Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DJ Alan Freed hosted the first rock ‘n’ roll show: March 21, 1952

The first Moondog Coronation Ball was held in Cleveland. The event is generally considered the first rock ‘n’ roll show in the U.S. Featured acts included a mix of black and white performers intended to attract a racially mixed audience. Among the acts were Paul Williams’ Hucklebuckers, Tiny Grimes’ Rockin’ Highlanders (featuring Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), The Dominoes, and Danny Cobb. At the time, nearly all performances, radio stations, and record labels were racially segregated.

DJ Alan Freed, who conceived and promoted the event, is credited with coining the term “rock and roll.” The event took its name from “Moondoggers” – the nickname he gave his listeners. Freed came to Cleveland’s WXEL-TV in April 1950 and began his late-night, rock-n-roll-themed Moondog show on WJW radio in July 1951. He went to New York in 1954 and left the business in 1959 after involvement in a payola scandal. He died in 1965 at age 43.

The event, held at the Cleveland Arena, proved a bit of a fiasco as promoters continued selling tickets long after they’d reached the venue’s roughly-10,000 seat capacity. At least some of the additional tickets have been attributed to counterfeiting. It was estimated that 20,000 fans showed up. When they couldn’t get in, the crowd broke down the doors to storm the arena. Local authorities shut down the concert after the first song for fear of rioting.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fun.’s “We Are Young” hit #1

We Are Young

Fun. with Janelle Monáe

Writer(s): Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost, Jack Antonoff, Jeffrey Bhasker (see lyrics here)

Released: September 20, 2011

First Charted: December 17, 2011

Peak: 16 US, 14 RR, 12 AC, 13 A40, 2 AA, 12 MR, 11 UK, 11 CN, 13 AU (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.8 UK, 14.16 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1237.81 video, 1081.28 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

While they won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2013, Fun. had been around since 2008, releasing their debut in 2009 and the follow-up, Some Nights, which garnered them their Grammy, in 2012. The song that put them on the map was “We Are Young,” a mix of power pop and alternative rock with an indie spirit which “captures the moments of youthful exuberance that come with a memorable night out.” SF Lead singer Nate Ruess said the lyrics were inspired by “my worst drinking night of all time.” SF

This song and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” were hailed for returning rock to the pop charts. Rolling Stone’s Steve Knopper touted the song’s “sprightly pop-novelty feel” WK while his compatriot, Jody Rosen, described it as “rollickingly catchy” and “emo self-deprecation that leavens the bombast.” WK’s Bill Lamb said the song “carries a hook in the chorus that is likely to stop many listeners dead in their tracks.” WK All Music Guide’s Tim Sendra notes Ruess “provides a very human core that grounds things even as the music builds to ornate crescendos.” AMG

Interestingly, the song didn’t become a hit until after landing a Chevrolet ad in Super Bowl XLVI and getting covered for American TV show, Glee. PJ Bloom, the latter’s music supervisor, noted, “Glee doesn’t break bands, we celebrate existing pop success – that’s our core model.” WK He changed his mind after hearing the song once, later calling it one of the “pinnacle song moments of the entire series.” WK

The song was propelled to the top of the pop charts, logging seven weeks of digital sales of more than 300,000 – the first to do so. WK It was the first song since Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” to log seven weeks with 120 million radio impressions WK and was the most listened to song on Facebook in 2012. SF It was also featured in another ad in Super Bowl XLVII – this time a Spanish language version of the song for Taco Bell.


Last updated 2/24/2024.

Friday, March 16, 2012

100 years ago: “Moonlight Bay” hit #1

Moonlight Bay

American Quartet

Writer(s): Edward Madden, Percy Wenrich (see lyrics here)

First Charted: March 9, 1912

Peak: 18 US, 112 GA, 18 SM, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.16 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Arguably the best moonlight song ever written,” PS “Moonlight Bay” “conjures up an entire lost era of a slower-paced America that…had plenty of time for gentle spooning in an unspoiled natural setting.” SS It is “a very durable song from Tin Pan Alley about an idyllic setting for romance.” RCG

Edward Madden, who also wrote “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” penned the lyrics about “sailing across the bay at night in the moonlight while losing one’s heart to true love.” RCG The music was written by Percy Wenrich, “one of the era’s specialists in sentimental ballads.” SS. He came from a musical family wrote a number of hits in the rag genre and performed with his wife, Dolly Connelly, in vaudeville. PS

