011-12 combined.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012 Inductees for the Songwriters Hall of Fame

The Songwriters Hall of Fame has announced its 2012 class of inductees. To see more about the Hall and the full list of inductees from 1970 to 2012, check here. Here’s a bit more about each of this year’s inductees:

Gordon Lightfoot, a singer and songwriter, “is credited for helping to define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.” SH Among his best known work are songs “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” He has also had songs recorded by Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Sarah McLachlan, Barbra Streisand, Peter Paul & Mary, Harry Belafonte, Jane’s Addiction, Richie Havens, Glen Campbell, Toby Keith, Anne Murray, Nana Mouskouri and George Hamilton IV. SH “He has received five Grammy® nominations and seventeen Juno Awards in his native Canada, and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, among his many other distinctions.” SH

Bob Seger has rocked the world with a slew of favorites including “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Night Moves,” “Turn the Page,” and “Against the Wind.” While immensely successful at recording his own work and selling more than 51 million records worldwide, SH he has also been covered by Metallica, Kid Rock, Tina Turner, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, Cher, Johnny Hallyday, Martina McBride, Waylon Jennings, Dottie West, The Pointer Sisters, Barry Manilow, Brooks & Dunn, Conway Twitty and Keb’ Mo’. SH In its 17-year history, Seger’s Greatest Hits album has been a continuous presence on either the Billboard Top 200 Albums or Catalog Albums charts. SH It was named the #1 Catalog Album of the Decade (2000-2010). SH Seger is also a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

Don Schlitz made his name as a country songwriter with his first recorded song. Kenny Rogers’ recording of “The Gambler” took home the Grammy for Country Song of the Year in 1978. A decade later, Randy Travis’ recording of “Forever and Ever, Amen” garnered Schlitz another such award. With songs sung by Garth Brooks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Judds, Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker, and Keith Whitley, Schlitz can boast a catalog of 24 #1 hits. He has been named ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the Year four times won the CMA Song of the Year Award three times, and took home the ACM Song of the Year trophy twice.

Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones combined as the composer and lyricist team for the 1960 musical, The Fantasticks. “Try to Remember” became the show’s most beloved song, being recorded by hundreds of artists including Ed Ames, Harry Belafonte, Placido Domingo, and Barbra Streisand. The pair also earned Tony Award nominations for Best Composer and Lyricist for 110 in the Shade and I DO! I DO!. They’ve also been inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and the Broadway Hall of Fame.

Jim Steinman started in musical theatre, but found his greatest fame when he teamed with Meat Loaf to write songs for the legendary Bat Out of Hell in 1977. With worldwide sales of more than 40 million, that album is one of the top 5 all-time best sellers worldwide. Steinman also wrote the #1 hits “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, and “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” as recorded by Bonnie Tyler, Meat Loaf, and Celine Dion resepectively. He also returned to Broadway, teaming with Andrew Lloyd Webber for the musical Whistle Down the Wind. His repertoire has sold more than 190 million records. SH

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Styx’s Dennis DeYoung was born: February 18, 1947

The oft-mocked Kilroy Was Here and its hit song “Mr. Roboto” loom large in the background of whatever DDY does.

Happy birthday, Dennis DeYoung! Most know him as the voice of Styx, although even from its earliest days that rock band switched off vocals between singers of different styles. James Young mostly stuck to guitar, but occasionally took a lead vocal (“Miss America”, “Snowblind”). When Tommy Shaw came into the fold in 1975 after John Curulewski’s departure, he struck a balance between the more balladry style of DDY and the full-on rock approach from JY to craft classics like “Crystal Ball”, “Renegade”, “Blue Collar Man”, and “Too Much Time on My Hands”.

