Monday, May 27, 2013

50 years ago: Bob Dylan “Blowin’ in the Wind” released

Blowin’ in the Wind

Bob Dylan

Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)

Released (album cut): May 27, 1963

Released (single): August 13, 1963

Peak: 1 CL, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 43.8 video, 129.63 streaming

Blowin’ in the Wind

Peter, Paul & Mary

First Charted: June 29, 1963

Peak: 2 US, 2 CB, 2 HR, 15 AC, 13 UK, 25 CN, 11 AU, 6 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 29.2 video, 16.75 streaming

Blowin’ in the Wind

Stevie Wonder

First Charted: July 16, 1966

Peak: 9 US, 11 CB, 11 RB, 36 UK, 12 CN, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1.4 video, -- streaming

Awards (Bob Dylan):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Peter, Paul & Mary):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Rolling Stone proclaimed “Blowin’ in the Wind” was “the most famous protest song ever written.” RS500 In his Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Steve Sullivan calls it “the defining song of folk music’s alliance with the civil rights movement.” SS “While the perspective of passing decades has not been uniformly kind to other social protest songs of its era, the stature of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ has not diminished one iota. The questions it poses are eternal and the eloquence with which it presents them remains powerful.” SS “It’s a plea for people to open their eyes and ears to injustice in the world.” SS

In Martin Scorsese’s Dylan documentary No Direction Home, Mavis Staples said she was astonished upon first hearing the song that a young white man could write something that so successfully captured the frustration of black people. WK Sam Cooke was inspired by the song to write “A Change Is Gonna Come,” another song strongly associated with the civil rights movement. WK

The song “introduced most of America to the man whose song-poetry would change the shape of popular music.” SS Critic Andy Gill said, “It remains the song with which Dylan’s name is mos inextricably linked.” WK Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, was signed to Columbia Records and released his self-titled debut album in 1962. While it went largely unnoticed, the follow-up, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, produced iconic songs including “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Masters of War,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” and, of course, “Blowin’ in the Wind.” This was what Rolling Stone called “Dylan’s first important composition.” RS500

The melody is adapted from the slavery-era, African-American spiritual “No More Auction Block.” WK In The Folk Songs of North America, Alan Lomax exerts that “the song was sung by former slaves who fled to Nova Scotia after Britain abolished slavery in 1833.” WK The “language is rooted as much in Woody Guthrie’s earthy vernacular as in biblical rhetoric. But in a decisive break with the current-events conventions of topical folk songs, Dylan framed the crises around him in a series of fierce, poetic questions that addressed what he believed was man’s greatest inhumanity to man: indifference. ‘Some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong,’ he declared in the Freewheelin’ liner notes.” RS500

Dylan published the song in May 1962 in Broadside, a magazine founded by Pete Seeger about topical songs. WK He then recorded it on July 9, 1962 for the Freewheelin’ album. WK Before the album was even released, Dylan performed the song in Greenwich Village with Peter, Paul & Mary in the audience. The folk trio loved it and arranged to record it. SS It has also been recorded by Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin, Marianne Faithfull, the Four Seasons, Etta James, Ziggy Marley, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Elvis Presley, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and Neil Young.


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First posted 8/24/2022.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bob Dylan goes electric: May 17, 1966

image from

“The most famous bootleg in rock history, with the possible exception of Dylan’s own Basement Tapes.” AMG This “is a great performance from one of the most important performers of our time.” NO The album didn’t receive an official release until 32 years later when it was released in 1998 as part of Dylan’s Bootleg Series. However, “Dylan's performance at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966 (and the bootlegs that followed) set the music world on its ear.” NO

The show is often misidentified as being at the Royal Albert Hall – hence the title in quotes on the official release. That show, on May 26, was one of the final shows from the same tour. “The one thing you can't argue is the significance of this tour; and more importantly, this particular show.” NO

The first half featured Dylan in a solo acoustic performance. “He was in fine form and turned in a gripping solo performance. The audience was ultra quiet during the seven songs. They had heard most of them several times before. It was familiar territory. They were comfortable.” NO

The second half, however, is electric set in which he is accompanied by The Hawks, who later became The Band. “The crowd had no idea that what they were about to experience would change the face of rock music as they knew it.” NO Dylan fans were dismayed by what they viewed as a betrayal of traditional folk music as evidenced by the legendary moment when a heckler yells “Judas!” Another man shouts, “I’m never listening to you again, ever!” to which Dylan responds, “I don’t believe you” and “You’re a liar.” Then either Dylan or guitarist Robbie Robertson can be heard instructing the band to “play it fucking loud.” WK “Drummer Mickey Jones slams his snare like his life depended on it, and they kick into the best version of Like a Rolling Stone you’ve ever heard.” NO Film footage of the incident was found and used in Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary No Direction Home.

