Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Legends of American Music/Music Icons stamp series

stamp series, image from

The first stamp was issued in the Legends of American Music Series on January 8, 1993 on what would have been Elvis Presley’s 58th birthday. More than 70 artists were honored in all styles of music from 1993 to 1999. In 2013, a new series, Music Icons, was announced. Thus far Lydia Mendoza and Johnny Cash have been announced as artists who will be featured on stamps in the series. Here are the artists featured in both series so far:









What James Bond Can’t Teach You About British Music History

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on January 30, 2013. See original post here.

If you want lessons in womanizing, dressing to the nines, or ordering martinis, James Bond is your man. If, however, you’re looking for a review of British music history over the last 50 years, the world’s favorite secret agent has no idea what he’s doing.
Oscar nominations were announced in early January and, to no one’s surprise, they jumped on the “let’s give Adele a shot at another trophy” bandwagon. Even if the Academy doesn’t follow the Golden Globes’ lead and gift “Skyfall” with the prize for Best Original Song, the movie of the same name has already won. The 23rd film in the James Bond series is also its biggest grosser (“Billion Dollar Bond: ‘Skyfall’ Crossed $1 Billion Milestone”, ABC News, 30 December 2012). Even before Bond burst into billion-dollar territory, the franchise had been called, depending on how one crunches the numbers, the most successful of all time (“The Biggest Movie Franchises of All Time in 2 Charts,” The Atlantic, 19 July 2012).

The songs accompanying these blockbusters have often been hits as well. Roughly half have gone top ten in the US or UK. A handful, including “Skyfall”, have done it on both sides of the Atlantic.

Don’t, however, let the hit status of these songs fool you. Everyone’s favorite British Secret Service employee may be a complete original, but when it comes to literally marching to his own drummer, his ability to rock a tux does not mean he knows how to rock your radio.

The relative “it” factor and success of “Skyfall” aside, most of the 007 themes over the years reveal an institution largely determined to ignore musical trends in favor of saccharine ballads to pipe into elevators. No, I’m not talking about the Grammy Awards committee (often famously derided as “the Grannies”), although there are alarming similarities.

Let’s rewind half a century to October 1962. The first James Bond film, Dr. No, opened in the UK Sean Connery took on the role of the famous secret agent created in a series of novels by Ian Fleming. The character’s look, uncanny knack with women, and mastery of whatever new-fangled technology came his way made him one of cinema’s greatest icons.

Sean Connery, image from

The legendary film franchise is one of the most famous exports in British history, but it takes a backseat in his Aston Martin when compared to the Fab Four. While Bond was taking out bad guys, The Beatles were taking over radio. The band from Liverpool also thrust itself on the UK scene in October 1962 with its chart debut of “Love Me Do.” Their look, uncanny knack with women, and mastery of whatever new-fangled technology came their way made them one of music’s greatest icons.

However, one icon was a gang of hippies with mop-top hair who made beatnik music for teeny-boppers. The other icon looked dressed and groomed for, well, a Grammy ceremony.

Naturally, the tuxedoed gent’s musical tastes aligned pretty well with his well-dressed Grammy brethren. While American radio and retail was being reinvented by the Beatle-led British Invasion, Grammy love was doled out to throwbacks like Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. Meanwhile, 007 themes were crooned by people like Frank Sinatra-soundalike Matt Monro (“From Russia with Love” from 1963’s film of the same name) and, well, Louis Armstrong (“We Have All the Time in the World” from 1969’s Her Majesty’s Secret Service).

Oh, both institutions acknowledged Paul McCartney and Co., but they were cases of either too little (the handful of Grammys the Beatles did receive) or too late (Paul’s other band, Wings, recorded the title song to 1973’s Live and Let Die).

Roger Moore, image from

Live and Let Die marked the franchise’s first acknowledgment of the existence of rock and roll and debuted Roger Moore as Bond. However, the next decade was pretty much a return to form. Rock in the ‘70s was defined by Led Zeppelin’s stamp on heavy metal and Pink Floyd’s brand of psychedelic and progressive rock. By decade’s end, the Sex Pistols and The Clash led rock and roll’s first revolt against itself. Meanwhile everyone’s favorite martini-swilling womanizer went right back to swaying to adult-contemporary-ready ballads sung either by UK natives (Lulu, Shirley Bassey, Sheena Easton) or US counterparts trolling the same sonic ground (Carly Simon, Rita Coolidge).