When Styx ended their initial run in 1984, the three chief songwriters embarked on solo careers with DDY’s being the most successful. In 1990, they reunited without Shaw, who was busy with supergroup Damn Yankees. However, the lineup which brought Styx its greatest fame came back together in the mid-‘90s to record new material for a couple compilations and then did a tour. The 1999 Brave New World album saw DDY, JY, and Shaw back together on a studio album for the first time in 16 years, but it didn’t last. In what has now become a clichéd move in the rock industry, DDY got sick and the band unceremoniously dumped their founder and soldiered on without him. Check out my article, “Are These the New Faces of Classic Rock?” on Pop Matters for an in-depth look at this trend.

Regardless of the bumpy spots in their history and some of their questionable musical endeavors, Styx has always remained a favorite of mine. In 2010, I penned a blog entry (“The Styx Defense”, available in my book No One Needs 21 Versions of ‘Purple Haze’) in which I used the band as an example of why people love what they love regardless of what critics say. DDY has endured a healthy chunk of the criticism for his tendencies toward Broadway and ballads.

Regardless of the criticisms, the Dennis DeYoung-led Styx will always be a favorite of mine. In celebration of the man behind so many classic rock standards, here’s a look at ten of my favorite DDY songs.

What Has Come Between Us (1972). It wasn’t a hit, but this cut from the first Styx album showcased DDY’s simultaneous ability to craft a ballad and a pseudo-prog-rock tune.

Lady (1973). A quintessential DDY ballad which also bares the distinction of launching Styx’s career when it was picked up a year after its initial release and turned into a national hit, going top 10 on the Billboard charts.

Golden Lark (1974). This is my favorite of the Wooden Nickel era Styx (the first four albums before they signed with A&M records). This was an early example of DDY shunning the rock side (for better or worse) and going for over-the-top schmaltz with violins instead of guitars.

Suite Madame Blue (1975). This is perhaps the Styx song best deserving of the tag “epic”. DDY crafted this homage to America in the wake of its Bicentennial celebration. It captures the keyboards and sweeping sound that defined Styx.

Mademoiselle (1976). This was a minor top 40 hit notable mostly for a rare duet between DDY and new bandmate Tommy Shaw. Frankly, I think it belongs in the canon of Styx classics, but it is often overlooked.

Come Sail Away (1977). This may well be the definitive Styx song. Like “Suite Madame Blue”, this captures DDY at his bombastic best with a keyboard-driven slice of classic rock that also found a home in the Billboard top 10.

Babe (1979). For better or worse, this #1 song may just be the place to start when criticizing bands for their obligatory forays into rock balladry which belong on radio stations devoted more to adult contemporary than classic rock.

The Best of Times (1981). This was the lead single from Paradise Theater, my favorite Styx album and one of my ten favorite albums period. DDY was showing some of his Broadway leanings with the concept behind this, but he hadn’t gone over the top yet. “Best” shows how to strike just the right balance between a conceptual album and a song that stands just fine on its own.

Mr. Roboto (1983). This one, however, does not. Timing wise, this came out when I was at the height of my “show Styx the love” phase so I unashamedly loved this one. It may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, though, when DDY forced a goofy concept about a Big Brother-style world where rock and roll is outlawed and DDY comes to save the day in robot gear. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it sounds.

Desert Moon (1984). This one is a nod to DDY’s post-Styx years. It was a top ten hit and suggested he might do just fine commercially without Styx. He didn’t, but this slice of nostalgia was well crafted and deserving of the airplay it got.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

50 years ago: Gene Chandler hit #1 with “Duke of Earl”

First posted 3/14/2021.