The Famous Heckling Incident

Sometime in late 1970 or early 1971, the electric portion of the show started surfacing on bootleg LPs. Dave Marsh reviewed it in Creem magazine, calling it “the most supremely elegant piece of rock ‘n’ roll music I’ve ever heard.” WK All Music Guide’s Richie Unterberger called it “an important document of rock history. It captures…Dylan…at his most controversial and hard rocking.” AMG Critic Jon Landau notes “the booing, the names, the insults he endured just to be standing there with an electric band…The audience claps at the wrong time, claps rhythmically as if to deliberately throw his timing off.” WK

While the bootlegs focused on the electric set, the official package is a two-CD set which “not only includes the eight electric rock songs from the original bootleg, but also the seven solo acoustic performances that comprised the first half of the show.” AMG “The acoustic disc is not as epochal, but on par with the electric half in the quality of material and performance.” AMG “It’s all in very good fidelity, about as good as any copies you could find through unofficial sources.” AMG This isn’t “just an interesting adjunct to Dylan’s ‘60s discography; it’s as worthy of attention as anything else he recorded during that decade.” AMG “Even if you’re not a Dylan fan, this CD is an essential part of any collection.” NO


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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Vampire Weekend released Modern Vampires in the City

Modern Vampires in the City

Vampire Weekend

Released: May 14, 2013

Peak: 11 US, 3 UK, 2 CN, 7 AU

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.14 UK, 0.64 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: alternative rock


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

  1. Obvious Bicycle
  2. Unbelievers (8/12/13, 7 MR, 6 AA)
  3. Step (3/19/13, 35 MR)
  4. Diane Young (4/20/13, 11 MR, 50 UK)
  5. Don’t Lie
  6. Hannah Hunt
  7. Everlasting Arms
  8. Finger Back
  9. Worship You
  10. Ya Hey (5/3/13, --)
  11. Hudson
  12. Young Lion

Total Running Time: 42:54

The Players:

  • Chris Baio (bass)
  • Rostam Batmanglij (multi-instrumentalist, vocal harmonies/background vocals)
  • Ezra Koenig (vocals, piano)
  • Chris Tomson (drums)


4.222 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)

Quotable: “The best rock album of the 2010s” – Spin magazine

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Vampire Weekend’s first two albums…possessed a magpie’s eye for the unusual, but with little that was revelatory below the surface charm of the unfamiliar.” SL Their “gift for catchy, polyrhythmic melodicism and an infinite palette of sonics made them a sort of musical Wes Anderson movie; easy to admire but one was just as likely to be annoyed by them.” SP

“On Halloween 2012, with their hometown New York subsumed in a blackout, Vampire Weekend went on late-night TV to play an atheist reggae jam called Unbelievers dressed as skeletons. It was the perfect introduction to Modern Vampires of the City, a record that darkened their buoyant indie pop, as Ezra Koenig sang about moving beyond his post-college years into something scarier and weirder.” RS’20

“The polo-shirted princes of prep entered an early midlife crisis” GU and bested their previous efforts “by getting a little weird, and by getting super comfortable in the studio, where they layered and assembled and fussed with crystalline songs until they were perfect but not over-scrubbed.” AV The band “figured out what to chuck and what to cultivate” GQ as they “escaped their preppy afro-pop straitjacket to explore a more nuanced sonic palette.” NME It “was the kind of progressive leap forward that bands always threaten to make but never quite stick the landing.” SP

“For a band that once seemed easy to hate, the polished songcraft and emotional urgency was suddenly undeniably resonant.” SP The album is “a radical declaration of maturity that turned on an entirely new set of listeners.” GQ “Some culture critics never really wanted Vampire Weekend to be the defining indie band of the 2010s, what with the tired narrative of privileged over-intellectualism that still occasionally surrounds the band. But as each album they released improved upon their sophisticated formula, it was clear they owned the genre for the decade.” CS’19

As Koenig said to Pitchfork, “The perfect tone is halfway between deeply serious and totally fucking around.” RS’19 On Modern Vampires of the City, he “makes his band’s encyclopedic references and genre-juggling seem both effortless here and tied to a higher purpose.” SP