Even as Bond refused to change, the music of the ‘80s was in constant motion. The punk movement transformed into new wave which in turn fueled the Second British Invasion as synth-driven British bands flooded the living rooms of American teens desperate for music videos. The fledging network MTV built its platform on a steady reservoir of the promo clips popular on British music shows. Bands with big hair, bold clothing, and behemoth-sized personalities relished in the new-found attention.

Even a man who dressed primarily in black was enamored by the bright colors. MTV favorites Duran Duran were tapped in 1985 to record the title song for “A View to a Kill”. It remains the only 007 tune to hit number one stateside or across the pond.

While Bond got another makeover, first with Timothy Dalton for a couple outings and then with Pierce Brosnan, there was no changing the outdated musical tastes of England’s famous fictional spy. British bands The Smiths, The Cure, and Depeche Mode forged the template for college rock. By decade’s end the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays were the darlings of the music press, praised for trumpeting the shoegazing genre. This led to the much-ballyhooed battle of the guitar-based bands Oasis and Blur in the mid-‘90s. With such a plethora of game-changing sound at their disposal, the brains behind Bond turned to a stable of proven US chart veterans like Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, and Sheryl Crow who all proved woefully incapable of tackling the US charts.

Pierce Brosnan, image from

In 2002, Die Another Day restored hope for musical relevance with Madonna’s top ten title hit. Naturally it signaled the end of an era rather than a beginning. This time, however, the change was for the better.

Daniel Craig stepped in as the series’ seventh 007, if one counts David Niven’s comic turn in the 1967 spoof Casino Royale. To accompany the reboot, Chris Cornell delivered “You Know My Name” for the 2006 version of Casino Royale and Jack White served up “Another Way to Die” (with an assist from Alicia Keys) for 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Daniel Craig, image from

Because of their rock credentials, the songs were welcome entries in the Bond canon, but emphasized the same message as most of their predecessors: songs tailored to everyone’s favorite globe-trotting spy offer little or no insight on the music going on back home. That is, unless Mr. Shaken Not Stirred had secretly applied for American citizenship. Roughly the first half of the Bond movies were soundtracked by UK artists. Since 1989, the only act with any tie to the United Kingdom was when Garbage, fronted by Scottish singer Shirley Manson, trotted out “The World Is Not Enough” in 1999 for the movie of the same name.

The world’s top gadget freak wasn’t just abandoning his own country’s music, but jumping on musical trends a decade late. As the frontman of Soundgarden, Cornell had been right at the forefront of the grunge a decade earlier. As half of The White Stripes, Jack White was arguably the biggest star of the return-to-garage-rock movement at the turn of the century.

Still, Daniel Craig’s Bond Version 7.0 offered hope. This wasn’t the same secret agent we’d come to know through more than 20 movies. Maybe he could jump off buildings and into moving helicopters backed by music lifted straight from BBC Radio 1. It took 50 years, but by tapping Adele for “Skyfall” the Bond series finally picked a song by a British superstar actually at the cusp of a movement. Thanks to Adele and predecessors like Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, and Duffy, the Brits were right smack in the heart of an English blue-eyed soul singer era which would have made Dusty Springfield proud.

We’ll see what happens next time out. One good song choice does not a new direction make, but I’m crossing my fingers. Maybe the Bond tunesmiths will reshape history and craft the songs they should have made in past outings. Personally, I’m hoping for a Sex Pistols reunion in which they re-record “God Save the Queen” infused with a dose of John Barry’s famous instrumental 007 theme. The movie can open with Bond and the Queen of England landing a helicopter at the Olympics in London. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bunny Berigan charted with “I Can’t Get Started”: January 29, 1938

image from

Writer(s): Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin (see lyrics here)

First charted: 29 January 1938

Peak: 10 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

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

Review: Bob Hope believes this song got him a film contract. TY He and Eve Arden sang it in a scene from Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. The revue opened in January of that year and was notable for Fanny Brice’s last appearance and choreographer George Balanchine’s first Broadway appearance. SB

The song got its start because composer Vernon Duke “literally couldn’t get started.” SB He had written a melody for the song “Face the Music with Me,” and passed it on to lyricist Ira Gershwin when, as Duke said, “nothing had happened to that version.” SB Gershwin added words about a man who’d “done almost anything anyone could want to do in life, including flying around the world in a plane and even selling short just before the stock market crash,” TY but couldn’t get the attention of the woman he desired – in other words, he couldn’t get started with her.