Duke of Earl

Gene Chandler

Writer(s): Bernice Williams, Eugene Dixon, Earl Edwards (see lyrics here)

Released: November 1961

First Charted: January 8, 1962

Peak: 13 US, 15 CB, 15 HR, 15 RB, 13 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 24.03 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Eugene Dixon grew up listening to doo-wop in Chicago. In high school, he performed with a group called the Gaytones. They won a talent contest which led to a singing job with a local radio program. Another local group, the Dukays, asked Dixon to join them. One night, a woman named Bernice Williams saw the group and introduced them to Bill “Bunky” Sheppard, who signed them to Nat Records. BR1

The song “Duke of Earl” grew out of a vocal exercise in which the group warmed up their pipes singing “ah ah ah” and “doo doo doo” in shifting pitch. Dixon turned the latter into “duke, duke, duke” and added the name Earl, the Dukays’ baritone singer, to create “Duke of Earl.” SF The song tells the tale of him “telling a girl that nothing can stop him, and she’ll be safe as long as she has the Duke of Earl by her side.” SF

While the producer and the group loved the song, the label didn’t like the song and released “Night Owl” from the same session instead. BR1 The song wasn’t done, though. Calvin Carter, the A&R man for rival record company Vee Jay, loved the song and called Ewart Abner, the president, in Paris about getting the okay to purchase the song from Nat Records. BR1 Abner didn’t even listen to the song, but gave the Carter the okay because if it was important enough to call France, the song must be good. BR1

Dixon was signed to Nat Records as a member of the Dukays, but could record as a solo artist for Vee Jay. He shortened his first name to Gene and took the last name Chandler after his favorite actor, Jeff Chandler. BR1 The song became the label’s first million seller. Chandler would dress in a cape, top hat, and monocle to promote the song. BR1

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Gene Chandler
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 104.
  • SF Songfacts

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Top Songs of Peter Gabriel and Genesis

This list has been consolidated with the list of Genesis and Phil Collins songs as well as songs by Mike + the Mechanics and Tony Banks. You can see the results here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why the Grammys Are Hard to Take Seriously

Well, the Grammys are tonight. In past years, I’ve made my predictions for Album of the Year, but not much else. Of course, Adele is so widely expected to sweep tonight that it makes predictions somewhat, well, predictable. Even my “Steve Theory” (initially presented in a January 2010 blog post called And the Grammy Goes to…Steve?) supports her 21 as the winner. Okay, I haven’t actually asked Steve which album would win, but I know his tastes and this is the one he’d pick.

Since the only real story tonight will be if Adele doesn’t win Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year, there isn’t much else of note to report. With the death of Whitney Houston just yesterday, the most moving moment at the Grammys is likely to be a tribute on her behalf. We’ll see what happens.

Is anyone NOT picking Adele to go home with a lot more than two of these tonight?

Instead, this seems like a good time to vent. For those who regularly follow this blog, this entry won’t be too surprising. As some of you may know, Dave’s Music Database is a consolidation of all kinds of data such as sales figures, chart data, airplay, awards, and appearances on best-of lists to determine the best songs, albums, and acts of all time. This mix of looking at commercial success and critical acclaim for artists and their works over time produces pretty sturdy results, if I do say so myself.

The Grammys, however, don’t often prove to much of an indication of what will stand the test of time. As evidenced through several previous DMDB blog posts, the Grammys have a habit of bad picks for the big four: Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year (check those links here or under the “Related DMDB Blog Entries” heading below). While there are certainly deserving winners each year, there are so many worthy candidates who either don’t win or don’t even get nominated as to make the Grammys laughable.

The Grammys never saw fit to award Led Zeppelin with any of its prizes.

Oh, I’ll still watch. I’m eager to see Bruce Springsteen perform. The Beach Boys are supposed to play alongside some of today’s hip new acts. I hope someone offers a moving speech in tribute to Whitney Houston. There will hopefully be some surprises. I also think if the big four awards go the way they should, this might prove to be the rare year when the Grammys get it right. Still, it doesn’t make up for how many grievous errors music’s king of the hill has made. While Starland Vocal Band and Milli Vanilli can boast to having Grammy gold sitting atop their fireplace mantels (albeit the latter only held on to it briefly), a slew of notable acts can make no such claim. Just check out this post from from a year ago at Grammy time, in which they note the following acts who’ve never won a Grammy for ANYTHING, much less one of the big four awards: The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Marley, Queen, Diana Ross, Tupac Shakur, The Supremes, The Who, and Neil Young. Sigh.