To that end, this albums exhibits “a shrewd wit so lavish in composition and language that the themes penetrate through layers: art, humor, and pop appeal.” CS’19 “The lyrics are wiser and more worldly, the voices more flexible, the music more expansive.” GQ This is “an album of mortality, morality, God, uncertainty, and romantic decay, as much as it’s an album of in-jokes, wordplay, and goofy references.” RS’19

“Even the most party-starting track,” NME the “giddy single” BB Diane Young, “was a play on dying young.” NME The song is both “frenetic and painstakingly assembled.” AV Instrumentally, it delivers “sardonic deconstructions of the rock-n’-roll myth with Dick Dale-style guitars.” SL

Ya Hey has “a title that alludes to both the Old Testament God, Yahweh, and Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya.’” RS’19 The “contemporary redemption song,” RS’19 complete with “church organs and semi-ironic gospel choirs,” SL finds Koenig “talking to God between the deity’s festival DJ sets,” SP “asking how He could remain silent in a rotten world.” PF

Rostam Batmanglij “crafted his most sentimental, stirring music yet.” PF His “instrumental gifts…underscore the wordplay with the orchestral trickery and broad sonic soul the band is known for, but there’s more spiritual and aural weight here than on their Afropop-obsessed earlier work. This is a focused, dark record haunted by mortality down to the ticking clock on Hudson.” SP

With its “loping Gershwin-esque strings” SL “The beautifully worried Dylanesque travelogue” RS’20 Hannah Hunt offers a “novelistic half-sketches of peripatetic romance,” SL “winking toward hopelessness while suggesting that all the universe’s truths can be contained in a single love affair.” PF

“The beautiful nostalgic haze of StepNME with a “loping baroque pop buoyed by harpsichord” AV “contained the graceful observational nugget ‘Wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it in for youth.’” NME “But of all the moments that capture the unease and uncertainty of the past decade, as well as the darkly comic hope necessary to keep going, is a line on Finger Back so good Koenig would later recycle it: ‘I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die.’” RS’19

Vampire Weekend have proven to be “more soulful and more vital than ever” SL on “the best rock album of the 2010s.” SP “The one-time buzzy blog band delivered a certified classic behind Rostam’s kaleidoscopic indie pop arrangements and Koenig’s winking existentialism.” BB This is “indie music firing on all possible cylinders, setting the pace for the genre’s modern iteration at large.” CS’19

Notes: The Japanese edition included additional mixes of “Ya Hey” and “Unbelievers.”

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First posted 12/28/2020; last updated 5/1/2022.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

100 years ago: Henry Burr hit #1 with “When I Lost You”

When I Lost You

Henry Burr

Writer(s): Irving Berlin (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 5, 1913

Peak: 17 US, 12 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.05 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“In comparison…[to] ‘When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam’’ or ‘Everybody’s Doing It Now’ or ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band,’ one would not guess that [Irving] Berlin had composed ‘When I Lost You,’” SM his first hit ballad. WK He had published 130 songs, but none had previously shown such an “ability to write with moving sentiment about his own personal pain.” TY2

In February 1912, Berlin married twenty-year-old Dorothy Goetz. She was an aspiring young singer who came to to the publishing office of Waterson, Berlin and Snyder in search of songs to sing, but got a date with Berlin instead. He proposed a few weeks later. TY2 On their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba, she contracted typhoid fever was dead within five months.

The lyrics from “When I Lost You” were a “simple and heartfelt” SM expression of grief from “a man who was used to composing uplifting songs.” SM It was the only song he admitted to having a connection to his own life. WK The lyrics talk about losing “The sunshine and roses, the heavens of blue / The beautiful rainbow, the morning dew / The angel who gave me summer / The whole winter too / The gladness that turned into sadness.” “Melodically, it was a simple waltz with bittersweet harmony that enhanced the melancholy of the lyrics.” TY2

Manuel Romain was the first to record the song and it reached #2 in 1913. However, it was Henry Burr who took it to the top of the charts. PM Others who recorded the song included Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, the Mills Brothers, Jim Reeves, Frank Sinatra, and Kay Starr. WK The song was used in the 2001 movie The Cat’s Meow.


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First posted 2/27/2023.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Alternative Rock: Top 100 Albums

First posted 5/10/2013; updated 9/4/2020.