Duke’s “dapper melody” MM “feels more like Tin Pan Alley than Broadway” MM and fit with Gershwin’s lyrics “like a glove – topical and slangy” MM on this “lighthearted standard.” MM Some of Gershwin’s references, such as to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Greta Garbo tied the song to a certain era, but they had such “clever, endearing charm that only a brave singer will dare to replace them.” WK

Hal Kemp recorded the song in 1936, taking it to #14. PM Two years later, trumpeter and singer Roland Bernard “Bunny” Berigan tackled the song. He had been a trumpet star in the dance band era, playing with the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, Kemp, and Paul Whiteman before launching his own band. PM His take on “I Can’t Get Started” “is a virtuoso work that defines the range” WK of the trumpet with his “mastery of expression, of emotional nuance, beyond what most trumpet players can only dream of.” WK It became Berigan’s theme song. JA Chet Baker, Nat “King” Cole, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Louis Jordan, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Lester Young are among the artists to do the song, turning it into a standard. WK

Resources and Related Links:


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” hits #1 a second time: January 23, 1915

sheet music cover

Writer(s): Jack Judge/Harry Williams (see lyrics here)

First charted: 16 January 1915

Peak: 18 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music) US, -- UK, 1.0 world

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

Review: “Tipperary” was written in 1912 as a British music hall song by Jack Judge (and also credited to Harry Williams). Judge’s parents were Irish and his grandparents hailed from Tipperary, Ireland. During World War I, Daily Mail correspondent George Curnock witnessed Irish troops singing it while marching. It caught on with other units of the British Army as a lament on longing for home and eventually gained worldwide appeal. WK

Florrie Forde first sang the song on the British music hall stage in 1913 and the following year the song appeared in two Broadway musicals, Chin-Chin and Dancing Around. That year, the American Quartet were the first to chart with the song in the U.S., hitting #1 for seven weeks. However, it was Irishman John McCormack who had the most successful version – an eight-week chart-topper which hit the charts in early 1915 PM and went on to become the biggest song of the year. WHC

McCormack, who has been called “the most famous Irish tenor of all time,” PM made his operatic debut in Italy and became an American sensation in 1910. He first hit #1 in 1911 with a pair of songs, “I’m Falling in Love with Someone” and “Mother Machree.”

Charles Adams Prince’s Orchestra and Albert Farrington also released versions of the song in 1915, peaking at #2 and #8 respectively. The song was featured in the the film On Moonlight Bay (1951), the musical and film Oh! What a Lovely War in the 1960s, and the musical Darling Lili (1970), which starred Julie Andrews. The German U-boat crew sings it to boost morale in the film Das Boot (1981). On the final episode of TV’s Mary Tyler Moore Show, the newsroom staff sing the song as they march off screen. The song also features in the television special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown when Snoopy, pretending to be a World War I flying ace, dances to a medley of the era’s tunes as played by Shroeder. WK

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Doo-Wop Jukebox Hall of Fame

image from

While the website says “this new Hall of Fame” will have inductees who “will be chosen by a Board of Directors,” the site looks dated and more like a one-person operation. It includes both song and group inductees. There is no indication of when the Hall was started or if it is still around.

Listed below are the groups who have been inducted. Groups are awkwardly categorized as Aces (the absolute best of the best), Kings (just as good, but they can’t all be first), Queens (the last of your favorite groups), and Jacks (as the various members see it). Here are the inductees:

  • Lee Andrews & the Hearts (King)
  • The Blue Notes (Jack)
  • The Cadillacs (King)
  • The Channels (King)
  • The Chantels (Ace)
  • The Cleftones (King)
  • The Clovers (King)
  • The Coasters (Jack)
  • The Crests (King)
  • The Dell Vikings (Queen)
  • The Dells (King)
  • Dion & the Belmonts (King)
  • The Dominos (Queen)
  • The Drifters (King)
  • The Dubs (Ace)
  • The Duprees (Queen)
  • The Fascinators (Jack)
  • The Five Keys (Ace)
  • The Five Satins (King)
  • The Flamingos (Ace)
  • The Harptones (Ace)
  • The Heartbeats (Ace)
  • The Jesters (Queen)
  • The Jive Five (Jack)
  • Lil’ Anthony & the Imperials (King)
  • Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers (Queen)
  • The Marcels (King)
  • The Moonglows (Ace)
  • The Nutmegs (Queen)
  • The Orioles (King)
  • The Paragons (King)
  • The Platters (Ace)
  • The Ravens (Jack)
  • The Shells (Jack)
  • The Skyliners (Ace)
  • The Solitaires (Queen)
  • The Spaniels (Ace)
  • The Students (Queen)
  • The Swallows (Jack)
  • The Valentines (Queen)
  • The Vibrations (Queen)


The Top 100 Best-Selling Acts of All Time

These are the best-selling album acts of all time. Sales include albums, singles, EPS, and videos. There is no organization to oversee sales claims, so these numbers are estimations from various sources and may be inflated. Numbers indicate sales in millions. Click on an act to see its Music Maker Encyclopedia entry at In the event of ties, acts are listed in order of overall rank according to Dave’s Music Database.