The Grammys decided Milli Vanilli was more worthy of Grammy gold than any of those fly-by-night acts listed above.

Related DMDB Blog Entries and Other Resources:

In Memory of Whitney Houston

image from

Note: This blog entry was initially posted in the early morning hours of 2/12/2012 and updated as more details emerged. Orginally a list of her top 50 songs accompanied this post but it has been re-created as a new entry (Whitney Houston: Top 50 Songs; August 9, 2013).

February 11, 2012: Whitney Houston, 48, was pronounced dead at 3:55pm in a Beverly Hills hotel room. Police revealed there was no evidence of foul play. It appeared she may have drowned in the bathtub after a mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. No illegal drugs were found in her room. MTV

Earlier in the afternoon, reporters and hotel staff noted her erratic behavior and disheveled clothes. She was also dripping with sweat. She was reportedly disruptive at rehearsals that day for an annual pre-Grammy bash hosted by Clive Davis, the record executive who launched her career. LA Click here to see her last singing performance, captured on video that day.

Whitney was born August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey. Her mother was Cissy Houston, a gospel singer who had also done back-up work with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Dusty Springfield. She was cousins with Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin was her godmother.

She started singing in her church choir at age 11. In high school, she was singing back-up for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson, and Lou Rawls and launched a modeling career. She rose to musical fame in 1985 when her debut album spawned three #1’s and sold 13 million copies in the U.S. alone. Her 1987 follow-up album gave her four more chart-toppers, making her the only artist to send seven consecutive songs to the top. In total, she scored eleven #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in a decade’s time. The biggest was a cover of country singer Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The song was featured in the movie The Bodyguard, which starred Whitney Houston as a music diva. “Love You” logged a massive 14 weeks in the pole position in 1992-93 and became the all-time best-selling single by a female artist. LA

Her “world-class smile and approachable glamour” LA made her fans around the globe. Her total record sales topped 170 million and she earned six Grammys and 22 American Music Awards, more AMAs than any other woman. LA While “her skills were often wasted on bland adult-contemporary songs” GU her “gospel-trained…voice also lent itself to R&B, pop and ballads, and she was adept at each style.” GU

In 1992, she married fellow pop singer Bobby Brown. He was abusive and jealous of her success. She started drug use around that time, developing a daily habit by 1996. GU In the late 2000s, she kicked a cocaine addiction, but she “didn’t think about the singing part any more” GU She missed gigs, turned up late, left shows early, and was widely panned for bad performances. Photos of her often captured her looking “disheveled and frighteningly haggard.” GU Few stars have “treated their talent with the frustrating indifference she did toward the end of her life.” GU


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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Van Halen and David Lee Roth reunite for their first album in 28 years: February 7, 2012

28 years ago, Van Halen were arguably the biggest rock band in the world, riding high with 1984 and its lead-off single “Jump”, a #1 hit in the U.S. Fast forward a couple years and frontman David Lee Roth was out, replaced by Sammy Hagar. The Red Rocker kept the band on top, helping them top the Billboard album charts with four studio albums over the next decade. When Hagar left, VH figured they could strike magic once again, but struck out with the Gary Cherone-led Van Halen III album in 1998. While the group still came out with a couple greatest-hits collections and did a couple tours, it looked like III, the band’s poorest received album in both sales and critical acclaim, might be the band’s tepid hurrah.