It was Connelly who introduced the song in vaudeville and took it to #3 on the U.S. pop charts in 1912. It also became a “huge barbershop-quartet song as exemplified by the American Quartet,” JA who made the tune the biggest hit of 1912. CPM

The song was revived by Alice Faye in the 1943 film On Moonlight Bay and again in 1951 in a Doris Day and Gordon MacRae film of the same name. The song has appeared many times in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts featuring Porky Pig and Daffy Duck. WK In 1951, Bing and Gary Crosby took their version of the song to #14. JA


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Last updated 3/19/2023.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Fair Lady opened on Broadway: March 15, 1956

My Fair Lady is “the crowning achievement” AZ for lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. Some consider it to be “the most perfect stage musical ever.” CL “It boasts a magnificent score…witty, intelligent, beautiful, and romantic.” NRR This is “a collection of performances that long ago became a ubiquitous and indispensable fixture of American musical theater.” AZ

The musical was an updated version of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a story about “the mythic Greek figure who falls in love with his sculpture.” TM In My Fair Lady, the story focuses on “the relationship between an elocutionist” R-C and “pre-World War I London flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who aspires to a better accent and the social advantages that will come with it.” R-S Its 2,700 performances “gracefully spanned the Eisenhower and Camelot eras, then begat a wildly popular film version, whose 1965 Best Picture Oscar capped the show’s decade of prominence.” AZ

The cast album “captures landmark performances by Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway.” NRR Andrews was a “twenty-year-old revelation” ZS as “the fairest of all ladies,” ZS making the “loverly…score soar” ZS with her “glorious voice and emotional range.” ZS Harrison is “effortlessly charming” ZS in his recreation of the stage role as “Professor Henry Higgins (he had also appeared in the film adaptation of…Pygmalion.” R-S

“The show yielded an astounding number of songs that became standards, including the luminous I Could Have Danced All Night and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” TM Among the other gems in this “embarrassment of riches,” AZ including On the Street Where You Live, The Rain in Spain, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, and Why Can’t the English?.

For the movie version, Harrison and Holloway were back again, but Andrews wasn’t deemed enough of a star although “embarrassingly, by the time the movie opened, Mary Poppins had made her more than enough of a star to do so.” R-S Audrey Hepburn stepped into the role with the singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon, who “was an accomplished Hollywood voice ghost, having previously sung for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Rosalind Russell in Gypsy.” R-S

Ultimately the soundtrack paled to the cast recording, which was considered critically and commercially more successful. The cast recording sold 8 million copies in the U.S. and topped the Billboard charts for 15 weeks. It also spent 19 weeks atop the UK charts.


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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bruce Springsteen releases his “Occupy” album Wrecking Ball

Wrecking Ball

Bruce Springsteen

Released: March 5, 2012

Peak: 11 US, 11 UK, 3 CN, 2 AU

Sales (in millions): 0.2 US, 0.07 UK, 1.06 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock veteran


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

  1. We Take Care of Our Own (1/19/12, 11 AA)
  2. Easy Money
  3. Shackled and Drawn
  4. Jack of All Trades
  5. Death to My Hometown (5/12, --)
  6. This Depression
  7. Wrecking Ball
  8. You’ve Got It
  9. Rocky Ground (4/21/12, --)
  10. Land of Hope and Dreams
  11. We Are Alive

All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.

Total Running Time: 51:40


3.739 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)

Quotable: Wrecking Ball will go down as his ‘Occupy album.’” – Steve Leftridge,

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“There will be those that believe a millionaire rock star singing about poor people and hard work, as Bruce Springsteen so passionately does on his powerful new album Wrecking Ball, to be the height of hypocrisy. But to do so would be both shortsighted and uninformed. First, as a pedigreed Jersey shore rat raised in economically depressed Freehold, N.J., Springsteen knows a thing or two about economic frustration. And, secondly, anyone who has seen Springsteen perform at any one of thousands of shows over the past 40 years, with or without his E Street Band, is well aware that he packs his lunch pail every night and welcomes overtime.” BB

On his 17th album, Springsteen “soars on familiar strengths: passion, roadhouse swagger, muscular melodies and a fighting spirit.” UT “With its gritty portrayal of the danger at hand when lives are lived on the edge of collapse,” BB Ball explores “familiar working class territory, but with a vigor and fearlessness not seen since 2002’s equally-inspired The Rising.” BB While “The Rising will always be remembered as Springsteen’s ‘9-11 album’, it’s a safe bet that Wrecking Ball will go down as his ‘Occupy album’.” PM Ball occupies the same space as Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ celebrating the possibilities of the American Dream while acknowledging the pain of its failures.” AV

Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, says, “Bruce has dug down as deep as he can to come up with this vision of modern life…The writing is some of the best of his career.” AZ Springsteen has always been adept at creating “specific character vignettes that speak to larger social concerns,” PM but here his protagonists “are less elusive about whom to blame for their troubles…taking on the real culprits unambiguously.” PM “On a tear to raze Wall Street and raise Main Street, Springsteen grapples with Everyman frustration and dread” UT and the devastation brought on by “Wall Street greed and corruption.” WK It is “his angriest and most politically pointed [work] to date.” UT

The album has largely been reported to be “‘wild’ and ‘experimental’” PM and, indeed, it is “very rock and roll with unexpected textures, loops, electronic percussion, and an amazing sweep of influences and rhythms, from hip-hop to Irish folk rhythms.” WK “Ron Aniello was brought in to produce Wrecking Ball, a move that paid off…the sonic embellishments gracefully support the songs and rarely feel indulgent or detract from the almighty melodies on the record.” PM Landau describes it as “a rock record that combines elements of both Bruce’s classic sound and his Seeger Sessions experience, with new textures and styles.” AZ

The album is notable for its inclusion of Clarence Clemons’ last work with Springsteen and the E Street Band before his death in June 2011. WK The album also features E Street Band members Steven Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, and Patti Scialfa. WK Touring members Charlie Giordano and Soozie Tyrell are also featured, WK as are special guests Tom Morello and Matt Chamberlain. WK However, Springsteen mostly “relies on players from 2006’s We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Wrecking’s closest cousin in his catalog.” UT

“We Take Care of Our Own”
First single, We Take Care of Our Own, is a “pounding, patriotic rocker [which] serves as the album’s moral compass.” BB It uses some of the same “gospel-soul influences that informed ‘My City of Ruins’, a song that asked for spiritual redemption in the wake of 9-11.” PM “Take Care” “puts forward the radical idea that poor people are actually worthy of dignity and respect.” AV It is one of Springsteen’s classic “scathing message songs that sound patriotic, an irony lost on nearly everyone who hears them.” PM On top of that, “the whomping beat and cinematic string swooshes are rousing in an inescapably Pavlovian sense.” AV

“Easy Money”
“The heat-packing protagonist out looking for Easy Money rails against ‘all them fat cats’ who think his desperation is funny” PM in this “midtempo two-step hootenanny.” PM “Rootsy and percussive, …[it] features one of Springsteen’s more charismatic vocals and free-wheelin’ lyrics but, with its talk of Smith & Wessons and burnin’ hellfire, the song’s undercurrent of rough intentions belies its jaunty musicality and bright choral arrangement.” BB

“Shackled and Drawn”
Then in “Shackled and Drawn, a hammer-slinging chant mined from the great folk songbooks,” PM Springsteen advises “Stand back, son, and let a man work.” “Cajun inflections and a sprightly rhythm power this workingman anthem, but once again Springsteen juxtaposes the music against frustration and powerlessness.” BB

“Jack of All Trades”
Jack of All Trades is “a gorgeous, piano-based ballad” BB complete with a trumpet solo and guest Tom Morello “lending one of his patented machine-shop guitar solos.” PM A man assures “his love he’s willing to do whatever labor necessary for them to get by.” BB His “anger at the rich bubbles shockingly to the surface in the final verse (‘If I had me a gun / I’d find the bastards and shoot ’em on sight’).” AV

“Death to My Hometown”
“While ‘Jack of All Trades’ sounds like a funeral, the St. Patty’s Day penny-whistle march of Death to My Hometown is the wake, with Springsteen slipping into a well-soused brogue and leading a charge” AV against “the ‘vultures’ and ‘greedy thieves’ who ‘destroyed our families’ factories and…took our homes’ and hopes to ‘send the robber barons to hell’.” PM “It’s the record’s fieriest song, making like Dylan circa ’63 by piling on a catalogue of grievances that build to a perfectly-timed shotgun cock-and-blast.” PM