Elvis Presley

1. Elvis Presley (1000)
2. The Beatles (1000)
3. Michael Jackson (750)
4. Frank Sinatra (600)
5. Bing Crosby (500)
6. Led Zeppelin (320)
7. Elton John (300)
8. Madonna (300)
9. Queen (300)
10. Tino Rossi (300)

The Beatles

11. Cliff Richard (273.5)
12. Mariah Carey (261.1)
13. The Rolling Stones (260.8)
14. Alla Pugacheva (260)
15. Pink Floyd (250)
16. Chubby Checker (250)
17. Julio Iglesias (250)
18. Nana Mouskouri (250)
19. Celine Dion (232.2)
20. Garth Brooks (210)

Michael Jackson

21. Bruce Springsteen (200)
22. Bee Gees (200)
23. Whitney Houston (200)
24. AC/DC (200)
25. Bob Dylan (190)
26. Metallica (171.5)
27. Abba (171)
28. The Jackson 5/The Jacksons (170)
29. U2(166.4)
30. Genesis (159)

Frank Sinatra

31. Stevie Wonder (150)
32. Billy Joel (150)
33. Aerosmith (150)
34. Phil Collins (150)
35. Mireille Mathieu (150)
36. Dolly Parton (148)
37. Eagles (147.8)
38. Janet Jackson (142.5)
39. Rod Stewart (140.1)
40. David Bowie (140)

Bing Crosby

41. Barbra Streisand (140)
42. Britney Spears (132.1)
43. Bon Jovi (130)
44. Donna Summer (130)
45. Engelbert Humperdinck (130)
46. Backstreet Boys (130)
47. Eric Clapton (129)
48. Neil Diamond (125)
49. Chicago (122)
50. Prince (120)

Led Zeppelin

51. Dire Straits (120)
52. Bryan Adams (120)
53. Wei Wei (120)
54. Roberto Carlos (120)
55. Fleetwood Mac (118.1)
56. Status Quo (118)
57. Santana (117.7)
58. The Drifters (114)
59. Kenny Rogers (111.5)
60. Ricky Nelson (110.5)

Elton John

61. Fats Domino (110)
62. R.E.M. (110)
63. Frankie Laine (109)
64. Black Sabbath (108.2)
65. Aha 106.4)
66. Simon & Garfunkel (105.1)
67. Paul McCartney (103.7)
68. OmPrakash (103)
69. Johnny Mathis (102.5)
70. Illayaraja (102)


71. The Beach Boys (100)
72. Perry Como (100)
73. Guy Lombardo (100)
74. The Who (100)
75. Diana Ross (100)
76. Patti Page (100)
77. Creedence Clearwater Revival (100)
78. Dionne Warwick (100)
79. Tina Turner (100)
80. Brenda Lee (100)


81. George Michael (100)
82. Guns N’ Roses (100)
83. Kiss (100)
84. Olivia Newton-John (100)
85. Cher (100)
86. Tom Jones (100)
87. Lionel Richie (100)
88. Carpenters (100)
89. Deep Purple (100)
90. Gene Autry (100)

Tino Rossi

91. Linda Ronstadt (100)
92. Tupac (2pac) Shakur (100)
93. Iron Maiden (100)
94. Barry White (100)
95. John Denver (100)
96. Rihanna (100)
97. Depeche Mode (100)
98. KC & the Sunshine Band (100)
99. Electric Light Orchestra (100)
100. Tommy James & the Shondells (100)

Cliff Richard

101. Dave Clark Five (100)
102. Duane Eddy (100)
103. The Scorpions (100)
104. Pet Shop Boys (100)
105. Luciano Pavarotti (100)
106. Joni James (100)
107. Charles Aznavour (100)
108. Boney M (100)
109. Modern Talking (100)
110. A.R. Rahman (100)

Mariah Carey

111. Dalida (100)
112. Adriano Celentano (100)
113. Teresa Teng (100)
114. Herbert von Karajan (100)
115. Gheorghe Zamfir (100)
116. Valeriya Yurievna Perfilova (100)
117. Johnny Hallyday (100)
118. Vicky Leandros (100)
119. Michiya Mihashi (100)

The Rolling Stones