However, as evidence that all fences can be mended, Roth returned to the fold for a tour in 2007 (although original bassist Michael Anthony had been replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang) and now this, the band’s long overdue 12th album. Comeback projects rarely prove to be necessities, but Truth is, according to AntiQuiet, “a true return of the ‘80s cock-rock overlords.” WK SleazeRoxx said, “regardless of how much bad blood has been spilled over the years, of how insane Roth and the Van Halen brothers can act, one thing is certain – when they get together magic happens.” WK

As evidence of the pent-up demand for new VH with Roth as the frontman, lead single Tattoo was the #1 selling rock song in the U.S. Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands a day after it was released to iTunes. In its first week of release, the video got two million hits on YouTube. WK

“Obsessive fans instantly noted the similarity between [that song] and ‘Down in Flames,’ a 1977 song played live, but never released on an album.” HF It isn’t the only case of one of the album songs reaching back into the group’s past. Big River is “based on the oft-discussed ‘Big Trouble’ demo which has circulated amongst fans for years, and was actually originally intended for Diver Down and then 1984.” CS She’s the Woman dates back to a 1976 demo that signed the band to Warner Bros.” MR and Beats Workin’ “culls its energy from past demo ‘Put Out the Lights’, another lost gem off that Warner Bros. tape.” CS Blood and Fire “has ties to the band’s score for the 1984 film The Wild Life;” CS Bullethead dates back to 1977; and Outta Space began as “Let’s Get Rockin’” in 1976. CS

Hagar accused the band of just recording old songs because they couldn’t write new stuff. MR However, as Roth told the Los Angeles Times, the band deliberately made an attempt to link to its past “by taking the most promising chunks of coal from four decades ago and polishing them into diamonds.” HF It “turns out to be a savvy move, as they not only saved promising songs, but re-oriented the band, pushing them toward their essence” AMG as they use “their history to revive their present.” AMG

In the end, “it’s pretty clear that these dudes put in the hours.” MR “Fans will revel in Eddie’s killer licks;” CS even “if he’s no longer in tip-top form, he’s still close enough that there are mnay moments throughout the album to dazzle Eddie wanna-bes.” HF “Alex Van Halen remains the meatiest drummer in hard rock.” VS and while Roth’s “voice is not the soaring, singular rock wonder that it used to be, …he’s still got plenty of horsepower under the hood” HF and that he “has been waiting for years to really let loose, and A Different Kind of Truth offers him plenty of opportunities.” CS

This “could have been a train wreck of epic proportions and it’s far from it.” HF It has just “enough flashes of past brilliance” HF and is “a frequently thrilling return.” GN “Against the odds, the party metal kings are back and blazing.” GN

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance

Nicki Minaj, Madonna, and M.I.A.

The last couple days’ blog posts focused on the Super Bowl halftime shows with one post focused on the 5 worst halftime shows of all time and another post dedicated to the top 10 halftime shows. To wrap things up, today we’ll revisit Madonna’s halftime performance from last night in which she delivered a football-themed “high-energy spectacle packed with Roman warriors, Cirque du Soleil dancers, marching bands, cheerleaders, and some very famous guests.” MTV

She entered in “Cleopatra mode” MTV on a throne accompanied by Roman warriors while she sang “Vogue”. She segued into “Music”, complete with dancers doing acrobatics on bleachers, a tightrope walker doing flips on a wire, and a mash-up with LMFAO and brief bits from their #1 hits “Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy and I Know It”.

In continuing the guest star parade, she trotted out Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. in cheerleader outfits to contribute to “Give Me All Your Luvin”, the new Madonna single on which the pair also sing. By aligning herself with some of today’s biggest names in music, Madonna seemed to “position herself as the queen of a new generation of pop stars.” CBS

Finally, Cee-Lo Green entered as a drum major, backed by dancers in maching band attire. After brief interludes of “Open Your Heart” and “Express Yourself”, Madonna, Cee-Lo, and the dancers shifted into gospel wear and closed out the show with “Like a Prayer”. After that, she disappeared in a puff of smoke down a trap door and the field lit up with the words “World Peace”.