Alternative Rock:

The Top 100 Albums

This list was created by aggregating 26 lists focused on alternative and indie rock. See links after the list.

Also, check out other best-of-genre lists here.

1. Radiohead OK Computer (1997)
2. Pavement Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
3. My Bloody Valentine Loveless (1991)
4. Sonic Youth Daydream Nation (1988)
5. Pixies Surfer Rosa (1988)
6. Nirvana Nevermind (1991)
7. The Pixies Doolittle (1989)
8. Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream (1993)
9. Beck Odelay (1996)
10. The Replacements Let It Be (1984)

11. Liz Phair Exile in Guyville (1993)
12. Oasis (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (1995)
13. R.E.M. Murmur (1983)
14. The Smiths The Queen Is Dead (1986)
15. The Stone Roses The Stone Roses (1989)
16. Dinosaur Jr. You’re Living All Over Me (1987)
17. Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)
18. Guided by Voices Bee Thousand (1994)
19. Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral (1994)
20. Radiohead Kid A (2000)

21. Hüsker Dü Zen Arcade (1984)
22. Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
23. Soundgarden Superunknown (1994)
24. Blur Parklife (1994)
25. Joy Division Closer (1980)
26. Pearl Jam Ten (1991)
27. The Cure Disintegration (1989)
28. U2 The Joshua Tree (1987)
29. R.E.M. Automatic for the People (1992)
30. Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)

31. Radiohead The Bends (1995)
32. The Smiths The Smiths (1984)
33. Green Day Dookie (1994)
34. The Strokes Is This It (2001)
35. Elvis Costello & The Attractions This Year’s Model (1978)
36. Jeff Buckley Grace (1994)
37. Pulp Different Class (1995)
38. Slint Spiderland (1991)
39. Joy Division Unknown Pleasures (1979)
40. The Verve Urban Hymns (1997)

41. Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
42. Meat Puppets Meat Puppets II (1984)
43. Pavement Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)
44. Björk Debut (1993)
45. Nirvana In Utero (1993)
46. U2 Achtung Baby (1991)
47. The Fall This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985)
48. Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)
49. Talking Heads Remain in Light (1980)
50. Coldplay A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)

51. Arcade Fire Funeral (2004)
52. Belle & Sebastian If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996)
53. Jesus and Mary Chain Psychocandy (1985)
54. PJ Harvey To Bring You My Love (1995)
55. Primal Scream Screamadelica (1991)
56. Talking Heads More Songs about Buildings and Food (1978)
57. Violent Femmes Violent Femmes (1983)
58. Oasis Definitely Maybe (1994)
59. Portishead Dummy (1994)
60. New Order Power, Corruption and Lies (1983)

61. The White Stripes White Blood Cells (2001)
62. Sleater-Kinney Dig Me Out (1997)
63. Television Marquee Moon (1977)
64. The Clash London Calling (1979)
65. The Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)
66. Radiohead In Rainbows (2007)
67. Yo La Tengo I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One (1997)
68. Minutemen Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
69. U2 War (1983)
70. Elliott Smith Either/Or (1997)

71. Elvis Costello & the Attractions Armed Forces (1979)
72. Rage Against the Machine Rage Against the Machine (1992)
73. Gang of Four Entertainment! (1979)
74. Jane’s Addiction Nothing’s Shocking (1988)
75. Alice in Chains Dirt (1992)
76. Weezer Weezer (aka “The Blue Album”) (1994)
77. Wire Pink Flag (1977)
78. Blondie Parallel Lines (1978)
79. R.E.M. Document (1987)
80. Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible (1994)

81. The Velvet Underground & Nico Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
82. Tori Amos Little Earthquakes (1992)
83. Pretenders Pretenders (1980)
84. The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs (1999)
85. Devo Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (1978)
86. Elvis Costello My Aim Is True (1977)
87. Patti Smith Horses (1975)
88. New Order Substance (compilation: 1981-87, released 1987)
89. David Bowie Low (1977)
90. Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine (1989)

91. Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill (1995)
92. The Feelies Crazy Rhythms (1980)
93. Sonic Youth Sister (1987)
94. Jane’s Addiction Ritual de lo Habitual (1990)
95. Depeche Mode Violator (1990)
96. Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
97. Teenage Fanclub Bandwagonesque (charted 1991)
98. The Cure Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)
99. Mission of Burma Vs. (1982)
100. Public Image Ltd. Metal Box (aka “Second Edition”) (1979)

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