“This Depression”
This is “a cohesively designed album, sequenced to rail against economic injustice by way of catchy, rattling folk-blues numbers on the first half of the record and to rise with spiritual redemption in the second half by way of train-a-comin’ rafter-raising.” PM There “is a pervasive element of desperation in Wrecking Ball, but nobody here is giving up. As such, on “the Arcade Fire-like, self-explanatory dirge This DepressionAV the album “starts to change focus, blending worry over financial plight with the need for a healing love.” PM

“Wrecking Ball”
“The whisper-to-a-scream title track,” AV Wrecking Ball, was penned in 2009 in honor of the closing of Giants Stadium and was performed live during the supporting tour for Working on a Dream. WK It “takes on a whole new life in the context of this record.” BB “The version here is a leaner, faster machine, one that combines folk Bruce and rocker Bruce as well as any.” PM It is “a raging state of the union address enveloped in rootsy folk-rock” UT and Clarence Clemons’ saxophone.

“You’ve Got It”
“Nothing here sounds much like ‘70s or even ‘80s Springsteen, but You’ve Got It comes closest to what Bruce used to sound like in its melody and Bruce’s vocal delivery.” PM This “lusty, bluesy mid-tempo” BB is the album’s “lightest moment” BB and “will be the song that divides the Bruce believers, as it’s the most fussily produced of the new songs.” PM

“Rocky Ground”
“Musically ambitious and completely captivating,” BB Rocky Ground speaks of a divine retribution for failing to take care of our own: ‘We’ll be called for our service come Judgment Day / Before we cross that river wide / Blood on our hands will come back on us twice.’” PM It “thematically fits perfectly with the tone of the album…but, with its inspired vocal arrangement, gospel underpinnings and Michelle Moore rap, it is unlike anything Springsteen has done before.” BB

“Land of Hope and Dreams”
That song and Land of Hope and Dreams deliver a “gospel-influenced one-two punch” PM as a pair of “spirituals that promise new-day salvation for all lost but faithful souls.” PM “Dreams” dates back to 1999’s E Street Band reunion tour WK and served as a template for songs from The Rising. It has been reworked into “a brighter, peppier take than the one released on 2001’s Live in New York City, and when Clarence’s unmistakable sax (one of just two appearances on the album) busts out of the bridge, it’ll bring you to your knees.” PM It is “a broad, anthemic slice of Americana” BB which has been called “one of Springsteen’s finest modern originals,” PM but also knocked as “a self-conscious anthem that paints broadly rendered populist imagery about a train carrying ‘losers and winners’ to a mythical place beyond the stars. It’s an uplifting statement…[but it] is a stump speech, not an artfully rendered short story.” AV

“We Are Alive”
Closing track, We Are Alive,“could be alternatively titled ‘Tales from a Graveyard’.” BB It is “a campfire song for ghosts of the oppressed, martyred strikers, protesters, and immigrant workers. The song, which has an Irish-wake feel to it, is an acoustic number with Springsteen being backed by mariachi horns.” WK The song “both thematically and musically, binds the record’s two halves – pissed-off folk and gospel-laced rock.” PM

The song is “ultimately optimistic, a fitting close to one of Springsteen's best albums” BB where he is “still firing on all cylinders – writing with poetic urgency, drawing on traditions old and new, singing and playing with prime strength and energy, and delivering a new set of killer melodies with fresh sonic wallop. At this stage in a rocker’s career, it’s a lot to ask for, but Springsteen proves again that there’s nobody better to deliver it.” PM

The special edition of the album adds bonus tracks Swallowed Up (In the Belly of a Whale) and American Land. The former continues the use of biblical themes also found in “Jack of All Trades,” in which “the speaker hopes that ‘we’ll start caring for each other like Jesus said that we might’,” PM “Rocky Ground”, in which “we’re reminded that ‘Jesus said the money changers in this temple will not stand,’” PM and “We Are Alive,” which “invokes “a cross up on Calvary Hill’.” PM “Beyond the obvious allusion in the title, [‘Swallowed’] calls on ‘God’s Mercy’ as a matter of birthright.” PM

“American Land,” which dates back to 2006, WK is “an original, barn-burning Irish jig about the false promises of the American Dream.” PM It originally appeared on an expanded edition of The Seeger Sessions. On that album, “Springsteen resurrected roots traditions—blues, gospel, folk, bluegrass—to serve as musical backdrops that tie old economic injustices to new ones.” PM That album does much to inform this one as Springsteen dipped his toe into the sound of Americana with “trombones, banjos, washboards, and accordions while covering Pete Seeger tunes.” PM

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First posted 3/6/2012; last updated 2/5/2022.