As expected, the 12-minute show was very visual and heavily choreographed. As one blogger said, everyone knew she’d make it “dazzling and unforgettable” NJ and the show “was probably the most impressive Super Bowl halftime performance ever.” NJ Despite how nervous she’d said she was before hand, Madonna tore “through her hits with plenty of superstar swagger.” MTV Unlike last year’s Black Eyed Peas, who looked like “awkward amateurs,” NJ Madonna looked like “she belonged there.” NJ

Critics were quick to suggest that her “vocals were not strong throughout” CBS and simultaneously rip on her for her “vocals being lip synched or augmented by tapes.” WSJ She also appeared to slip on the stage during “Music”, but quickly recovered. For those fearing a “wardrobe malfunction” or other deliberate controversy-baiting moments, Madonna managed several costume changes, but all without incident. However, M.I.A. flipped the bird while belting out a line with an expletive bleeped out.

One of the strangest pre-show criticisms was that Madonna wouldn’t appeal to football fans. For those uttering such rumblings, perhaps they need a reminder that this is the most televised event of the year attracting the eyeballs of more than 100 million viewers. There are a lot more than just football fans tuning in. The halftime show should feature an iconic singer who can provide solid entertainment. Given that criteria, Madonna was a perfect fit.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Five Worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows

Super Bowl Halftime Shows:

The Five Worst

Warren Moon, Minnie Mouse, and a slew of kids at Super Bowl XXV

With Super Bowl XLVI kicking off this weekend, fans all over the world are prepping for the big event by making runs to the grocery store for beer and chips. They’re also engaging in another tradition which has become pretty integral to the annual NFL showcase – grousing about halftime shows. For roughly 25 years, the midway point of the biggest game in football was devoted to cheesy themes, lots of marching bands, and four too many shows featuring Up with People. In 1993, sagging ratings lead to a long overdue concept – tapping the biggest artists in the world to perform. They couldn’t have kicked things off any bigger than with Michael Jackson.

However, there have been some real stinker shows before and after then. Today’s blog focuses on five of them, as determined by an aggregate of 16 lists which ranked the worst Super Bowl halftime shows.

5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (1995). Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Tony Bennett, and Miama Sound Machine performed. The performers weren’t the worst choices in the world, but the goofy Indiana Jones storyline was completely transparent as a shameless promotion of Disney’s newest Indiana Jones attraction.

4. The Black Eyed Peas (2011). There seemed to be a lot of venom targeted at this performance. I’m not entirely sure why. Since Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” in which Justin Timberlake exposed her breast to the world, the halftime show had pretty much been entrusted to classic rock artists who were past their prime, but weren’t likely to do anything embarrassing. The Black Eyed Peas were the biggest current group around and made for a logical choice to go after a contemporary audience. Apparently someone told them they had to still go after a classic rock audience, though, so they trotted out Slash to play guitar while Fergie strutted about doing a very unnecessary remake of Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

3. Winter Magic (1992). As a sort of last hurrah to the halftime shows which crammed as many performers on the field as possible for cheesy song-and-dance numbers, we got an odd medley of tunes traditionally associated with Christmas. In the second half, macho football fanatics everywhere were treated to figure skating from Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill in a tribute to the 1992 Winter Olympics before things wrapped up with Gloria Estefan.

2. Small World Tribute to 25 Years of the Super Bowl (1991). I’m sure prancing on to a stage with Minnie Mouse is the highlight of Warren Moon’s football career. Look, I don’t subscribe to the idea that the halftime show should cater to the average NFL fan, but they also shouldn’t go to the other extreme with a show full of Disney characters, dancing and singing children, and New Kids on the Block.

1. Be-Bop Bamboozled in 3-D (1989). I can’t help but imagine a planning committee joking about what would make for the worst halftime show ever – and then having those notes fall into the hands of someone who thought it was real. Yes, folks, not only did we get an Elvis impersonator/magician (Elvis Presto!) performing the world’s biggest card trick, but we the show was presented in 3-D! At least in introducing the show, Bob Costas acknowledged the goofiness of it all with his line, “This is the single proudest moment of my life.”

Thankfully, there have been plenty of good halftime shows as well. You can see all of the halftime shows ranked here.

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First posted 2/4/2012; last updated 2/8/2022.

Friday, February 3, 2012

50 years ago: Elvis Presley hit #2 with “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

Can’t Help Falling in Love

Elvis Presley

Writer(s): Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss (see lyrics here)

Released: October 1, 1961

First Charted: November 10, 1961

Peak: 2 US, 4 CB, 11 GR, 3 HR, 16 AC, 14 UK, 4 CN, 15 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 393.8 video, 477.38 streaming

Can’t Help Falling in Love

Lick the Tins

Released: 1985

First Charted: --

Peak: 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.37 video, 0.45 streaming

Can’t Help Falling in Love


First Charted: May 1, 1993

Peak: 17 US, 18 CB, 13 GR, 11 AC, 11 MR, 12 UK, 12 CN, 17 AU, 8 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.3 US, 0.64 UK, 2.71 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 201.71 video, 178.86 streaming

Awards (Elvis Presley):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Lick the Tins):

Awards (UB40):

About the Song:

Elvis Presley may have been the King of Rock and Roll but “there’s nothing rock ‘n’ roll about ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love” and it makes no attempt to recapture the early danger of Elvis. Instead, it’s Elvis hitting his romantic-crooner stride, his voice hitting a deep puppydog quaver and harmonizing beautifully with the Jordanaires’ gospel-informed backing vocals.” SG Music historian Steve Sullivan calls it “Elvis’ defiintive snuggle-up-close love ballad” SS “rivaled lonly by 'Love Me Tender’ and ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’” SS Critic Dave Marsh voices a similar sentiment, calling it “one of the great ballad performances of his career.” SS It is a “confession of Presley’s complete surrender to the whims of forces greater than he can comprehend…this is what…renders the song with such tremendous conviction.” SS

The melody was adapted from “Plasir d’Amour,” a 1784 song by a German-born French composer with the Italian name Jean-Paul-Égide Martini. It was originally written from the perspective of a woman falling in love with a man. WK It was featured on Blue Hawaii, Elvis’ most successful soundtrack – it spent 20 weeks atop the Billboard album chart. In the movie, he doesn’t sing it to his love interest, but her grandmother. He gives her a music box on her birthday and it plays the song and he sings along. SF

The song became Elvis’ regular concert closer. In fact, it was the last song he ever performed live at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977. WK

The song has been recorded multiple times, including a #1 version by UB40. The British reggae group made a career out of remaking pop songs. They took Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine” to #1 and had top 10 hits with covers Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” and the Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” They first recorded “Can’t Help Falling in Love” for the 1992 Honeymoon in Vegas soundtrack, but one by Bono of U2 was used instead. FB Then the band were approached about using their version in the Sharon Stone 1993 erotic movie thriller Sliver.

Billboard’s Larry Flick wrote that UB40’s version “has a pillowy, midtempo pace that dabbles in island beats and radio conscious funk.” WK Entertainment Weekly’s Marisa Fox said that UB40 “revitalize” the song. WK Music & Media magazine described it as “a reggae remake that sounds like the sun will never stop shining.” WK

Others who have recorded the song include the A-Teens, Bob Dylan, Corey Hart, Engelbert Humperdinck, Chris Isaak, Al Martino, Kacey Musgraves, Pearl Jam, the Stray Cats, and Andy Williams. The song played a role in reuniting Fleetwood Mac when Christine McVie recorded it in 1986 for the movie A Fine Mess. She convinced Fleetwood Mac members Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood to back her on the recording. The next year, the four reunited with Stevie Nicks for the 1987 album Tango in the Night. SF

My personal favorite version was recorded by Lick the Tins in 1985 and featured in the closing credits of the John Hughes’ 1987 teen movie Some Kind of Wonderful, one of my all-time favorite movies.


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First posted 1/13/2023.